The daily business briefing: November 9, 2018

Harold Maass
Unused pipe in North Dakota
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
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Judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction for more review

A federal judge in Montana on Thursday temporarily blocked construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, putting a hold on the Trump administration's permit for the project pending further environmental review. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered the Trump administration to provide more comprehensive information on the pipeline's impact on Native American communities, and its potential to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and oil spills. The 1,200-mile pipeline would transport oil south from Alberta, Canada. The decision was praised by environmentalists. It represented a major setback for the oil industry and President Trump, who reversed a decision by former President Barack Obama and approved the project in January 2017, promising it would provide jobs and boost the economy. [Time, MarketWatch]


Fed shows confidence in economy and signals continued slow rate hikes

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Thursday at the close of a two-day meeting. The U.S. central bank indicated that the economy continues to strengthen as expected, suggesting that the Fed will continue its gradual pace of rate increases with another quarter-point hike in December. The Fed already has raised rates three times in 2018. "The labor market has continued to strengthen and ... economic activity has been rising at a strong rate," Fed policy makers said in a statement released after the meeting. The statement indicated little change from the Fed's last policy meeting in September, with inflation still near the 2 percent target and continued strong hiring. [Reuters]


U.S. stock futures fall after Fed statement

U.S. stock-index futures edged down early Friday, pointing to a lower open after the Federal Reserve expressed confidence in U.S. economic growth and signaled another interest rate hike in December, renewing concerns over rising borrowing costs. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 0.3 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq-100 dropped by 0.4 percent and nearly 0.6 percent, respectively. Stocks closed mixed on Thursday as investors took in the Fed's statement after its two-day policy meeting. Global stocks mostly fell on Friday. MSCI's gauge of stocks across the world fell by half a percent, its biggest drop in two weeks. Weak China economic data also worried investors. [Fox Business, Reuters]


Google ends forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims

Google said Thursday that it would stop forcing employees claiming sexual harassment into arbitration. The policy change came after last week's walkout by more than 20,000 employees to protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct cases. The employees had called for several changes, including ending forced arbitration. The protest came after The New York Times reported last month that Google had given a $90 million exit package to a senior executive, Andy Rubin, after he faced a credible sexual harassment allegation. Google also has faced employee criticism over other issues, such as an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon and news the company was considering relaunching its search platform in China. [The New York Times]


Disney shares rise after earnings beat expectations

Walt Disney Co. shares rose by 1.9 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday after the entertainment giant reported quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations. Adjusted earnings per share rose to $1.48, comfortably beating the FactSet consensus estimate of $1.34 per share. Disney's studio business made $2.2 billion, a 50 percent increase over a year earlier thanks to strong box office performance. In a call with analysts, Disney CEO Bob Iger provided some new details on Disney's new streaming service. The service will be called Disney Plus, Iger said, although he did not disclose plans on pricing. Disney will continue investing in Hulu as an outlet for general fare, while steering family friendly TV shows and movies to Disney Plus. [MarketWatch, The Associated Press]