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    A German newspaper reports the European Union is drawing up a list of U.S. products to target — including orange juice and Kentucky bourbon — if Washington restricts imports of aluminum and steel. The U.S. Commerce Department last week urged President Donald Trump to impose tariffs or quotas on foreign-made metals, citing national security concerns. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily reported Tuesday the European Commission plans to retaliate with tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, but also whiskey and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas declined to comment on the list but said the EU would take 'appropriate measures to defend EU industry.' He said in Brussels 'we stand ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures from the United States.
  • Venezuela on Tuesday will become the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, a move it hopes will provide a much-needed boost to its credit-stricken economy. Officials say the so-called petro is backed by Venezuela's crude oil reserves, the largest in the world. Socialist President Nicolas Maduro late last year announced he was creating the digital currency to outmaneuver U.S. sanctions preventing cash-strapped Venezuela from issuing new debt. But the U.S. Treasury Department has thrown a damper on the release, warning U.S. citizens and companies who buy the petro that they could be violating sanctions. Many also doubt the government's commitment to transparency. 'My advice would be to tread very carefully with this — especially considering the track record of the Venezuelan government,' said Federico Bond, co-founder of Signatura, a digital currency startup based in Argentina. 'They are not in a good position to obtain financing in any other way, so this could be seen as a desperate move,' he added. In total, Venezuela plans to issue 100 million digital tokens, starting with a pre-sale of 38.4 million that starts Tuesday and whose reference price is the current cost of a barrel of oil, or around $60. Maduro has also touted the petro as the fulfillment of the late Hugo Chavez's dream of upending global capitalism away from the dominance of the U.S. dollar and Wall Street. 'Petro will be an instrument for Venezuela's economic stability and financial independence, coupled with an ambitious and global vision for the creation of a freer, more balanced and fairer international financial system,' the government said in a 22-page white paper, translated into English, outlining its plans. But critics point out that for now sale of the petro will only be in dollars — a sign of how much Venezuela's own currency, the bolivar, has melted under four-digit inflation. Some bitcoin enthusiasts also question the whole concept of Venezuela, or any government, promoting a digital currency when such instruments were originally created to circumvent the controlling role of the state. Bitcoin and other digital tokens are already widely used in Venezuela as a hedge against hyperinflation and an easy-to-use mechanism for paying for everything from doctors*visits to honeymoons in a country where obtaining hard currency requires transactions in the illegal black market. The use of computers for bitcoin mining has also taken off, spurred by some of the world's cheapest electricity rates and widespread desperation prompted by a recession deeper than the U.S. Great Depression. -- Armario contributed to this report from Bogota, Colombia
  • After an outcry, the organization that controls the release of emojis has added two more legs to the forthcoming lobster emoji to make it correct. The Portland Press Herald reports soon after the Unicode Consortium released proposed images of 157 new emojis to be made available this year, Maine residents took umbrage at the lobster emoji's eight legs instead of the correct 10. Emojipedia Chief Emoji Officer Jeremy Burge wrote Monday the consortium had heard people's complaints and is releasing updated designs for the lobster emoji, alongside updates for a skateboard and DNA emoji. The lobster emoji is expected to be available later this year. ___ Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com
  • Israeli police on Tuesday said they suspect a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of offering a sitting judge a top posting in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu's wife. The development marks the latest scandal to engulf the beleaguered Israeli leader's inner circle. Netanyahu already stands accused of bribery in two other cases. Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman of the Netanyahu family, is suspected of suggesting to Judge Hila Gerstel that she could be appointed attorney general if she killed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu's excessive household spending. The offer never materialized. Earlier, police named Hefetz as one of two Netanyahu associates under arrest for their suspected role in a separate wide-ranging corruption probe. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says the latest charges against him were merely a continuation of a wider media orchestrated witch hunt against him and his family. 'Nir Hefetz never presented this ludicrous offer to the prime minister and his wife, he was never asked by them to make such an offer and we can't imagine that Hefetz would even imagine such a thing,' Netanyahu said. Earlier Tuesday, with an initial gag order lifted, police identified Hefetz and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, as the two suspects in promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company, in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu in a highly popular subsidiary news site. Netanyahu, who held the communications portfolio until last year, has not yet been named as a suspect in the case but is expected to be questioned. Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives. Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu. The new probe comes days after police announced there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu had operated on Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favorable coverage. Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets to him.
