Update on the latest in business:

Posted August 30


Asian stocks higher as investors shrug off N. Korea tensions

Asian stocks are higher today as investors hunt for bargains and shrug off geopolitical tensions a day after North Korea fired a missile that flew over northern Japan.

Japan's Nikkei 225, South Korea's Kospi and Hong Kong's Hang Seng are up, while the Shanghai Composite Index has edged down. Stocks in Taiwan and Singapore are higher.

On Tuesday, U.S. stocks pared early losses to finish higher. The S&P 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,446. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.3 percent to 21,865. And the Nasdaq composite added 0.3 percent to 6,302.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 0.1 percent to 1,384.


Government set to give update on business growth

The government later this morning will announce its latest assessment of economic growth in the spring quarter, from April through June.

A preliminary analysis by the Commerce Department late last month said growth in the gross domestic product, the economy's total output of goods and services, expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter. That was more than double the revised 1.2 percent reported for the first three months of the year.

The 2.6 percent GDP gain cited in the preliminary report came in close to economists' expectations.

In another report on the condition of the economy, payroll processor ADP is due later today to report on how many jobs private employers added in August.


Shell, Exxon say some pollution released as storm pounds Texas

Pollutants have been released from refineries operated by Exxon, Shell and other companies as torrential rains damaged storage tanks and other industrial facilities on the Texas Coast.

Shell told state regulators this week that a floating roof over a tank at its oil refinery in Deer Park, Texas, partially sank during the heavy rainfall. The company said 100 pounds of benzene and 100 pounds of toluene were released.

A similar event happened at Exxon Mobil Corp.'s refinery in Baytown, Texas. David Gray, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the company reported the release of 15 pounds of benzene. The EPA classifies benzene as a carcinogen. Toluene, a solvent, is less toxic.

A Shell spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Analyst estimates United could take big hit from Harvey

One big Harvey loser: United Airlines.

An airline analyst estimates the carrier could lose $266 million from Houston flight cancellations caused by flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.

Cowen and Co. analyst Helane Becker says money from the flights is likely gone because people whose homes are damaged won't feel like going on vacation after the storm.

Becker estimated Tuesday the storm could cost Southwest $77 million and Spirit $11 million.

The airlines didn't immediately comment.

United dominates Bush Intercontinental Airport, and Southwest is the biggest airline at Hobby Airport. Both Houston airports have been closed to all but a few relief flights since last weekend.


Apple CEO Tim Cook reaps $89.3 windfall from long-term deal

Apple CEO Tim Cook has collected $89.6 million as part of a 10-year deal that he signed as an incentive to keep the iPhone maker at the forefront of the technology industry after he took over the reins in 2011 from company co-founder Steve Jobs.

The windfall detailed in a Monday regulatory filing flowed from 560,000 Apple shares sold during the past week.

Cook received half the award because Apple's stock delivered shareholder returns in the top third of the S&P 500 index during the past three years. He got the other 280,000 shares for simply staying on the job.

Apple set aside more than 291,000 shares sold for $46.4 million to cover Cook's tax bill.


Long-closed Las Vegas Strip casino-hotel sold for $600M

A long-closed, unfinished casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip has been sold for $600 million, eight years after construction halted on the 63-story tower amid the recession.

A partnership led by New York-based real estate company Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a hulking bluish tower that was 70 percent finished when construction stopped and has since served as a training site for firefighters.

Witkoff's chairman and CEO Steve Witcoff said in a statement that the property "is one of the best physical assets in the country, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to it."

He added that the company wants to "unlock" the property's growth potential, though he didn't say exactly what will be the fate of the nearly completed tower on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.


US consumer confidence improves again in August

American consumers give today's economy the highest grade in more than 16 years.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that consumers' assessment of current economic conditions hit the highest level this month since July 2001. The business research group's overall consumer confidence index, which takes into account Americans' views of current conditions and their expectations for the next six months, rose to 122.9 in August from 120 in July.

Americans' spirits have been lifted by a healthy job market. Employers added a robust 209,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate has dropped to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.


Buffett's firm now owns 700 million Bank of America shares

Warren Buffett's company is now Bank of America's largest shareholder.

