Business Briefs – October 3, 2019

U.S.-Europe Dispute Threatens Main Artery of World Trade

BRUSSELS (AP) – The trade wars threatening to push the global economy into recession are entering a new phase, with the United States and European Union escalating a dispute that endangers the world’s biggest trade relationship. After the Trump administration slapped steep tariffs on $7.5 billion in EU goods, mainly traditional produce like cheese and wine, the Europeans made clear they would retaliate in kind.

U.S. Long-Term Mortgage Rates Steady; 30-Year at 3.65%

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates held steady this week, offering a potential boon to homebuyers amid an uncertain economic outlook. Mortgage rates have been running near historic lows, though average rates for the key 30-year loan showed volatile swings last month. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 3.65% from 3.64% last week.

Drop in U.S. Service Sector Activity Raises Economic Concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) – Growth in the U.S. services sector slowed sharply in September to its lowest level in three years, suggesting that the Trump administration’s trade conflicts and rising uncertainty are weakening the bulk of the economy. The report renewed worries of an economic slowdown and caused alarm among stock traders. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 200 points immediately after the ISM released its report.

U.S. Authorities Seek Access to Facebook Encrypted Messaging

WASHINGTON (AP) – Attorney General William Barr wants Facebook to give law enforcement a way to read encrypted messages sent by users, re-igniting tensions between tech companies and law enforcement. Facebook’s WhatsApp already has end-to-end encryption, meaning that even Facebook cannot read messages. Facebook plans to extend that protection to other message services owned by the company. Security experts say that giving law enforcement such access makes such services insecure for everyone.

U.S. Safety Agency Gathering Info On Tesla Parking Lot Feature

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. government’s highway safety agency says it’s gathering information on reports of malfunctions with a Tesla feature that lets drivers summon their cars in parking lots. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s aware of reports about “Smart Summon” and is in contact with the company. Messages were left Thursday seeking comment from Tesla.

Consumer Watchdog Agency Probes Juul and 5 More Vaping Firms

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Trade Commission is ordering Juul and five other vaping companies to hand over information about how they market e-cigarettes. The move by the government watchdog agency comes amid a nationwide crackdown on e-cigarettes as politicians and health officials try to reverse an explosion of underage vaping. The agency says it is scrutinizing sales and promotion of vaping products, including the use of online influence campaigns.