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Update on the latest in business:

Posted October 3

FINANCIAL-MARKETS

Japan, Hong Kong shares track Wall Street advance

Shares in Japan and Hong Kong gained today, tracking a rally on Wall Street, where indexes set fresh record highs. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell, and the South Korean and Shanghai markets were closed for national holidays.

On Wall Street yesterday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.4 percent to 2,529.12. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 0.7 percent to 22,557.60. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.3 percent to 6,516.72 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks jumped 1.2 percent to 1,509.47. All four indexes finished at record highs on optimism about a recovery in manufacturing.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $50.50 a barrel.

The dollar gained against the yen and the euro.

FDA-GENERIC MEDICINES

FDA acts to encourage generic competition for complex drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is opening a new front in its efforts to reduce high drug prices by encouraging development of generic versions of hard-to-make medicines.

Complex drugs and drug-device combinations generally are very expensive and some are widely used. Often, they don't get generic competition right after their patent expires, as happens routinely with pills.

In a long blog post, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote that difficulty in creating copies or near-copies of such drugs and getting them approved may deter generic companies from even trying.

That means patients don't get access to cheaper versions of those drugs and the brand-name medicine makers continue to rake in money, often billions of dollars a year per drug.

To get more generic versions of complex drugs on the market, the FDA will begin giving companies guidance on how to win approvals, including offering meetings with agency staff early on, to shorten the time for development and approval.

One analyst calls it "a shot across the bow" to the brand-name companies.

TREASURY BILLS

Interest rates on US Treasury bills mixed at weekly auction

Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were mixed in Monday's auction with rates on three-month bills unchanged while rates on six-month bills rose to their highest level in nine years.

The Treasury Department auctioned $42 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.050 percent, unchanged from last week. Another $36 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 1.190 percent, up from 1.170 percent last week.

The six-month rate was the highest since those bills averaged 1.400 percent on Oct. 27, 2008.

The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,973.46 while a six-month bill sold for $9,939.84. That would equal an annualized rate of 1.067 percent for the three-month bills and 1.214 percent for the six-month bills.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, stood at 1.31 percent Friday, little changed from a level of 1.30 at the beginning of last week on Sept. 25.

WELLS FARGO-CONGRESS

Wells CEO to go in front of Congress a year into scandal

Wells Fargo's chief executive is saying the bank remains "deeply sorry" for its sales tactics and that a year since the scandal over them exploded has substantially changed for the better.

The comments from Tim Sloan come ahead of his scheduled appearance in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. It comes about a year since his predecessor did the same and was grilled about the sales practices that led to millions of accounts being opened by Wells Fargo employees without customers' permission.

The bank has paid $185 million in fines and has agreed to pay $142 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement.

Sloan's predecessor, John Stumpf, testified twice in front of Congress last fall. His poor performance was widely chastised, and the scandal led to his ouster.

EQUIFAX BREACH

Equifax: 2.5 million more Americans may be affected by hack

Credit report company Equifax is now saying an additional 2.5 million Americans may have been affected by a massive security breach this summer, bringing the total to 145.5 million people.

Equifax said the company it hired to do an examination of the breach, Mandiant, has concluded its investigation and plans to release the results "promptly."

The update comes as Equifax's former CEO, Richard Smith, will testify in front of Congress starting Tuesday. He's expected to face bipartisan anger from politicians who have expressed outrage that a company tasked with securing vast amounts of personal data was unable to keep their security software up to date. The information stolen included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

Equifax also faces several state and federal inquiries and class-action lawsuits.

CONGRESS-TAXES

GOP panel chief not saying yet if tax cuts retroactive

One of the chief architects of the sweeping tax revamp proposed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans isn't yet saying whether promised cuts under the plan would be retroactive to the start of the year.

"To be determined" was the response Monday from Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, head of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. There has been speculation the plan, which would deeply reduce levies for corporations, simplify everyone's taxes and nearly double the standard deduction used by most Americans, would be applied retroactively to the beginning of 2017.

SENATE-FCC

Senate confirms Trump choice to head FCC

The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's nominee to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The vote was 52-41 on Monday for Ajit Pai (A'-jiht pye), who has served as a commissioner at the FCC since 2012.

The nomination turned into a proxy fight over Obama-era net neutrality rules established in 2015. Those rules mean service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast must treat all content the same and not favor their own websites and apps over others, such as a movie streaming service.

Pai has tried to roll the rules back, drawing more than 22 million comments and ire from Democrats.

GENERAL MOTORS-NEW ELECTRICS

GM to offer 2 more electric vehicles in next 18 months

Even though gasoline-powered SUVs are what people are buying now, General Motors is betting that electric vehicles will be all the rage in the not-to-distant future.

The Detroit automaker is promising two new EVs loosely based on the Chevrolet Bolt in the next 1 ½ years and more than 20 electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2023. The company sees its entire model lineup running on electricity in the future, whether the source is a big battery or a tank full of hydrogen.

The automaker offered what it called a "sneak peek" into GM's electric future. The company also pledged to start producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for commercial or military use in 2020.

TESLA-SALES

Tesla reports record 3Q deliveries, but Model 3 lags

Tesla says it delivered a record number of vehicles in the third quarter even though it made fewer of its new Model 3 sedans than anticipated.

Tesla delivered 26,150 vehicles in the July-September period, up 4.5 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Most were Model S sedans and Model X SUVs. Tesla delivered only 220 Model 3 cars.

Production of the hotly anticipated Model 3 — which is half the cost of Tesla's previous models — began in July. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the time he hoped to make 1,500 Model 3 sedans in September.

GE-IMMELT

General Electric's Jeff Immelt retires 3 months early

General Electric says Jeff Immelt is retiring three months early because the company's transition to a new CEO is going well.

The conglomerate announced Immelt's departure Monday. He had led the company as its CEO since 2001 before announcing in June he was stepping down. He was originally to hold on to the chairman role until the end of the year.

GE executive John Flannery took over as CEO in August, and now will add the chairman title.

Immelt reshaped GE after taking over from legendary CEO Jack Welch. He led the company through the financial crisis and then sold off many of the financial services businesses that Welch had added, along with GE's appliance unit and NBC television.

Then Immelt acquired businesses in the power, oil and gas sectors.

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