Bank of America said Tuesday that Berkshire Hathaway had exercised its warrants to buy 700 million shares of the bank. Berkshire received the warrants in 2011 when Buffett invested $5 billion in the bank.

The shares, which are worth roughly $16.5 billion today, give Berkshire control of about 6.5 percent of the bank based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Berkshire had been receiving $300 million a year in interest on its preferred shares. Buffett decided to trade that for common shares because Bank of America is now paying a dividend of 48 cents per share annually.

Buffett's Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate is also a major shareholder in Wells Fargo, American Express and Goldman Sachs.


Hyundai resumes production in China after supply disruption

Hyundai Motor Co. says it has resumed production at factories in China following a shutdown that stemmed from a dispute between Beijing and Seoul over a U.S. missile defense system.

The shutdown, started last week when Hyundai did not pay a parts supplier that refused to provide fuel tanks in response, was the latest in series of challenges that have beset South Korea's largest automaker in the key market, since a diplomatic row erupted in spring over South Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

A Hyundai spokesman says the supplier resumed providing fuel tanks today, allowing its China plants to return to production gradually. The company is still in talks with the supplier to resolve the payment issue.


North Dakota tribe levies higher tax on oil drillers

An American Indian tribe whose reservation accounts for a fifth of North Dakota's oil production has imposed a higher tax rate for drillers, a move the governor and the state tax commissioner believes is improper and industry officials fear may slash production.

The Three Affiliated Tribes this month notified the more than 30 companies drilling on the Fort Berthold Reservation that it is seeking the tax rate that tribal Chairman Mark Fox says it needs to pay for additional law enforcement, road repairs and other consequences of oil development on the reservation. It's home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger responded with a letter to the companies saying the state has nothing to do with the increase, which he said is "inconsistent with current state law."


Federal judge reviews $151 million chemical spill settlement

A revised class-action settlement plan is back before a federal judge deciding how to pay victims of a chemical spill that left people without tap water for up to 9 days.

The drinking water of about 300,000 people in the greater Charleston, West Virginia, area was contaminated in January 2014 when a chemical used to clean coal spilled from a storage tank at the now-defunct Freedom Industries, polluting the Elk River upstream from the system's water intake.

Judge John Copenhaver raised concerns about previous terms of the negotiated $151 million settlement with West Virginia American Water Co. and Eastman Chemical. This amended plan replaces tiered and fixed amounts with percentages and cost-based factors for businesses and medical claims.

It would raise payment for a simple household claim from $525 to $550.


Tribes say Dakota Access pipeline overstates shutdown impact

American Indian tribes hoping to persuade a federal judge to turn off the Dakota Access oil pipeline maintain in last-minute court filings that the project's developer has overstated the potential impacts of a shutdown.

Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman and Cheyenne River Sioux attorney Nicole Ducheneaux also argue that Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners brought potential problems on itself by forging ahead with construction despite the uncertainty of final federal approval.

ETP "made reckless choices, and it must accept the consequences," the attorneys wrote in documents filed Monday, the deadline for arguments imposed by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C.


Former UAW official pleads guilty in Fiat Chrysler case

A former United Auto Workers associate director has pleaded guilty to misusing money from Fiat Chrysler that was intended to train blue-collar workers.

Sixty-five-year-old Virdell King pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. Under a plea agreement, she faces up to 16 months in prison and restitution payments of up to $15,000. A judge set her sentencing for Jan. 3, 2018.

King is the second person to plead guilty in the case. The government says former Fiat Chrysler labor executive Al Iacobelli provided UAW officials with credit cards linked to the company-sponsored training center. Iacobelli has pleaded not guilty.

The Detroit News reports King and her attorney declined to comment after her appearance in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor.


Vermont ski areas president to lead national ski association

The president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association is going to become president of the Lakewood, Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, the trade association that represents ski resort owners and operators across the country.

The appointment of Parker Riehle (REEL'-ee) to the National Ski Areas Association was announced Monday after the group's board of directors chose him to lead the group. Riehle will succeed Michael Berry, who is retiring on Jan. 1 after 25 years.

Riehle has worked at the Vermont Ski Areas Association since 1998 and became president in 2006.

The National Ski Areas Association represents 303 U.S. alpine ski resorts that account for 90 percent of the skier and snowboard visits nationally.


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