The daily business briefing: June 23, 2016

Brexit voting begins, stocks edge higher on expectations Britons will vote to stay in EU, and more

The EU flag pin alongside the Union Jack pin
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

1. Polls open in UK's historic Brexit referendum

Britons began voting Thursday in a referendum on whether their country should leave the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron and other proponents of staying in the 28-nation trading bloc said exiting the EU would have disastrous consequences for the nation's economy. Backers of the Brexit campaign said breaking away would restore the UK's independence on key issues, such as immigration. As both sides made their final pitches on Wednesday, polls indicated the vote would be close.


2. Stocks edge higher on optimism UK will stay in EU

Global stocks and oil prices drifted higher on Thursday as voting began in Britain's crucial Brexit referendum. U.S. stocks were expected to open higher, with Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rising 75 points, or 0.4 percent, on optimism that UK voters would choose to stay in the EU. Stocks fluctuated a day earlier, losing ground and closing lower after a poll showed the Brexit camp ahead. Two polls released late Wednesday showed the "remain" side ahead, leading odds makers to estimate a 76 percent probability of a vote to stay in the EU.

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3. White House says it will fight for fracking rules struck down by court

The Obama administration vowed Wednesday to fight a federal judge's Tuesday night ruling striking down federal regulations on the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas on public lands. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration has "a strong argument to make" about the need for the government to make sure fracking on public land "doesn't threaten the drinking water of the people who live in the area." Opponents — including the energy industry and Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming — challenged the regulations, saying they would raise costs and illegally prevent lawmakers and states from regulating fracking.

Bloomberg The New York Times

4. Home sales rise to nine-year high

Existing home sales increased by 1.8 percent in May to an annual rate of 5.53 million, a nine-year high, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Sales were up by 4.5 percent over a year earlier, as supply increased to give buyers more options. "The economy can't be going too far off course when home buying is picking up," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. Home sales and strong recent retail sales data reinforced optimism on the economy, countering the gloom of May's bad jobs report.

The Associated Press

5. Obama signs biggest chemical safety law in a quarter century

President Obama on Wednesday signed into law a bipartisan chemical safety overhaul that marks the first major upgrade to the nation's regulations on toxic chemicals in two decades. The legislation — the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act — will let the Environmental Protection Agency ban substances like asbestos. It also will update the way the federal government oversees potentially toxic chemicals in everyday products. "This is a big deal," Obama said. "This is a good law, an important law."

USA Today The Hill

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