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    Share benchmarks were mostly higher in Asia on Tuesday as Chinese and U.S. negotiators geared up for trade talks in Washington this week. U.S. markets were closed Monday for President's Day. Shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong fell back after early gains after an industry association reported that auto sales fell nearly 16 percent in China from a year earlier, the eighth straight month of declines. Analysts said much is riding on the outcome of the trade talks after an inconclusive end to an earlier round in Beijing last week. 'Without sounding like a damp squib, there is now a vast amount of optimism baked into currency, stock and energy market prices globally and precisely zero concrete detail,' Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for OANDA, said in a commentary. 'The unwind, should no deal be struck, could be very ugly,' he said. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3 percent to 2,747.77 in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent higher to 21,302.65. Australia's S&P ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent to 6,106.90 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gave up 0.3 percent to 28,271.56. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,205.63. Shares were mostly higher in Southeast Asia. A truce between the U.S. and China on increased American tariffs on Chinese good expires March 2, leaving the U.S. free to more than double its import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Vice Premier Liu He, China's economy czar, is due to arrive in Washington on Thursday, China's state media reported, after two days of preliminary talks by lower-level officials. President Donald Trump has said he may hold off on these if the country was close to a deal with China. The U.S. is wrangling over trade with many nations. On Monday, the European Union warned that the bloc will hold back on a commitment to buy more American soybeans and liquefied gas if European cars are hit with punitive tariffs. ENERGY: U.S. crude added 28 cents to $56.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $66.36 per barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 110.66 yen from 110.60 yen on Monday. The euro slipped to $1.1299 from $1.1309.
  • China's auto sales fell for an eighth month in January, extending a painful decline for the biggest global market as demand cooled amid a slowing economy and tariffs standoff with the U.S. Purchases of sedans, SUVs and minivans fell 15 percent from a year earlier to just over 2 million vehicles, according to an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Cooling growth and trade tensions with Washington are prompting jittery buyers to put off purchases. The slump is a setback for global automakers that are looking to China to drive revenue and are spending heavily to meet Chinese government targets to develop electric vehicles. 2018 passenger vehicle sales suffered their first decline in nearly three decades. Purchases fell 4.1 percent from the previous year to 23.7 million. The downturn has prompted suggestions Beijing will cut sales taxes or offer other incentives. January's total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, declined 15.8 percent to 2.4 million, according to CAAM. Sales by Chinese brands fell 22 percent to 832,000. Their market share contracted by 2.4 percentage points to 41.2 percent. Purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles, which Beijing is promoting with subsidies, rose 138 percent over a year earlier to 96,000 units. Sales of SUVs, usually a bright spot for the industry, contracted 19 percent to 878,900. Volkswagen AG said sales fell 2.9 percent to 387,300. BMW AG said sales of BMW and MINI brand vehicles rose 15.5 percent to 63,135. Nissan Motor Co. said sales were off 0.8 percent at 133,934.
  • Europe's biggest bank has reported its net profit jumped 30 percent in 2018 from the previous year to $12.6 billion. London-based HSBC, whose profit is mainly from Asia, said its revenue rose 5 percent from a year earlier to $53.8 billion. Pre-tax profit rose 16 percent to $19.9 billion, but lagged analysts' estimates. For the fourth quarter, adjusted pre-tax profit was $3.4 billion, also below forecasts. Market corrections in late 2018 took a toll on HSBC and many other banks. Net profit in the October to December quarter was $1.5 billion, compared with $52 million in the same period a year earlier. HSBC has been carrying out a corporate overhaul designed to boost profitability by focusing on its high-growth markets in Asia while shedding businesses and workers in other countries. Asia accounted for 89.5 percent of pre-tax profit in 2018. The bank's retail, commercial and global private banking all saw growth, while corporate banking weakened. 'HSBC is in a strong position. Our performance in 2018 demonstrated the underlying health of the business and the potential of the strategy that John Flint, our group chief executive, announced in June,' Mark E. Tucker, HSBC Group chairman, said in a statement.