  • Investors in Greece have shrugged off a delay in the payout of a rescue loan installment. Shares on the Athens Stock exchange and the interest rates charged on Greece's bonds were broadly unchanged midday Tuesday. On Monday, Greece's peers in the 19-country eurozone said the country had not fulfilled all conditions necessary for the release of a 5.7 billion-euro ($7.1 billion) bailout installment. Finance ministers pushed the intended disbursement date to late March. Creditors are pressing Athens to overcome delays in a major coastal development project in the capital and increase the number of online auctions of foreclosed properties. Bailout inspectors from EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund are due to return to Greece Monday to start work on a final review before the rescue program ends in August.
  • Walmart reported a fourth-quarter profit that missed Wall Street expectations and struggled with slower e-commerce sales during the period. Its shares slipped more than 6 percent before the market open on Tuesday. Still, the world's largest retailer announced better-than-expected sales overall and higher customer counts as the company overhauls its stores and its online services. The mixed results reflect Walmart's continued challenges to fight online leader Amazon even as it makes huge investments in both its digital business and stores. E-commerce sales in its U.S. business slowed to 23 percent during the fourth quarter, from 50 percent in the third quarter. The company blamed some of the slowdown to 'operational challenges' Still, the company finished the year with more than 40 percent growth in online sales and it expects that pace to continue for the coming year. The nation's largest private employer announced last month that it would raise the starting salary for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, giving one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000 to eligible employees and expanding its maternity and parental leave benefits. A number of U.S. corporations have announced employee bonuses and expanded benefits following drastic changes to the U.S. tax code. But a hot economy has now forced employers to compete for workers who can be more choosey. The U.S reported this month that hourly pay rose in January from a year earlier at the fastest pace in eight years and the unemployment rate hovered at only 4.1 percent for the fourth consecutive month. Since buying Jet.com for more than $3 billion a year and a half ago, Walmart has added online services, acquired brands like Bonobos and ModCloth and vastly expanded the number of items available online. Walmart is also getting ready to launch an overhauled website with a focus on fashion and home furnishings. It has teamed up with Lord & Taylor to create dedicated space on its site. Walmart has aggressively cut prices and is planning to double the number of stores where groceries can be ordered online and picked up curbside at a store, to 2,000 locations this year. Walmart has also teamed up with Google to pursue technology that would allow customers to shop using voice commands at home as it tries to chip away the dominance of Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices. 'We're accelerating innovation in the business to make shopping faster and easier for our customers,' said Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart Inc. in a pre-recorded transcript. 'Creativity, decisiveness and speed are priorities. We made good progress this past year to save busy families time and money and we will do more.' But Walmart has a long way to get even close to Amazon's online dominance. Amazon has leveraged its $99-a-year Prime membership program into intense loyalty from customers, and it's recently stepped into Walmart's turf, no longer content with only online sales. After spending $14 billion to acquire Whole Foods last summer, Amazon just announced two-hour delivery from the grocery chain for its members. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, reported that it earned $2.17 billion, or 73 cents per share, in the three month period ended Jan. 31. That compares with $3.76 billion, or $1.22 per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding charges, Walmart earned $1.33 per share. The results fell short of Wall Street expectations. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research were calling for earnings of $1.36 per share.. The world's largest retailer posted revenue of $136.27 billion in the period, exceeding the $135.04 billion that analysts polled by Zacks predicted. Revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 2.6 percent at its namesake U.S. stores. That marked the 14th consecutive quarter of increases. Customer counts rose 1.6 percent. The company said that the strength was 'broad-based' across all merchandise categories, and that holiday sales were solid. McMillon said that the cost to acquire a new customer on a nationwide basis is cheaper with the Walmart brand than it is with the Jet brand so it's investing more in Walmart.com and reducing marketing investment in Jet except in certain urban markets. Due to this change, Jet will not grow as quickly as it did in its early days, he said. At Walmart's Sam's Clubs, same-store sales rose 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter. The company announced earlier this month that it was offering free shipping for premium members and simplifying its membership tiers. Last month, Sam's Club began closing 63 U.S. clubs while turning a dozen of them into warehouses for digital sales, with the goal of speeding up deliveries. _____ Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on WMT at https://www.zacks.com/ap/WMT
  • One Pennsylvania resident has been called to perform his civic duty a few years earlier than expected. Jeanette Fox says her son came running to her with a summons from the Chester County court to appear for jury duty in March. Her son, Luke, is only 11 years old. Fox says she tried to go online to request an exemption, but there was no option to select for those too young to serve. She says she made multiple phone calls, and a person who answered said the county had recently changed companies that pull the list for people who receive summonses. The error was eventually fixed, but Fox says her son was excited to go. Luke is a Boy Scout, and he toured the Chester County Courthouse last year.
