Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 4, 2017

Car sales sink, two advertisers ditch The O'Reilly Factor, and more

1

Car sales fall, weighing on stocks

U.S. passenger vehicle sales dropped by 11 percent in March, the third straight monthly decline for domestic auto sales, Autodata reported on Monday. The industry sold 1.56 million vehicles last month, a 1.6 percent drop from last year. Analysts had expected a slight increase. Sales incentives rose by 13.4 percent to an average $3,511 per vehicle as automakers tried to move unsold inventory. "Going forward we'll see automakers likely cut production to manage inventories and to not go out of control with incentives," Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs said. The news weighed on stocks. Electric car maker Tesla was an exception, rising and pushing its market value above No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford's for the first time.

2

Two advertisers pull commercials from The O'Reilly Factor

Mercedes Benz said Monday that it was moving its ads from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's show to another cable program. The move came after The New York Times reported over the weekend that Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox had paid $13 million to five women since 2002 to settle allegations of inappropriate behavior. O'Reilly denies the accusations. "The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don't feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now," said Donna Boland, Mercedes' manager of corporate communications. An attorney for former Fox News guest Wendy Walsh is calling for an independent sexual harassment investigation against host O'Reilly, whose show, The O'Reilly Factor, has been the top cable news program for 14 straight years.

3

White House offers Freedom Caucus compromise on health care

White House officials met with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Monday in a bid to jumpstart stalled talks on replacing ObamaCare. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the Freedom Caucus' chairman, said the Trump administration had offered a "solid idea" that could lead to a compromise to get past GOP infighting that caused the bill to fail last month. The plan would effectively end the guarantee of coverage even for those with preexisting conditions by offering states the right to opt out of some of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance mandates, including "essential health benefits" such as required coverage for mental-health care, maternity care, prescription drugs, and more, as well as a provision preventing insurers from charging sick customers more than healthy ones.

4

Trump administration cracks down on H1B visa fraud

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced steps to crack down on fraudulent use of H1B visas. Tech companies and other employers use the program to bring in specialized foreign workers. President Trump promised to end a lottery system that is used to distribute the visas, giving all applicants an equal shot at the 65,000 H1B visas issued each year. Instead, the Trump administration is requiring more information from computer programmers to prove they have expertise needed to fill complicated jobs others can't handle. The changes take effect immediately, affecting employers and candidates in the annual lottery now getting underway.

5

Kansas House fails to override veto on Medicaid expansion

The Kansas House of Representatives on Monday failed to override Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of lawmakers' proposed expansion of Medicaid for the poor in the state. The vote came in 81-44 in favor of the expansion, but 84 were needed to override the veto, which Brownback issued on Thursday. Kansas was among several Republican-led states that explored Medicaid expansion after the GOP's legislation seeking to replace ObamaCare failed last month. David Jordan, the executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, said it was "disappointing" that "a small group of representatives chose to side with the governor instead of the 82 percent of Kansans who support expanding KanCare." A Brownback spokesperson said it would be irresponsible to "expand ObamaCare when the program is in a death spiral."

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