Update on the latest in business:
Asian stocks mixed as US jobs, politics in focus
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were today as investors awaited the monthly U.S. jobs report and developments in the U.S. probe into President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
The U.S. government is due to issue its July jobs report later today. Analysts forecast that American employers added 180,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent. A higher figure would increase the likelihood of a December rate hike by the Fed.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to use a grand jury in an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was the latest headline-grabbing news. The use of a grand jury suggests that Mueller and his team will likely hear from witnesses and demand documents in coming weeks. While the move doesn’t suggest any criminal charges are near or will necessarily be sought, the investigation is widely seen as a distraction and is not good news for markets.
U.S. markets finished mostly lower on Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 0.2 percent to 2,472.16. The Dow Jones industrial average notched its eighth gain in a row, adding less than 0.1 percent, to 22,026.10. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.4 percent to 6,340.34.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $49 per barrel.
The dollar gained against the yen and weakened against the euro.
5 things to watch in the US government’s July jobs report
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. economic expansion enters its ninth year, today’s jobs report should help clarify its future path after mixed signals have emerged in recent weeks.
Americans are buying homes at a healthy pace, but car sales have fallen off. Factory production is expanding modestly, but manufacturers aren’t hiring much. And a report yesterday pointed to slower growth among services firms, such as retailers, banks and construction firms. Consumers also turned cautious in June and barely raised their spending compared with May.
Economists forecast that employers will add a healthy 180,000 jobs and the unemployment rate will decline to 4.3 percent, matching May’s 16-year low.
Solid numbers like that would cut through the conflicting information and reinforce that the economy is in decent shape.
Toyota’s quarterly profit improves on strong sales
TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. says its fiscal first quarter profit rose 11 percent as sales improved around the world, including in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
Toyota reported Friday an April-June profit of 613.0 billion yen ($5.6 billion), up from 552.4 billion yen a year earlier.
Quarterly sales rose 7 percent to 7.05 trillion yen ($64 billion).
Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, sold 2.2 million vehicles for the quarter, an improvement of 42,000 vehicles on-year.
Toyota and Mazda Motor Corp. are set to announce a partnership, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The deal is expected to involve a joint-venture auto manufacturing plant in the U.S., working together on green technology and a capital alliance.
VW executive scheduled to plead guilty in emissions scandal
DETROIT (AP) — A German Volkswagen executive is scheduled to plead guilty in Detroit in a scheme to cheat emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.
Oliver Schmidt is due in U.S. District Court on Friday. He is charged with conspiracy and fraud.
Schmidt is a former manager of a VW engineering office in suburban Detroit. He was arrested in January.
VW admits using software to get around emission standards. The company pleaded guilty in March and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.
Schmidt is accused of telling regulators technical problems were to blame for the difference in emissions in road and lab tests.
Most of the VW employees charged in a scheme are in Germany and out of reach of U.S. authorities.
GAMBLING INDUSTRY-CODE OF CONDUCT
Casino industry in US has new rules for responsible gambling
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The casino industry’s largest lobbying group in the U.S. is rolling out a new code of conduct with consumer protection measures that it says are meant to promote responsible gambling.
The code of the American Gaming Association calls on casino operators to be more transparent with patrons and provide training to employees. Its announcement in Las Vegas came within months of two high-profile criminal cases that drew attention to the effects of compulsive gambling as authorities believe the perpetrators were problem gamblers.
The new code calls on casino operators to generally explain patrons the odds of winning or losing at various games and to not use advertising that contains claims that gambling activity will guarantee a person’s social, financial or personal success. It also includes training requirements for employees on procedures for dealing with underage gambling and other issues.
The industry’s longstanding estimate is that between 98 percent and 99 percent of casino patrons gamble responsibly.
The association’s members, such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, are expected to commit to the code.
Cannabis company plans to turn desert town into pot paradise
NIPTON, Calif. (AP) — Now that one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies has bought the entire California desert town of Nipton, a question remains: Will the new owners rename the place Potsylvania?
The name Weed already belongs to an old mill town in Northern Calfornia.
American Green Inc. announced yesterday it is buying all 80 acres of Nipton, which includes its Old West-style hotel, a handful of houses, an RV park and a coffee shop. Its plans are to transform the old Gold Rush town into what it calls “an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.”
The town’s current owner, Roxanne Lang, said the sale is still in escrow, but confirmed American Green is the buyer. She declined to reveal price before the sale closes, but noted she and her late husband, Gerald Freeman, listed the property at $5 million when they put it up for sale last year.
Asked what her husband would think of the buyers’ plans to turn Nipton into the pot paradise of the California desert, she laughed and said, “I think he would find a lot of humor in that.”
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic reports due out today.
WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s a big report on jobs due out today.
The Labor Department releases employment data for July this morning.
Also, the Commerce Department releases international trade data for June.
Berkshire Hathaway reports quarterly financial results after today’s market closes.
TRUMP-COMMODITY AGENCY CHIEF
Senate confirms Trump choice to head commodity agency
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s choice to head the federal agency overseeing some of the riskiest corners of the financial world.
