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Published: Sunday, March 04, 2018 @ 7:36 PM
Updated: Sunday, March 04, 2018 @ 7:35 PM
BEIJING — China's top economic official set a robust growth target Monday and promised more market opening and cuts in a bloated steel industry that has inflamed trade tensions with Washington and Europe.
The growth target of "around 6.5 percent" announced by Premier Li Keqiang to China's ceremonial legislature, little-changed from last year, would be among the world's strongest if achieved. The premier also promised progress on developing electric cars and other technology and better regulation of China's scandal-plagued financial industries.
The meeting of the National People's Congress is overshadowed by constitutional changes that would allow President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely, but businesspeople and economists also are looking for signs Xi is speeding up reform. That follows complaints Beijing did too little while Xi focused on amassing power since becoming Communist Party leader in 2012.
"We will be bolder in reform and opening up," said Li in a nationally televised speech to nearly 3,000 delegates to the ceremonial legislature in the Great Hall of the People.
Possible developments this week include the elevation of Xi's top economic adviser, Liu He, who has told foreign businesspeople he supports free markets, to a post overseeing reform.
"The top priority over the past five years was power consolidation," said economist Larry Hu of Macquarie Capital in a report. "Now the power consolidation is close to completed. It remains to be seen how policy priority would change for the next five years."
The growth target officially is a basis for planning instead of a promise about how the economy will perform, but allowing activity to dip below that level could erode public confidence and make investors skittish.
The economy grew by 6.9 percent last year but that was supported by a boom in bank lending and real estate sales that regulators are trying to curb due to concern about rising debt. Analysts have questioned whether Beijing can hit this year's target without stimulus from bank lending and government spending, which would set back reforms aimed at nurturing self-sustaining growth and curbing debt.
Li promised Beijing would open its economy wider to foreign investors by "completely opening up" manufacturing and expanding access to other industries, but gave no details.
Foreign business groups complain previous industry-opening pledges have been diluted by conditions such as ownership limits or requirements to hand over technology that make them unappealing.
At the same time, Li tempered the market-friendly promises by affirming plans to build up state-owned enterprises that dominate most Chinese industries including energy, telecoms and finance.
"Our SOEs should, through reform and innovation, become front-runners in pursuing high-quality development," he said.
The premier promised "substantive progress" in a multi-year campaign to reduce production capacity in steel, coal and other industries in which supply exceeds demand. The United States and the European Union complain that surplus of Chinese steel and aluminum flooding into global markets depresses prices and threatens jobs.
This year's targets include eliminating 30 million tons of production capacity in the politically sensitive steel industry, Li said. It was unclear how that might affect China's annual output of about 800 million tons.
Li also promised to improve oversight of scandal-plagued Chinese financial industries and to control surging corporate debt that prompted rating agencies to cut Beijing's credit rating last year.
Last month, regulators seized control of one of China's biggest insurers, privately owned Anbang Insurance Group, amid concern about whether its debt burden was manageable. Authorities announced its founder and chairman would be prosecuted on charges of improper fundraising.
On Monday, the premier tried to defuse worries rising debt could trigger a banking crisis or drag on economic growth by repeating assurances that Beijing is "completely capable of forestalling systemic risks."
In a sign Beijing might accept slower growth, Li cut the government's budget deficit target to 2.6 percent of gross domestic product from last year's 3 percent, which would reduce the stimulus from public spending.
"The government's bottom line for economic growth is likely to be 6.3 percent," said Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit in a report. He said that was the minimum required to meet Beijing's goal of doubling economic output from its 2010 level by 2020.
The proposal to remove term limits for president from China's constitution has prompted concern a slide toward one-man rule will erode efforts to make economic regulation more stable and predictable.
Officials say China needs continuity as Beijing carries out long-range changes including making state industry more competitive and productive and developing profitable high-tech industry.