  • New York City is still waiting to see who will become its first ever 'night mayor.' The nightlife ambassador position was announced last fall by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. He says the position would serve as a point of contact between city agencies and the city nightlife industry. The New York Post reports Democratic City Councilman Rafael Espinal, who sponsored legislation creating the position, says he hasn't heard any word about a confirmed appointee. Espinal says the city is vetting a candidate and the post will be filled in the next few weeks. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office declined to provide a timeframe for the announcement. The Office of Nightlife and 12-member Nightlife Advisory Board were established last year. ___ Information from: New York Post, http://www.nypost.com
  • A strong home-improvement market pushed Home Depot's profit higher in the fourth quarter, topping expectations. The Atlanta company's profit rose 5.6 percent to $1.78 billion, or $1.52 per share, for the three months ended Jan. 28. Earnings, adjusted for pretax expenses, were $1.69 per share. Revenue rose 7.5 percent to $23.88 billion on an increase in customers at existing stores. Same-store sales, a key measure of a retailer's health, increased 7.5 percent. Along with a strong housing market pushing more people to invest in their homes, hurricane recovery efforts in southern states and Puerto Rico also helped boost revenue. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research expected a quarterly profit of $1.62 per share and $23.66 billion in revenue. Shares rose more than 2 percent before the market open on Tuesday. For the full year, Home Depot's profit climbed 8.5 percent to $8.63 billion as revenue jumped 6.7 percent to $100.9 billion. Home Depot Inc. is currently heading into its busy spring season and recently said that it would hire over 80,000 seasonal workers. It also announced an app to allow for self-scheduling interviews. Looking ahead, Home Depot foresees sales climbing 6.5 percent in the new fiscal year, with a profit of $9.31 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect earnings of $9.36 per share. The outlook comes amid a persistently strong housing market, though mortgage rates have been creeping higher. The pace of Americans signing contracts to buy homes increased for a third straight month in December, raising an index of pending home sales by 0.5 percent, according to The National Association of Realtors. But, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said last week that average long-term mortgage rates have hit their highest level in almost four years. _____ Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on HD at https://www.zacks.com/ap/HD
  • An actress who accused Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush of inappropriately touching her on a Sydney stage later swore at him when he followed her into a toilet at a party after a performance, Australian court documents allege. Rush is suing Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Federal Court for defamation over articles last year that he argued portray him as a pervert and sexual predator. The articles allege inappropriate behavior and touching during the Sydney Theatre Company production of 'King Lear' in 2015. Accusations in defense documents previously suppressed by the court were made public on Tuesday. Eryn Jean Norvill played Cordelia alongside the 66-year-old Australian actor, who played the title role and her father. The documents allege Rush touched Norvill in a way that made her feel uncomfortable on five separate occasions during the final week of the production, in a scene where he carried her as she simulated a lifeless body. Rush's lawyer, Richard McHugh, told the court on Monday the accusations were vague. But the newspaper will attempt to prove that Rush engaged in scandalously inappropriate behavior, and that his conduct was so serious that the theatre company would not work with him again. The defense documents allege Norvill was visibly upset and told Rush to stop after the first instance of on-stage touching, which was not scripted, directed or necessary for the performance. Rush is also accused of following the actress into the women's toilet at a restaurant during the cast's celebration after the final performance. Rush is accused of standing outside her toilet stall until she swore at him and told him to leave. The newspaper denies Rush's claims that its articles made him out to be a pervert and a sexual predator, and its lawyers previously told the court they made no allegations of a sexual nature. Justice Michael Wigney on Monday delayed to a later date Rush's request to have the newspaper's truth defense struck out. Rush has performed in the Sydney Theatre Company for 35 years. He won the 1997 best actor Academy Award for 'Shine' and has three other Oscar nominations. He is perhaps best known as Captain Barbossa in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films.