Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 19, 2018

Stocks stay strong despite a looming government shutdown, Amazon unveils the 20 cities vying for its second HQ, and more

1

Markets shrug off government shutdown threat, for now

U.S. stock futures gained early Friday, despite the threat of a federal government shutdown. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.4 percent, while those for the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent. Nasdaq-100 futures were up by 0.5 percent. The three major U.S. equity indexes fell back from record highs on Thursday. The House on Thursday passed a stopgap spending measure to keep government agencies funded through Feb. 16. Senate Democrats are threatening to block it, however, as a midnight deadline looms. The stopgap measure would extend a popular children's health-care program for six years and delay several Affordable Care Act taxes, but lacks protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which Democrats are demanding.

2

Amazon releases list of 20 cities in running for second HQ

Amazon on Thursday released the list of 20 finalists in its headquarters contest, dubbed HQ2. Last September, the tech giant invited cities across North America to explain why they offered the best location for a second headquarters to complement the company's main hub in Seattle. Some of the largest U.S. cities, including New York and Los Angeles, are among the contenders, as is Toronto in Canada. Amazon also is considering many smaller metropolitan areas, such as Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. Amazon has said it expects to create roughly 50,000 jobs and invest $5 billion in the winning city.

3

IBM reports first-quarter revenue growth

IBM on Thursday reported that its revenue grew in the first quarter for the first time in more than five years. The gains came as the company boosted its cloud computing business and tried to capitalize on investments in artificial intelligence. The company still reported a $1.05 billion quarterly loss, due to a $5.5 billion charge linked to the GOP's tax overhaul passed at the end of last year. IBM reported $4.5 billion in profit during the same quarter last year. The company posted $22.54 billion in revenue, beating Wall Street expectations of $21.96 billion.

4

IEA says U.S. oil output growth could offset OPEC cuts

U.S. oil output is headed for "explosive" growth this year as prices rise, the International Energy Agency said on Friday. A new surge in shale oil output could neutralize the effect of production cuts the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia agree to in a bid to combat a glut that depressed prices. "The big 2018 supply story is unfolding fast in the Americas," the IEA said in its monthly report. "Explosive growth in the U.S. and substantial gains in Canada and Brazil will far outweigh potentially steep declines in Venezuela and Mexico." Oil prices recently surged to a three-year high above $70 a barrel. Oil traded lower early Friday, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate falling 50 cents to $63.45 a barrel.

5

Trump administration announces protections for pro-life medical workers

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would expand protections for medical professionals who object to performing such procedures as abortions and gender reassignment, or dispensing contraceptives, due to religious objections. The rules will let them stick to their objections without penalty. Civil rights, gay rights, and abortion rights groups, as well as some medical groups, criticized the move, saying the Trump administration was trying to legitimize discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services will create an oversight entity called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division to oversee matters involving concerning the "conscience rights" of doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers.

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