  • Setting smart, achievable goals is important if you want to take charge of your financial life. But many of us are surprisingly bad at choosing the goals that actually matter most to us. Investment research firm Morningstar had 318 people write down their top three financial priorities, then showed them a master list of goals prepared by the researchers. Three out of four investors changed at least one goal after seeing the master list, and one out of four switched their top priority. 'We were like, 'Wow. People don't really know what they want,'' says lead researcher Ray Sin, behavioral scientist at Morningstar. Other behavioral research has shown that even when people think explicitly about what matters to them when making decisions, they overlook many of their most important goals. That interferes with their ability to evaluate their choices and consider alternatives. Among the problems: We're better at thinking short term than long term, Sin says. Plus, we may overvalue goals that are currently on our mind. A renter who just attended a housewarming, for example, might say her top priority is saving to buy a home. She may forget that she really wants to be able to quit her job and travel the world for a year. She probably has other goals as well, such as retiring someday and perhaps starting her own business. Of course, all those goals may matter to her, but 'resources are finite,' Sin says. That's why prioritizing is so important. Someone determined to retire early, for instance, may not be able to fully fund a child's college education or leave an inheritance. If you want to check for your own blind spots, quickly write down your three most important financial goals. Then look at Morningstar's master goal list and see if you want to change what you wrote: — Be better off than my peers — Pay for personal self-improvement (e.g., go back to school, learn a skill) — Experience the excitement of investing. — Start a new business. — Buy a house. — Help pay for my kids' college education. — Stop working and do something I love. — Go on a dream vacation. — Relocate in retirement. — Care for my aging parents. — Give to charity or other causes I care about. — Feel secure about my finances in retirement. — Feel secure about my finances now. — Leave an inheritance to my loved ones. — Retire early. — Pay for future medical expenses. — Avoid becoming a financial burden to my family as I grow older. — Manage my debt. Something you may notice about this list: Many of the goals involve feelings. Goals that resonate on an emotional level can help people maintain the discipline they need to stick with a financial plan, says Ryan O. Murphy, head of decision sciences at Morningstar Investment Management. 'When it starts to become more emotional, it becomes more personal,' Murphy says. 'This abstract thing of 'save more money for later' may not be a goal that really gets people to move now, today.' Even the goals that don't seem emotional, like managing debt , can be transformed into something more powerful if you consider the feelings around them. Paying down debt can make you feel more comfortable and secure and less stressed, for example. Morningstar researcher Samantha Lamas, a recent college graduate who just started paying her student loans, has firsthand experience with goal blind spots. Lamas initially thought paying off her debt was her top priority, but during the study realized that saving for retirement was important as well. Accelerating her student loan payments might have meant missing years of company matches, tax breaks and tax-deferred compounding she can get from contributing to her retirement accounts. 'I no longer think of my financial goals as a zero-sum game where I'm forced to either save for retirement or pay down debt,' says Lamas. 'I can achieve both, simultaneously, if I'm thoughtful about it.' __________________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of 'Your Credit Score.' Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston. RELATED LINK: 3 steps to pay off debt http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-pay-off-debt
  • China's economy czar is heading to Washington for talks Thursday and Friday aimed at ending a fight over Beijing's technology ambitions ahead of a deadline for a massive U.S. tariff hike. The announcement Tuesday, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, follows talks last week in Beijing that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said 'made headway' on key issues. Xinhua said Vice Premier Liu He will hold talks with Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Business groups and economists saw Friday's surprise announcement of the decision to meet this week as a sign negotiations were making progress. Both governments have expressed optimism but they have given no details of their talks. Economists say the time available for negotiations is too brief to resolve an array of irritants in U.S.-Chinese relations. They say Beijing's goal is to persuade President Donald Trump they are making enough progress to push back threatened U.S. penalties. Without an agreement, a 10 percent tariff increase imposed in July on $200 billion of Chinese goods is due to rise to 25 percent on March 2. On Friday, Lighthizer told the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, the two sides 'made headway on very, very important and difficult issues.' Trump imposed the penalties over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. The talks also include complaints about Beijing's plans for government-led technology development, cyber-spying and China's trade surplus. Beijing retaliated with higher duties on U.S. goods and told its importers to find other suppliers. That led to a 40 percent drop in Chinese imports of American goods in January. Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners complain plans such as 'Made in China 2025,' which calls for government -led creation of global competitors in robotics and other technologies, violate Beijing's market-opening obligations. China's leaders have offered to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more natural gas, soybeans and other exports. But they are resisting pressure to scale back industry plans they see as a path to prosperity and global influence. Other stumbling blocks include Chinese resistance to U.S. pressure to accept an enforcement mechanism with penalties to ensure Beijing carries out whatever commitments it makes. Trump said last week he might be willing to push back the March 2 date if the talks go well but Washington has yet to say whether the negotiations are making enough progress.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that no final decision has been made on whether Huawei equipment can be used in a planned network upgrade. New Zealand's international spy agency in November stopped mobile company Spark from using the equipment in its planned 5G upgrade, saying it posed a 'significant network security risk.' But in a television interview with Newshub, Ardern said Spark had the option of mitigating the spy agency's concerns. Ardern said it was important to note there had been no final decision. 'I'm not here to pass assessments on vendors ...' Ardern told Newshub. 'It's in the public domain that issues and concerns have been raised, but again, as I say, the ball is in now back in the court of the company that made the application, and that is Spark.' Her comments came after China accused the U.S. of trying to block the country's industrial development, and British media reported that U.K. intelligence agencies found it's possible to limit the security risks of using Huawei. Ardern's comments also come at a time that New Zealand's relationship with China, its largest trading partner, is under scrutiny. A story last week in the Global Times newspaper, which is published by China's Communist Party and is known for its nationalistic tone, said some Chinese tourists were considering dumping their plans to travel to New Zealand as a way to punish the country for the Huawei decision. Ardern said the report was incorrect. 'China's foreign ministry spokesperson last week rejected these reports, suggesting those who were peddling the story were, quote, either making a big fuss over nothing, or harboring ulterior motives,' Ardern said. Figures released this month by Statistics New Zealand show that tourist numbers from China were up 7 percent in 2018 when compared to the previous year, to about 450,000. But there was a drop of 3 percent in the month of December when compared to the same month a year earlier. Ardern also rejected reports that some New Zealand exporters were facing delays at China's border. 'New Zealand and China have differences of views on some issues, as we do with any other country,' Ardern said. 'However, this is a robust and mature relationship. We manage these differences together in a mature and respectful way.
  • Germany's financial market regulator issued a two-month ban Monday on short-selling shares of payment service provider Wirecard AG, whose stock has swung sharply in recent months. The regulator said creating new net short positions or increasing existing net short positions in Wirecard's stock could cause uncertainty over its share price, with potential knock-on effects for the wider market. In short-selling, traders sell shares they do not own but only borrowed, with the possibility to buy them back. It's often used to bet on a share's drop. Munich-based Wirecard specializes in handling transactions and providing banking cards for other financial institutions. Its share price hit 199 euros ($224) last year before declining, and recently dropped sharply following media reports of possible irregularities. Wirecard has denied wrongdoing. In a statement, the regulator said recent share price volatility and increase in short positions against payment service provider 'have resulted in uncertainty in the market, particularly with regard to the appropriate price determination for shares of Wirecard AG.' 'In the current situation, there is a risk that this uncertainty will increase and escalate into general market uncertainty,' it said. Separately, prosecutors in Munich said they have opened an investigation against a Financial Times journalist who had reported on allegations of fraudulent accounting at Wirecard. The probe was triggered by a criminal complaint submitted by an unnamed individual, prosecutors said. In a statement, the London-based newspaper said that 'any allegation against the FT or any of its reporters or staff of market manipulation or unethical reporting in relation to Wirecard is baseless and false.' 'It is a smokescreen obscuring the serious allegations that were revealed by the FT,' the newspaper said, adding that the articles about Wirecard were based on 'credible evidence of fraudulent accounting detailed in internal documents seen by the FT' and included comment from Wirecard. Wirecard's shares were up 12.3 percent in Frankfurt at 112.20 euros ($127.10).
