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Washington State OKs Some of the Nation’s Toughest OT Rules

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SEATTLE — Washington state is adopting some of the nation’s most aggressive overtime rules, restoring protections for hundreds of thousands of salaried workers and taking what supporters say is a crucial step toward rebuilding the middle class.

The Department of Labor and Industries finalized the rules Wednesday and will phase them in by 2028. By that time, salaried workers making up to about $83,400 a year will be entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.

Workers making more than that could also get overtime unless they are certain types of professionals — such as those with higher degrees — or unless they are truly managers or executives, as demonstrated by their ability to  and fire, direct other people’s work or make significant business decisions.

Many job categories will be affected, including shift managers at restaurants and retail establishments, office managers, some medical workers and other white-collar staff, officials said.

“We need to make sure the middle class shares in our state’s prosperity,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “Overtime protections ensure workers are fairly compensated when they work more than 40 hours in a given week — time that would otherwise be spent with their families and in their communities.”

Employees who are paid hourly have long been entitled to overtime. But salaried workers have generally been entitled to it only if they make less than a certain amount: about $23,660 under federal law, or more where state laws are more generous.

Those thresholds may have worked decades ago, when they meant that nearly two-thirds of salaried workers nationally were covered by overtime protections. But after a recession in the 1970s, lawmakers largely stopped updating them. Washington’s has been stuck at $13,000 since 1976.

As people’s salaries rose with inflation, they found themselves no longer eligible for overtime. Businesses have also been able to convert hourly workers into salaried ones who make just more than the threshold as a way to avoid  additional staff or paying overtime.

In other cases, workers have been classified as managers when their actual duties more closely resemble those of hourly workers, officials said.

By some estimates, as few as 7% of salaried workers across the country are now entitled to overtime.

The federal government and several states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Massachusetts, have recently updated or started to update their overtime rules, but none have adopted a target threshold as high as Washington’s, said Paul Sonn, state policy program director with the National Employment Law Project.

The rules adopted by the Trump administration will raise the threshold to cover workers making up to $35,308 a year — a significant cut from the $47,000 limit proposed by the Obama administration.

“The overtime threshold is to the middle class as the minimum wage is to low-wage work,” said Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist whose think-tank , Civic Ventures, advocates for progressive economic policies. “It is the indispensable labour protection for middle class people.”

Business groups in Washington have agreed that the state’s rules needed to be updated, but they criticized the plans as drastic. The Association of Washington Business, warned when the proposed rules came out in June that they would be a shock to many businesses and that they could particularly hurt nonprofits.

The organization warned that many businesses might convert salaried workers to hourly ones, reducing scheduling flexibility.

After hearing extensive public comment, the department added two years to the phase-in period. The threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage — about $83,400 — by 2028. The rules will phase in more slowly for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The department estimates that by the time they are fully implemented, the new rules will give overtime protections to about 260,000 workers who don’t have them and strengthen overtime protections for about 235,000 others. Affected workers will also become eligible for sick leave and retaliation protections.

At a news conference Wednesday, Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks gave an example of one type of worker who will be protected : a shift manager who makes $40,000 a year but is expected to work 60 hours a week.

Under the new rules, that worker will be paid overtime for the additional hours, or the business will need to  additional staff.

“It’s fair, it’s right and it’s long overdue,” Sacks said.

Among those who might be helped is Victor Duran, a co-manager of a sports apparel store south of Seattle. He said he makes about $52,000 a year and doesn’t get overtime, but is required to work at least 45 hours per week — and up to 60 during the holidays.

“We say bye to the family at the beginning of the season and say we’ll see them after Christmas,” Duran said.

Finance

Dow Jones Industrial Average Breaks 29,000 For The First Time in History

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Screenshot of Dow Jones Industrial chart taken January 15, 2020.
By ELAINE KURTENBACH, AP Business Writer

Slight gains send Dow Jones Industrial Average above 29,000!

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 29,000 points for the first time and the S&P 500 index hit its second record high in three days Wednesday.

