ITC Strikes Down Tariffs on Imported Newsprint In Major Victory for Newspapers

In a victory for the American newspaper industry, the U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday blocked tariffs on imported newsprint, finding that American producers weren’t harmed by imports from Canadian paper mills.

The newspaper industry had complained that the rising cost of newsprint, typically their second-biggest expense, made it harder to operate.

In July, lawmakers testified before the ITC that the tariffs were hurting the very paper industry they were supposed to protect. That’s because publishers were responding to the additional costs by reducing the number of pages in their newspapers, thus dampening demand for newsprint, the paper used to make newspapers, books and advertising inserts. Others testified that the higher cost of newsprint had led newspapers to cut staffing and the number of local events that they cover.

The Commerce Department had imposed the tariffs in response to a complaint from a hedge-fund-owned paper producer in Washington state that argued that its Canadian competitors took advantage of government subsidies to sell their product at unfairly low prices.

The department had revised the tariffs lower in a decision earlier this month, though newsprint buyers still would have been hit with an anti-dumping levy of up to 16.88 percent and anti-subsidy duties of up to 9.81 percent.

But under U.S. law, the two-part process for making the tariffs permanent also requires the ITC to find that the U.S. paper industry was harmed or threatened by the imports from Canada. The commission unanimously determined that no injury is occurring.

Members of a coalition of printers and publishers hailed the ruling, calling it “a great day for American journalism.”

US Pending Home Sales Fell 0.7% in July

Fewer Americans signed contracts in July to buy homes in July compared to the previous month, as real estate sales are slipping even though economic growth is solid.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its pending home sales index fell 0.7 percent last month to 106.2. During the past year, contract signings have tumbled 2.3 percent as home values have climbed at roughly double the pace of average wage growth.

Home sales have stumbled in recent months despite the robust job market. Affordability has become a challenge as there are few entry-level homes priced below $250,000 being listed for sale and mortgage rates have jumped over the past year.

Pending sales in July fell in the West and South, but they rose in the Northeast and Midwest. Sales in all four geographic regions have declined over the past year, with the sharpest drop in the West where homes are generally more expensive.

Pending sales are a barometer of home purchases that are completed a month or two later.

The Realtors said last week that sales of existing homes have declined for the past four months.

AAA Sees US Average Gasoline Price Dipping to Around $2.70

Steady oil prices and the end of strong summer demand should start pushing gasoline prices down.

The auto club AAA predicts that the national average will drop 14 cents to $2.70 a gallon this fall.

The current average of $2.84 is up 46 cents from a year ago, but down from the peak national average of $2.96 a gallon in May. AAA says motorists in the West and in Pennsylvania and Connecticut pay even more — over $3.

Relief could be coming. Benchmark U.S. crude is around $69 a barrel — that’s up sharply from a year ago but down $5 a barrel since early July.

Also, refineries are expected to switch in mid-September to winter-blend gasolines, which are cheaper to produce than summer blends.

Maker of James Bond’s Favorite Sports Car Eyes Stock Market

Aston Martin, the maker of James Bond’s favorite sports car, said Wednesday it may sell shares for the first time as it seeks to attract more wealthy buyers with an expanded product range including sedans, sports utility vehicles and even submarines.

The company said it will sell at least 25 percent of Aston Martin’s shares if it decides to go forward with an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. Details of the IPO would be published around Sept. 20.

The announcement came as Aston Martin said first-half pre-tax profits rose to 20.8 million pounds ($26.8 million) from 20.3 million pounds during the same period last year.

Chief Executive Andy Palmer said the potential IPO “represents a key milestone in the history of the company.”

Laith Khalaf, an analyst with Hargreaves Lansdown, said the expected value of the company could put it near the top end of the FTSE 250 index of mid-sized U.K. companies.

Noting that when Ferrari floated in 2015 it took the stock ticker RACE, Khalaf quipped that Aston Martin should go for “007.”

“There are few people who wouldn’t want an Aston Martin on their drive, and even fewer who can afford one,” he wrote to investors.

“However this stock market float allows investors to buy into a little of the glamour of Aston Martin, without getting a second mortgage.”

But he added that potential investors should “concentrate on the company’s financial prospects and not to get carried away by the brand.”

Memory Chip Maker Micron Announces $3B Expansion in Manassas

One of the world’s largest semiconductor companies is making a $3 billion investment in northern Virginia to expand its manufacturing facility and add 1,100 jobs.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the expansion plans for Micron Technology at an event Wednesday in Manassas.

Boise, Idaho-based Micron decided to expand its existing facility in Manassas after considering offers from competing domestic and international locations, including Singapore.

State economic development officials say Micron’s expansion is the largest private-sector capital investment in modern Virginia history.

Micron’s decision comes as northern Virginia continues to court Amazon as it seeks a location for a $5 billion headquarters that could employ as many as 50,000.

About 1,200 people currently work at the Manassas plant, which builds memory chips and other digital storage devices.

Brown-Forman Posts Higher Profit in 1st Quarter

Brown-Forman Corp. on Wednesday reported fiscal first-quarter net income of $200 million.

On a per-share basis, the Louisville, Kentucky-based company said it had profit of 41 cents.

The liquor company that makes Jack Daniel’s and other brands posted revenue of $766 million in the period.

Brown-Forman expects full-year earnings to be $1.65 to $1.75 per share.

Brown-Forman shares have dropped 2.5 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has climbed 25 percent in the last 12 months.

Ex-CEO Sues Barnes & Noble Over His Firing

The former CEO of Barnes & Noble is suing the bookseller for breach of contract and defamation following his termination earlier this year.

Demos Parneros filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan.

Barnes & Noble announced Parneros’ termination in July. The company said then it was for violating company policies, but didn’t provide specifics other than saying they weren’t financial ones. Parneros was denied severance.

In his suit, Parneros says he’s owed severance since he was fired without cause. He also accuses the company of defaming him by saying he had engaged in misconduct, which he denies.

Barnes & Noble calls the lawsuit an attempt to extort money and says Parneros was terminated for sexual harassment and bullying.

In the suit, Parneros refutes any harassment or bullying.

First Year of Recreational Pot Sales in Nevada Top $500M

The first full year of legalized marijuana for recreational use in Nevada pushed taxable pot sales past the $500 million mark statewide and raised nearly $70 million in tax revenue, including $27.5 million for schools.

The Nevada Department of Taxation said Tuesday the $529.9 million in taxable pot sales for recreational and medical use combined exceeded expectations by 40 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Recreational sales accounted for about 80 percent of the total.

Pot tax collections totaled $7.1 million in June — the fourth consecutive month they reached $6.5 million or more.

State Tax Director Bill Anderson says sales not only exceeded the forecast, but went off largely without a hitch from a regulatory standpoint. He’s predicting combined marijuana tax revenue will total $69.4 million in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.

Argentina Asks Early Release of IMF Funds to Calm Markets

President Mauricio Macri has asked the International Monetary Fund for an early release of funds from a $50 billion deal with the IMF to ease concerns that Argentina will not be able to meet its debt obligations for 2019.

Macri said Wednesday that Argentina has agreed with the IMF “to advance all necessary funds to guarantee compliance with next year’s financial program.”

Macri said that in the past week there have been “expressions of a lack of trust in the markets” about Argentina. He said the decision seeks to dispel any uncertainty.

Argentina was forced to strike a deal with the IMF after a sharp depreciation of its peso currency.

The Argentine currency fell again Wednesday to an all-time low of 33 pesos per U.S. dollar.

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