Li, the premier, made no mention of the constitutional change or the controversy surrounding it but promised progress on an array of politically challenging goals including the restructuring or bankruptcy of "zombie enterprises," or money-losing but politically favored companies that are kept afloat by loans from government banks.
The premier said Beijing will speed up state-led development in an array of technology fields including artificial intelligence, integrated circuits, mobile communications, aircraft engines and electric cars.
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 2:32 PM
— A recall has been issued for a popular brand of sausage due to consumer reports that plastic pieces were found in the product.
Johnsonville, LLC issued a recall Thursday for 109,603 pounds of its smoked pork sausage, according to the United States Department of Agriculture news release.
The fully-cooked Jalapeño Cheddar Smoked Sausage included in the recall was produced on Jan. 4, 2018, and bears an establishment number “EST. 34224” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
The recalled items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.
Johnsonville, LLC received three consumer complaints that pieces of hard, green plastic were found in the sausage product.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products, according to the USDA.
Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. The products should be discarded or returned to the place of purchase.
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 1:55 PM
Thousands of Ohioans will head to their favorites pubs this weekend in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but officials have a warning for residents: “Don’t drink and drive.”
From 2012 to 2016, 269 people were killed in drunk driving crashes during this holiday period, accounting for 38 percent of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Between midnight and 5:59 a.m., nearly 69 percent of all crash fatalities involved drunk drivers.
“I am pleading with everyone to make the safe choice of designating a driver if they plan to drink alcohol around St. Paddy’s Day,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. “I hope the day is fun and exciting, and also safe for people all around the country.”
» TRENDING BUSINESS NEWS: Jewelry store company expects to close 200 stores
People are more aware of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking, and thanks to increased education and enforcement, roads are safer for everyone, according to Uber. However, each day almost 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes. That’s one person every 50 minutes in 2016, according to the high administration.
Uber and AAA are offering special deals in some cities so that party goers don’t get behind the wheel after drinking.
Many AAA clubs offer safe ride services for members and non-members. If you need a safe ride home, call (800) AAA-HELP or (800) 222-4357. ArriveSafe Program begins Friday, March 16, at 6 p.m. and ends Sunday, March 18 at 6 a.m. for Montgomery County residents only. AAA has no call center involvement. Local motorists must dial 937-449-9999.
Uber is also offering free and discounted rides in some cities, so check your app to if any discount codes apply.
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Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 11:44 AM
Signet Jewelers, parent of Zales, Kay Jewelers, Jared and other jewelry brands, expects to close more than 200 stores by the end of fiscal 2019.
Signet will undertake a real estate review as part of a new three-year strategy plan to drive change and profitability within the company. The plan will save $85 million — $100 million is fiscal 2019, with more cost reductions of $115 million to $125 million by the end of the three-year program.
The company has seen store sales drop in recent years. Sterling Jewelers’ same store sales decreased 8.6 percent, mostly in sales of bridal merchandise. Zale Jewelry’s same store sales increased 4.3%, driven by the new Enchanted Disney collection.
Specific store locations have not been identified.
Signet isn’t the only jewelry company to close stores. Osterman Jewelers closed its location at the Mall at Fairfield Commons and locally owned Webers Jewelers closed its location in Kettering in 2016.
FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 11:05 AM
— A Lima, Ohio-based mulch company is building a retail and distribution site in Moraine.
Wright Mulch has already laid the foundation for its new building just east of Dryden Road, near Heidelberg Distributing’s Moraine distribution center and south of the DMAX truck engine plant.
Mike Davis, Moraine economic development director, said the site will be relatively small to begin — about 1,500 square feet with about only five employees. But there will be room to grow, he believes.
Motorists on Dryden can already see bins for mulch at the location. The site once was home to a Delphi auto parts plant, long demolished, but a two-million-square-foot ground pad remains, Davis said.
Davis expects retail and distribution operations at the location.
Wright Consolidated Inc. controls several companies from a Lima, Ohio headquarters, including Wright Mulch, Wright Logistics, Wright Warehousing, Wright Refuse and Wright Pallet.