  • Honda will close a car factory in western England with the potential loss of 3,500 jobs, British media and a local lawmaker said Monday, in another blow to a British economy made jittery by Brexit. Sky News said the Japanese carmaker is to announce Tuesday that the Swindon plant will close in 2022. Honda makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 70 miles (115 kms) west of London. Local lawmaker Justin Tomlinson confirmed the news in a series of tweets. He said he had spoken to Honda, and the company said the decision 'is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.' He said no job losses at the plant were expected until 2021. Honda said it could not comment 'at this stage.' 'We take our responsibilities to our associates very seriously and will always communicate any significant news with them first,' the firm said in a statement. The Unite trade union, which represents workers at the plant, said it was looking into the reports. Des Quinn, the union's automotive-sector national officer, said the plant's closure 'would be a shattering body blow at the heart of U.K. manufacturing.' The news comes as British businesses are issuing increasingly urgent warnings about the damage being done by the uncertainty around Britain's looming exit from the European Union. The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on March 29 but has yet to seal a deal laying out the divorce terms and establishing what trade rules will apply after Brexit. Many businesses fear economic chaos if there isn't an agreement on the rules and conditions that will replace the 45 years of frictionless trade that came with being an EU member. The uncertainty has already led many firms to shift some operations abroad, stockpile goods or defer investment decisions. Earlier this month, Japan's Nissan announced that it would not build a new SUV at its plant in Sunderland, England, as previously planned. Nissan said it had made the decision 'for business reasons,' but added that 'the continued uncertainty around the U.K.'s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.' Last week Ford said that if Britain left the EU without a deal on smooth future relations, it would be 'catastrophic for the U.K. auto industry and Ford's manufacturing operations in the country.' Christian Stadler, professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School, said automakers were being hit by several factors, including a cooling global economy and a European crackdown on diesel engines. 'Add the fact that the supply chain for most British-made cars crosses the Channel several times as parts are shipped back and forth, so any delays at the border after Brexit could severely disrupt the industry's 'just in time' production method, and the U.K. starts to look like a less attractive place for international companies to build cars,' he said.
  • Papa John's is tossing a new benefit to employees of the pizza chain. >> See the tweet here In a news release last week, the company announced that it has partnered with Purdue University Global, an online university, to offer free tuition for its 20,000 corporate workers under a program dubbed Dough & Degrees. >> Embattled Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter resigns amid backlash over racial slur 'The new program allows eligible employees to expand their skill set, build leadership and management expertise, and prepare to advance their careers by selecting an online degree program that matches their career goals,' the news release said. 'Papa John’s team members can enroll in any of Purdue Global’s online associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, including business, information technology, cybersecurity, accounting and finance.' >> Read more trending news  To participate, employees must have been with the company for more than 90 days and work at least 20 hours a week, WJW-TV reported.  The company also said its 70,000 franchise employees can receive 'significant tuition and fee reductions' through 'an additional education program through the alliance with Purdue Global.' Papa John's is just the latest of several companies that have introduced tuition benefits for employees, including Walmart, Starbucks, Chipotle and McDonald's, according to USA Today. Read more here or here.
  • The European Union warned U.S. President Donald Trump Monday that the bloc will step back from a commitment to buy more American soybeans and liquid gas if European cars are hit with punitive tariffs. The U.S. Commerce Department is expected issue its guidance on whether auto imports endanger U.S. national security enough to justify import taxes, giving Trump 90 days to decide whether to impose them. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that during a summit in Washington last summer, Trump promised not to damage trans-Atlantic trade with such measures. 'Trump has given me his word that there will be no car tariffs for the time being,' Juncker told the German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung. 'I believe him,' Juncker said. 'However, should he renege on that commitment, we will no longer feel bound by our commitments to buy more U.S. soya and liquid gas.' European Union spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that if the U.S. goes ahead with 'actions detrimental to European exports, the European Commission would react in a swift and adequate manner.' The EU and the United States have been trying to work out a trade deal but progress has been slow. Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said U.S. authorities appeared to have already concluded that European cars were a national security threat. She noted that German automaker BMW's biggest plant is in South Carolina Merkel said if the cars produced there 'are suddenly a threat to the United States' national security, that startles us.' Since the summer summit, when Juncker made a commitment to buy more U.S. soybeans, exports to Europe have soared largely because of market conditions. Last month, the EU also approved the use of U.S. soybeans for the production of biofuels, which would further boost imports.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A skyride malfunctioned Monday night at SeaWorld San Diego, initially stranding nine adults and seven children – including an infant. Here are the latest updates: Update 11:26 p.m. PST: Rescue workers have saved all 16 people who were trapped on the Bayside Skyride at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Fire Department tweeted late Monday. >> See the tweet here Original story: A rescue is underway at SeaWorld San Diego after a skyride malfunctioned Monday night, initially stranding nine adults and seven children – including an infant. >> See a photo from the scene here >> Read more trending news  As of 10:30 p.m. PST, crews had rescued 14 people from the Bayside Skyride, which stalled when heavy winds 'tripped a circuit breaker' more than three hours earlier, KSWB reported. Two people were still trapped on the ride's gondolas, the San Diego Fire Department said. >> See the tweet here KSWB said some of the gondolas were over Mission Bay when the ride stopped working. Those trapped were 'lowered by harnesses & rescued by [San Diego Lifeguards] boats,' the Fire Department tweeted. Read more here.
