Update on the latest in business:

Posted May 18


Asian stocks slide as Trump's mounting woes rattle investors

Asian stock benchmarks skidded lower Thursday following Wall Street's worst day in months as Washington's political chaos made investors more nervous about risky assets and the outlook for President Donald Trump's business-friendly proposals.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index slid 1.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China dipped 0.4 percent. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and most of Southeast Asia also lost ground.

On Wall Street, major U.S. benchmarks suffered big losses. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its largest drop since September, sliding 1.8 percent to 2,357.03. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 1.8 percent to 20,606.93. The Nasdaq composite index gave up 2.6 percent to 6,011.24.


Major business and economic events scheduled for Thursday

The Labor Department reports Thursday on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week.

Freddie Mac reports on this week's average U.S. mortgage rates.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens. Wal-Mart may tout its latest online shopping spree, as it's expected to report another round of strong quarterly results.


Japan economy expands at 2.2 percent annual pace in Jan-Mar

Japan reports that its economy grew at a faster-than-expected 2.2 percent annual pace in January-March.

Economists had forecast a strong expansion in the first quarter, helped by a recovery in exports and consumer spending. But most estimates had not topped 2 percent.

The figures released Thursday are preliminary and likely to be revised.

The economy grew at a 1.2 percent pace in the last quarter of 2016.

Recent data suggest a weakening of corporate spending on factory equipment that may pull growth lower in the current quarter.

On a quarterly basis, the economy expanded 0.5 percent.


2 US private equity firms bid for Australia newspaper empire

(Note: All monetary figures are in American dollars)

Australia's second-largest newspaper empire, Fairfax Media, announced Thursday that it has received rival takeover offers from two U.S. private equity investment firms.

The Sydney-based multimedia company said a non-binding indicative offer was received Wednesday from San Francisco-based Hellman & Friedman at a price of between $0.9138 and $0.9325 per share. That offer values Fairfax at between $2.10 billion and $2.14 billion.

TPG Group, also based in San Francisco, made an improved offer of $0.8952 per share on Monday that values the Australian company at $2.06 billion.


Donald Trump Jr., Dubai business partner discuss 'new ideas'

Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Dubai and met a billionaire business partner in the city-state. They discussed "new ideas" as the Emirati's real estate firm still lists possible plans for future joint projects while Trump's father is in the White House.

The Trump Organization has said it won't make new foreign deals while Donald Trump serves as America's 45th president. That didn't affect the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai's opening in February, while a previously planned Trump-branded golf course designed by Tiger Woods is still being built nearby.

Both projects are being built by Dubai's DAMAC Properties, owned by Emirati billionaire Hussain Sajwani. His company has paid the Trump Organization's subsidiaries between $1 million to $5 million for the projects, according to a U.S. Federal Election Committee report submitted in May.


Google unveils latest tech tricks as computers get smarter

Google's computer programs are gaining a better understanding of the world. And now it wants them to handle more of the decision-making for the billions of people who use its services.

CEO Sundar Pichai and other top executives brought Google's audacious ambition into sharper focus Wednesday at an annual conference in Mountain View, California, attended by more than 7,000 developers.

Among other things, Google unveiled new ways for its massive network of computers to identify images, as well as recommend, share, and organize photos. It also is launching an attempt to make its voice-controlled digital assistant more proactive and visual while expanding its audience to Apple's iPhone, where it will try to outwit an older peer, Siri.


Cisco Systems announces 1,100 more layoffs

Cisco Systems Inc. said Wednesday that it is laying off 1,100 more workers, deepening job losses at the internet gear maker battling declining revenue.

The new round of layoffs comes on top of the 5,500 jobs Cisco announced it was cutting in August. That amounted to about 7 percent of its workforce at the time.

Cisco sells routers, switches, software and services business and has seen its business hurt as more of its corporate customers rely on remote data centers for their computing needs instead of online networks maintained on their own premises.

The company based in San Jose, California, on Wednesday reported revenue of $11.94 billion for its fiscal third quarter that ended in April. That was down from $12 billion a year earlier. It said it expects its revenue to decline 4 to 6 percent in the quarter ending in July compared to the same 2016 period.


Target locked in game of shipping tag with Wal-Mart, Amazon

Target, Wal-Mart and Amazon are engaged in a game of shipping tag, each trying to adjust their free threshold and other shipping strategies to a level that can lure shoppers away from one of the other.

Minneapolis-based Target has the furthest to go as it tries to put itself in better competition with Amazon, the undisputed online leader, and Wal-Mart, which has been buying online startups to beef up its own operations.

Target has announced plans to put more money into both its online operations and its stores, and saw it online sales rise 22 percent for the first quarter. That was a slowdown from 34 percent in the fourth quarter, though.


In reversal, radio host Alex Jones apologizes to Chobani

Right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones says he has settled a lawsuit filed by Greek yogurt giant Chobani, reversing course from previous claims that he would never back down in the defamation case.

Jones read a brief statement at the end of his radio show Wednesday saying he had retracted previous stories and tweets about Chobani.

Chobani had argued in its lawsuit that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories earlier this month that linked Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children. The company filed the lawsuit in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where it operates the largest yogurt plant in the world.

Jones added that he regretted mischaracterizing Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls.


Bee industry buzzing: Stolen hives recovered in California

The bee industry is buzzing over the arrest of a man accused of stealing thousands of hives worth nearly $1 million from California's almond orchards in one of the biggest such thefts on record.

The case has thrown a spotlight on a business many city slickers probably never knew existed: Beekeepers in the U.S. move their colonies around the country by truck and rent them out to farmers to pollinate their flowering crops.

In California, which relies on bees brought in from such places as Missouri, Montana and North Dakota to produce more almonds than any other place in the world, hives began to vanish overnight across several counties three years ago.


Ralph Lauren names Procter & Gamble executive as CEO

Ralph Lauren Corp. has tapped Procter & Gamble beauty executive Patrice Louvet as its next CEO as the preppy fashion brand seeks to turn its business around.

The company known for its polo shirts and pony logo said Wednesday that Louvet will start in July.

He will replace Stefan Larsson, who announced in February that he would leave the New York-based company after less than two years in the job. Larsson was the first person other than company founder Ralph Lauren to hold the title. The two clashed over creative control, though Lauren said the decision to part was mutual.

Shares of Ralph Lauren slipped $1.19 to close Wednesday at $72.75. They are down 19 percent so far this year.


LaVar Ball ups shoe deal asking price to $3 billion

LaVar Ball has upped the ante.

The outspoken father of former UCLA star Lonzo Ball said Wednesday on Fox Sport 1's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" that it will now cost a shoe company $3 billion to make a deal with his Big Baller Brand.

That's right: $3 billion.

He also repeated that he wants Lonzo to play only for the Los Angeles Lakers, the hometown team that got the No. 2 pick Tuesday night in the NBA draft lottery.

LaVar Ball said he has sold 400 to 500 pairs of the $495 ZO2 shoes, and has no need to market his products to women.


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