1. Stocks surge after Fed chief hints rate hikes could slow
The main U.S. stock indexes shot higher on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell expressed confidence in the economy and suggested that the central bank could be close to ending its slow push to raise interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped by 2.5 percent. The S&P 500 rose by 2.3 percent and the Nasdaq Composite surged by nearly 3 percent, although stock-index futures edged lower early Thursday. President Trump has repeatedly criticized Powell over the Fed's rate increases, with another hike expected in December. Powell said the current rate range from 2 to 2.25 percent is "just below" most assessments of a neutral level. In October, after the last rate hike, Powell said the Fed's benchmark rate was "a long way" from neutral.
2. Economic growth slows but remains solid
The U.S. economy expanded at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said in a report released Wednesday. The figure came in below the robust expansion of 4.2 percent in the previous quarter. The solid but slower growth was boosted by lower but still healthy consumer spending and business investment that exceeded expectations. The economy is now on track to grow this year at its fastest pace in 13 years, although economists expect growth to slow further in the fourth quarter as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates and President Trump's trade war with China continues. "A trade war remains the biggest downside risk to near-term growth," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.
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3. South Korean court orders Mitsubishi to pay forced wartime workers
South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan to pay South Koreans who were forced to work in its factories during World War II. The high court upheld a ruling ordering Mitsubishi to pay five women $89,000 to $133,000 each for forced labor. In a separate ruling, the court ordered Mitsubishi to pay six South Korean men about $71,400 each for work they said they were forced to do in a Mitsubishi shipyard and machine tool factory in 1944. The rulings were expected following an Oct. 30 ruling finding Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal guilty of using forced labor during Japan's colonial rule over South Korea, which ended with Japan's surrender in 1945 at the end of World War II.
4. Microsoft pushes ahead of Apple in market value
Microsoft overtook Apple as the world's most valuable company on Wednesday as its stock rose on optimism about demand for its cloud computing services. Shares of the Windows software maker jumped by 3 percent, raising its market value to $848 billion. Apple also rose, but not by as much as Microsoft, leaving its market capitalization at around $845 billion. Four months ago, the iPhone maker broke the $1 trillion barrier for the first time. Apple had pushed past Microsoft in 2010 as the software maker was held back by concerns over falling PC sales and the impact on its traditional software products. Since taking over in 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has reduced the company's reliance on software for PCs and pushed into cloud computing.
5. New Zealand blocks Huawei mobile network gear over security concerns
New Zealand on Wednesday joined the U.S. and other developed countries by blocking China's Huawei from supplying technology for a next-generation mobile data network in the country, citing security concerns. New Zealand's intelligence agency rejected a proposal from Spark, one of the country's biggest telecom carriers, to use Huawei hardware in its planned 5G mobile network. The government said using Huawei gear would raise "significant national security risks," Spark said Wednesday, citing a government statement. The U.S. has warned that Huawei's ties to the Chinese government make its equipment vulnerable to spying. Huawei strongly denies the accusation.
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