  • A University of Central Florida employee suffered burns Monday after a chemical reaction, according to Orange County Fire Rescue officials. Firefighters were called to 3512 Perseus Loop Lane near the Facilities Operations building on UCF's campus around 3 p.m.  The 29-year-old who was the only person in the building at the time, and was transporting the chemicals when a static discharge sparked a fire.  He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with burns to his face, arms and chest according to responding firefighters.  A university spokeswoman said the incident happened in a building on campus that is designed to handle chemicals and no students were involved in the incident or ever in any danger.  The worker's name was not released. Mike Jachles with OCFR said he was conscious and alert when he was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
  • Four days after the announcement of a series of executive actions to fund his signature border wall, President Donald Trump’s administration still needs to fill in the details on his plans to shift over $6.6 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department into funding border security, as members of Congress continue to wonder if the move will dig into their local military base construction projects. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers and their staffs were awaiting guidance on where the Pentagon would look for money in the $3.6 billion sought by the President in his emergency declaration from military construction projects, which was already the subject of new lawsuits. “Congress has not enacted any emergency legislation even remotely related to border wall construction, and thus the President’s reallocation of funds is unlawful,” read a suit filed against the President and Pentagon by several environmental groups. In a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked for a breakdown of which projects would be put on hold – as under the ‘national emergency’ law used by the President, the Pentagon would make those decisions – not the Congress. Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction in Fiscal Year 2019 – the $3.6 billion sought by the President would be more than one-third of that amount – which has drawn expressions of concern from lawmakers. As Kaine noted in his letter, the move to shift money from military construction comes at a time when the Pentagon already was having to deal with hurricane damage at two major domestic bases – Camp Lejeune for the Marines in North Carolina, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Tyndall was seriously damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 – and despite support for rebuilding the base, Congress has not yet acted on extra money for the Pentagon – or on broader hurricane relief for those hit in Florida and Georgia. During the partial government shutdown, Democrats in the House approved a bill which had $12.1 billion in disaster aid, both for hurricanes and wildfires – but that bill does not seem to be on the agenda in the U.S. Senate at this point. @DrNealDunnFL2 Dr Dunn, we are hearing here in the Panhandle that Trump is going after Tyndall rebuilding money for his wall. Please don’t let this happen! No Tyndall would be catastrophic to our area. Please help! — Billy Shears (@BillyShears9) February 14, 2019 The Commandant of the Marine Corps said over the weekend that he needs $3.5 billion just for repairs at Camp LeJeune from damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September of 2018 – which is equal to the figure of how much in military construction the President wants to shift into a border wall. Earlier this month, Air Force officials said they planned to spend $3 billion to rebuild Tyndall, which was flattened by Hurricane Michael in October of last year. House Democrats say they plan to hold a hearing as soon as next week to get a better idea on what military construction projects the Pentagon wants to scrap – in order to move money to the wall. Also still unclear is the legal underpinnings for two other moves announced last week by the White House, where the President would move money from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund, as well as money from a Pentagon anti-drug account – into a border wall.
  • Following two accidents in recent months, the Orlando Fire Department has announced new roadway safety procedures. The changes include shutting down two additional lanes of traffic on major highways and other roads, as well as placing cones between the crash and the responding unit, and requesting additional backup from the Orlando Police Department following an accident. This will include accidents on major roads such as I-4, State Road 408 and State Road 417. An additional fire suppression unit will also head to the scene, and be angled in a way to alert drivers of an upcoming accident. It comes after an accident Sunday on I-4, when a car slammed into a fire truck, injuring four firefighters and two others. Also, on December 21st, 2018, a vehicle rear ended a fire engine on State Road 408, causing minor injuries to the driver and three Orlando firefighters. The changes are set to take effect immediately. 
  • It's Star Wars movie season once again, and the latest installment in the series has finally finished filming. Director J.J. Abrams made the announcement on Twitter saying: ' It feels impossible, but today(Friday) wrapped photography on Episode IX. There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast. I'm forever indebted to you all.'  To celebrate the occasion, he posted a picture of stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac embracing each other on the final day of filming.  Now that the filming is out of the way, the fun part is getting everything else done before the December 20th deadline, when it is released in theaters. So far there has been no official title, trailer, or teaser of any kind, but of course, we can expect that to come out as we get closer.