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The daily business briefing: February 20, 2019

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Harold Maass
Southwest Airlines planes
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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1.

Southwest says losses from government shutdown grow

Southwest Airlines shares dropped by 2.9 percent in pre-market trading on Wednesday after the carrier said its losses due to the recent 35-day partial federal government shutdown would be worse than feared. Southwest said it now estimates it will lose $60 million in first-quarter revenue due to the shutdown, up from an earlier estimate of a $10 million to $15 million hit from Jan. 1 to Jan. 23. "Since then, the company has continued to experience softness in passenger demand and bookings as a result of the shutdown," Southwest said in a statement. Southwest also cut a key measure of revenue growth to between 3 percent and 4 percent, down from between 4 percent and 5 percent. [MarketWatch]

2.

Trump administration plans to cancel California high-speed rail funding

The Treasury Department said Tuesday it would cancel $929 million in funding for California's high-speed rail project and said the state should repay $2.5 billion already spent. The announcement came after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in his first State of the State address last week that he was scaling back the project after cost increases and delays. Newsom said that instead of linking Los Angeles to San Francisco the state would focus on building 171 miles of track in central California. President Trump, who has clashed with Newsom, said the state should return the federal funding in that case. Newsom called the move "clear political retribution" by Trump. "This is California's money," he said, "and we are going to fight for it." [The Associated Press]

3.

Stocks fluctuate with U.S.-China trade talks in focus

Stocks, which started Tuesday lower, closed up slightly after getting a boost from President Trump's latest indication that he might extend a truce in his trade war with China as long as negotiations are going well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was essentially flat, rising by 8.1 points to 25,891.3. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both gained by roughly 0.2 percent. U.S. stock index futures inched lower early Wednesday as investors awaited news from the latest round of trade talks, now underway in Washington, between the world's two biggest economies. The Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq-100 were all down by around 0.1 percent. [CNBC]

4.

West Virginia lawmakers scrap bill after teacher walkout

West Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday spiked a controversial education bill hours after teachers staged a walkout to protest the legislation. The bill included provisions for the state's first charter schools, which union leaders said would hurt traditional public education. Teacher unions called the statewide walkout because they believed the legislation was rushed through the state Senate without their input as retaliation for their 2018 strike. That walkout launched a national movement that included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, Los Angeles, and Denver. [NPR, The Associated Press]

5.

Microsoft discovers hacking against European groups

Microsoft said Wednesday it had detected hacking attempts against European democratic institutions, think tanks, and non-profits. The tech giant said it would offer a cyber security service to help several countries close security gaps the hackers attempted to exploit between September and December 2018. Among the targets were employees of the German Council on Foreign Relations and European offices of The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund. Microsoft said the attacks targeted 104 employee accounts in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Serbia, and that many were traced to a group called Strontium that Microsoft has linked to the Russian government. Strontium also has been known as APT 28, Fancy Bear, Sofancy, and Pawn Storm. [Reuters]