Former brokerage firm executive J. Christopher Giancarlo was approved Thursday as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He has been acting head of the agency since early this year.
Giancarlo has said he plans to ease regulations put in place following the 2008 financial crisis.
The CFTC regulates futures and options markets as well as derivatives trading. Derivatives are traded in a $500 trillion global market and were blamed for helping ignite and escalate the financial meltdown that touched off the Great Recession.
Giancarlo has said he intends to cut CFTC regulations to make them less costly and burdensome for industry.
Senate approves FERC nominees, restores voting quorum
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has approved two Republicans nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the federal commission that oversees the nation’s power grid and natural gas pipelines.
Senators’ unanimous votes Thursday approving Senate aide Neil Chatterjee and Pennsylvania utility regulator Robert Powelson restore a voting quorum on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Only one commissioner currently serves on the panel, leaving it without a quorum and unable to make decisions on interstate pipelines and other projects worth billions of dollars.
Trump has promised to boost energy production and exports as part of a bid to establish “energy dominance” for the United States, but the FERC vacancies have hobbled the agency’s ability to make decisions.
More than a dozen major projects and utility mergers have been in regulatory limbo for months.
Grubhub to buy Eat24 from Yelp
NEW YORK (AP) — Grubhub plans to gobble up another online food-ordering rival: This time it’s Yelp Inc.’s Eat24.
Chicago-based Grubhub Inc. is paying Yelp $287.5 million for Eat24. That’s more than double what Yelp, based in San Francisco, paid to acquire Eat24 two years ago.
The two companies also announced a 5-year deal that will allow readers of Yelp’s reviews to order food from restaurants that use Grubhub.
Grubhub says it will keep the Eat24 brand alive. Grubhub has acquired other competitors, including LAbite and DiningIn. Earlier this week, it announced a deal with online deals site Groupon, in which it will take over 27 markets of Groupon’s OrderUp food ordering service.
Grubhub shares dropped 1.5 percent in extended trading, while Yelp surged 19 percent. Both companies also reported results after the bell.
DUNKIN’ WITHOUT DONUTS?
Dunkin’ without the ‘Donuts’? Maybe
NEW YORK (AP) — Dunkin’ is thinking about dumping “Donuts” from its name.
A new location of the chain in Pasadena, California, will be simply called Dunkin’, a move that parent company Dunkin’ Brands Inc. calls a test. The Canton, Massachusetts-based company says a few other stores will get the one-name treatment too.
The chain wants people to think of its stores as a destination for coffee, not just doughnuts. Dunkin’ Donuts says it won’t make a decision on whether it will change its name until late next year, when it expects to start redesigning stores.
News of the test was first reported by Nation’s Restaurant News.
Source: Toyota, Mazda plan EV partnership, possible US plant
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. are partnering in electric vehicles with a deal that may lead to setting up an assembly plant in the U.S.
The Japanese Nikkei business daily reported Friday the agreement will include working toward setting up a U.S. joint-venture plant and cooperation on electric vehicle technology.
Toyota said in a statement that it plans to propose to its board a partnership with Mazda. It gave no further details.
A person briefed on the matter, who did not want to be identified because an official announcement hasn’t been made, confirmed the partnership, but no details.
President Donald Trump has been urging Toyota and other Japanese automakers to invest and build more vehicles in the U.S. EVs have become an increasingly competitive market segment.
Conservative group against Foxconn deal
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin chapter of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is making a rare break with Republican Gov. Scott Walker and coming out against a $3 billion tax incentive package that’s part of a deal for Foxconn Technology Group to build a $10 billion plant in the southeastern part of the state.
Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin director Eric Bott released a statement Thursday saying it can’t support refundable tax credits offered under the deal signed by Walker. The national group is funded by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Bott says the group is a free market advocate and as such “staunchly” opposes government tax incentives.
It’s doubtful the group’s opposition will stop the proposal that’s moving quickly through the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Its statement came as an Assembly committee was holding a public hearing on the bill.
NBA board approves Pistons’ downtown move
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA’s board of governors has approved the Detroit Pistons’ relocation to downtown Detroit.
The league announced the approval Thursday.
The Pistons will begin playing next season at Little Caesars Arena, a new venue that will also house the Detroit Red Wings. The Pistons are moving there after 29 seasons playing their home games in the suburbs at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Detroit will now have all four of its major pro teams playing within a few blocks of each other. Comerica Park (Tigers) and Ford Field (Lions) are in the same area as Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons had formally announced their plans to move downtown in November.
No verdict after 4th day of deliberations in Shkreli trial
NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors have failed to reach a verdict after the fourth day of deliberations in the securities fraud trial of former pharmaceutical company CEO Martin Shkreli (SHKREL’-ee).
Deliberations will resume Friday in federal court in New York City.
Prosecutors say Shkreli looted his drug company to pay back investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. The defense says investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.
The former biotech CEO, nicknamed “Pharma Bro,” is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media.
If convicted of the most serious charges, he could face up to 20 years in prison, but likely would receive far less time under sentencing guidelines.