Update on the latest in business:

Posted at 3:45 AM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 03:45:56-05


Traders await talks between U.S. and China

BANGKOK (AP) — Share benchmarks are mostly higher in Asia today as Chinese and U.S. negotiators gear 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.

The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3 percent in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent higher. Australia's S&P ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gave up 0.3 percent. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent. Shares were mostly higher in Southeast Asia.


China's economy czar going to Washington for trade talks

BEIJING (AP) — China's economy czar is going to Washington for talks Thursday and Friday aimed at ending a tariff war over Beijing's technology ambitions.

Tuesday's announcement, carried by the official Xinhua (shihn-wah) News Agency, follows talks last week in Beijing that a U.S. envoy said "made headway" on key issues.

Negotiators face a March 2 deadline for planned American tariff hikes on $200 billion of Chinese imports to take effect.

Xinhua said Vice Premier Liu He will hold talks with the top U.S. trade envoy, Robert Lighthizer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO'-shin).


China auto sales fall in January for eighth month

BEIJING (AP) — China's auto sales fell for an eighth month in January, extending a painful decline for the biggest global market.

An industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, says purchases of sedans, SUVs and minivans fell 15 percent from a year earlier to just over 2 million vehicles.

Auto demand has weakened as Chinese economic growth cooled and a tariff fight with Washington fueled uncertainty among buyers.

The slump is a setback for global automakers that are looking to China to drive revenue.

Sales by Chinese brands fell 22 percent while global brands gained market share.

Purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles, which Beijing is promoting with subsidies, rose 138 percent over a year earlier to 96,000 units.


Honda to shut plant in Britain, imperiling 3,500 jobs

TOKYO (AP) — Honda says it plans to close its car factory in western England in 2021, imperiling 3,500 jobs in a fresh blow to the British economy as it faces its March 29 exit from the European Union.

The Japanese automaker announced the decision at a news conference in Tokyo, where Honda's president and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, told reporters the decision was not related to Brexit.

He says the company will begin discussions with affected workers immediately.

The company says it will also adjust its operations in Turkey, where it makes 38,000 Civic sedans a year. It says it'll continue operating there and hold a "constructive dialogue" with local stakeholders.


New Zealand leader says no final decision on using Huawei

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (AH'-durn) says no final decision has been made on whether Huawei (WAH'-way) 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 Tuesday 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, and "now the ball is in Spark's court."

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.


Lord Mayor of London: Brexit a 'short-term' issue

HONG KONG (AP) — The Lord Mayor of London is touting the city's attractiveness for business even with the looming threat of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal.

On a visit to Hong Kong on Tuesday, Peter Estlin called Brexit a "short-term frustrating issue" that will be overcome in time.

He said despite the uncertainty, businesses in the financial center are "by and large, prepared for any outcome."

Estlin's largely ceremonial position representing the capital's financial industry is separate from that of the much more powerful elected mayor of London.

Estlin said Britain's focus on future industries such as electric vehicles and companies offering online financial products were driving a surge in foreign direct investment, which hit an all-time high last year.

Brexit is scheduled to take place on March 29.


Jailed Citgo executives in limbo amid Venezuela turmoil

HOUSTON (AP) — Six executives from the Houston-based Citgo oil company have spent 15 months jailed in Venezuela on what their families say are trumped-up corruption charges.

The group includes Citgo's president, vice president of refining, the head of strategic shareholder relations as well as government and public affairs and the vice president of supply and marketing.

As the Trump administration plunges headlong into an effort to unseat Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the fate of the six, five of them Americans, lies in the balance, as does that of the U.S. company they work for. Citgo is a major prize in the power struggle between Maduro and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.


HSBC reports net profit at $12.6B in 2018

LONDON (AP) — 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.

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.