Business Briefs – August 18, 2019

Hong Kong Cuts Taxes to Shore Up Economy Amid Protests

HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong has promised tax cuts and subsidies to reverse an economic slowdown that has been aggravated by anti-government protests. The territory’s financial secretary cut this year’s official economic growth outlook to 0 to 1%. Hong Kong’s economic growth already was declining before anti-government protests disrupted tourism and retail sales. Hurt by the plunge in U.S.-Chinese trade, growth already was declining before protests erupted over a proposed extradition law and other grievances.

Cathay Pacific CEO Resigns After Beijing Pressure

HONG KONG (AP) – The CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways has resigned following pressure by Beijing on the Hong Kong carrier over the participation by some of its employees in anti-government protests. Cathay Pacific said the airline needs to “reset confidence” after its commitment to safety was “called into question.” Rupert Hogg became the highest-profile corporate casualty of Chinese pressure on companies to support the ruling Communist Party’s position.

Trump Appoints Student Loan Industry Exec to Watchdog Job

NEW YORK (AP) – The Trump administration is appointing a longtime student loan industry executive to be the government’s top watchdog for the $1.5 trillion student loan market. Robert Cameron, the new student loan ombudsman, previously worked for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which has been cited in the past for poor industry practices.

U.S. Long-Term Mortgage Rates Stay Near Historic Lows

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates remained near historically low levels this week against a backdrop of volatile financial markets around the globe.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year loan was unchanged at 3.60%, its lowest level since November 2016. A year ago the rate stood at 4.53%.

The average mortgage rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans edged up to 3.07% from 3.05% last week.

The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

New York Pursuing Sacklers’ Financial Records in Opioid Case

NEW YORK (AP) – New York is demanding that companies connected to the Sackler family hand over financial records as the state tries to trace where money made from opioid sales ended up. The state is sending subpoenas to investment advisers and companies linked to the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Most states are suing Purdue over the opioid crisis, and several are also suing the Sackler family.

U.S. Home Building Fell 4% in July, Slowing Housing Market

WASHINGTON (AP) – The pace of U.S. home construction fell a sharp 4% in July despite strong demand from would-be buyers, held back by a shortage of skilled labor and affordable land. Housing starts slipped last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million units. So far this year, housing starts have declined 3.1%. Though there was a slight 1.3% uptick in the construction of single-family homes last month, the gain was offset by a 17.2% plunge in the apartment category.

Flooding, a Trade War and Deere Cuts Outlook Again

NEW YORK (AP) – Deere & Co. is cutting its profit expectations for the year as beleaguered farmers and an escalating trade war with China cut into sales. Widespread and heavy flooding severely delayed planting this year for thousands of farmers. China this month abruptly cut off purchases of U.S. farm products in protest of tariffs and tariff threats from the Trump administration.

Beer Named for Pacific Island Nuke Test Site Draws Criticism

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) – A Texas-based company is facing criticism for naming a beer after the location of nuclear tests that resulted in contamination of a Pacific island chain. The Pacific Daily News reported Manhattan Project Beer Company is under scrutiny by Marshall Islanders who were exposed to high levels of radiation by U.S. government research from 1946 to 1958. The company says it has several beers with nuclear themes. Islanders say the names are insensitive to people dealing with the impacts of radiation.