The milestones came on a day when the market traded in a narrow range as investors weighed the latest batch of corporate earnings reports and the widely anticipated signing of an initial trade deal between the U.S. and China.

President Donald Trump and China’s chief negotiator, Liu He, signed the “Phase 1″ deal before a group of corporate executives and reporters at the White House. The pact eases some sanctions on China. In return, Beijing has agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm products and other goods.

“This was telegraphed well enough that the market is kind of looking through it and toward the next phase and what that means,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments.

Health care stocks accounted for much of the market’s gains. Utilities and makers of household goods also rose. Those gains outweighed losses in financial stocks, companies that rely on consumer spending and the energy sector.

The S&P 500 index rose 6.14 points, or 0.2%, to 3,289.29. The index also climbed to an all-time high on Monday.

The Dow gained 90.55 points, or 0.3%, to 29,030.22. The Nasdaq composite added 7.37 points, or 0.1%, to 9,258.70.

Smaller-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 picked up 6.66 points, or 0-4%, to 1,682.40.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is on track for its second straight weekly gain.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.78% from 1.81% late Tuesday.

While limited in its scope, investors have welcomed the U.S.-China deal in hopes that it will prevent further escalation in the 18-month long trade conflict that has slowed global growth, hurt American manufacturers and weighed on the Chinese economy. The world’s two largest economies will now have to deal with more contentious trade issues as they move ahead with negotiations. And punitive tariffs will remain on about $360 billion in Chinese goods as talks continue.

With the “Phase 1” agreement now a done deal, investors have more reason to focus on the rollout of corporate earnings reports over the next few weeks. Earnings have been flat to down for the last three quarters, and if the fourth quarter meets expectations, it should be around the same.

However, analysts are projecting 2020 corporate earnings growth to jump around 9.5%, which is why traders will be listening this earnings reporting season for any clues management teams give about their business prospects in coming months.

“We’re expecting a reacceleration in the back end of the year, so any (company) guidance that brings any type of skepticism to that could threaten the recent rally we’ve had and the gains that we’ve accrued in the past few months,” Buchanan said.

Health care stocks powered much of the market’s gains Wednesday. Several health insurers climbed as investors cheered a solid fourth-quarter earnings report from UnitedHealth Group.

The nation’s largest health insurer, which covers more than 49 million people, said its revenue rose 4% on a mix of insurance premiums and growth from urgent care and surgery centers. Its stock rose 2.8%. Other health insurers also moved higher. Anthem gained 1.6%, Cigna added 1.5% and Humana climbed 1.9%.

Technology companies also rose. The sector is reliant on China for sales and supply chains and benefits from better trade relations. Microsoft gained 0.7% and Advanced Micro Devices gained 0.8%.

Utilities and consumer staples sector stocks also notched gains. Edison International climbed 2.5% and PepsiCo rose 1.7%.

Financial stocks fell the most. Bank of America slid 1.8% after reporting weaker profits due to the rapid decline of interest rates in late 2019.

Energy stocks also fell along with the price of crude oil. Valero Energy dropped 3.3%.

Homebuilders marched broadly higher on news that U.S. home loan applications surged 30.2% last week from a week earlier. The pickup in mortgage applications reflects heightened demand for homes and suggests many buyers are eager to purchase a home now, rather than waiting for the traditional late-February start of the spring homebuying season. Hovnanian Enterprises jumped 6.4%.

Target slumped 6.6% after a disappointing holiday shopping season prompted the retailer to cut its forecast for a key sales measure in the fourth quarter. The company said weak sales of electronics, toys and home goods crimped sales growth to just 1.4% in November and December.

Benchmark crude oil fell 42 cents to settle at $57.81 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped 49 cents to close at $64 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.64 per gallon. Heating oil declined 3 cents to $1.88 per gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to $2.12 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $9.70 to $1,552.10 per ounce, silver rose 25 cents to $17.92 per ounce and copper fell 1 cent to $2.87 per pound.

The dollar fell to 109.91 Japanese yen from 110.00 yen on Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1150 from $1.1128.

Markets in Europe closed mostly lower.

AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

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Aircraft

Uber and Hyundai Are Planning to Offer Flying Taxi Rides by 2023

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Hyundai/Uber Flying Taxi Source: Hyundai
By Cat Ellis

At CES 2020, Uber and Hyundai showed off a full-size mock-up of a flying taxi that both companies hope will be ferrying you above congested city streets by 2023.

The electric plane, called Uberdai, will carry a pilot and three passengers up to 60 miles, at speeds of up to 180mph, slashing journey times and helping get cars off the road. Eventually the craft will be automated, but for now the two companies are focusing on manned craft.

The flying taxi market is starting to get pretty lively. Last year, Boeing began test flights to test the safety of Boeing. Next, an electric aircraft with passenger pods designed to travel up to 50 miles, and Bell Helicopter unveiled the Bell Nexus, which the company hopes will “redefine air travel”.

The difference with Hyundai’s plane is its partnership with Uber, which is a name synonymous with ride-sharing throughout much of the world, and already has the infrastructure in place to offer flights as an option alongside trips by car, bike, scooter, helicopter and even submarine.

Ready for lift-off?

Uber has been aiming for the skies for several years now, teaming up with various aerospace companies to build a fleet of mini aircraft. At the Uber Elevate Summit in June 2019, it revealed a concept created in collaboration with Jaunt Air Mobility – a business that’s aiming to create a fully autonomous aircraft by the end of 2029.

This design was a cross between a helicopter and a plane, with a rotor to get it off the ground, and wings for gliding once airborne to conserve power.

“It’s called the compound aircraft, and what it’s doing is really trying to get the best of both worlds of hover and high-speed efficient flight,” Uber’s head of engineering Mark Moore said at the event.

Uber intends to launch its first swarm of flying cars in the US and Australia in 2023, with schemes planned for Dallas, Las Vegas and Melbourne. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more over the coming months. 

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Business

Paypal Acquires Honey for $4 Billion

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Honey-Cofounders-Image-1
Left to right: Honey Co-Founders Ryan Hudson and George Ruan (Photo courtesy PR Newswire)

PayPal Holdings, Inc. announced that it has agreed to acquire Honey Science Corporation, a rapidly-growing technology platform for shopping and rewards, for approximately $4 billion. Honey, in combination with PayPal’s two-sided network, will transform the shopping experience for PayPal’s consumers while increasing sales and customer engagement for its merchants.

Founded in 2012, Honey is best known as a popular discovery tool that helps consumers find savings as they shop online. Honey has continued to grow and evolve, expanding its suite of products and services to include a mobile shopping assistant, offers and rewards program, and price-tracking tools and alerts. With approximately 17 million monthly active users, Honey has helped millions of people find more than $1 billion in savings in the past year. Honey currently works across approximately 30,000 online retailers ranging from fashion and technology, to travel and pizza delivery.

The acquisition supports PayPal and Honey’s shared mission to simplify and personalize shopping experiences for consumers while driving conversion and increasing consumer engagement and sales for merchants. The combination will help accelerate growth across both companies. Honey will accelerate its growth by driving adoption among PayPal and Venmo’s more than 275 million active consumer accounts and sourcing exclusive offers from PayPal’s extensive network of 24 million merchant accounts. Honey will enable PayPal to reach consumers at the beginning of their shopping journeys and will enhance PayPal’s ability to help merchants acquire and convert consumers by delivering offers that are personalized, timely, and optimized across channels.

“Honey is amongst the most transformative acquisitions in PayPal’s history. It provides a broad portfolio of services to simplify the consumer shopping experience, while at the same time making it more affordable and rewarding,” said Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal. “The combination of Honey’s complementary consumer products with our platform will significantly enhance our ability to drive engagement and play a more meaningful role in the daily lives of our consumers. As a partner of choice for our merchants, this is another way that we can help them build and strengthen their customer relationships, provide personalized offers, and drive incremental sales. The combination of Honey and PayPal adds another significant and meaningful dimension to our two-sided platform.”

Following the acquisition, Honey will retain its headquarters and brand in Los Angeles, California. Honey co-founders George Ruan and Ryan Hudson will continue to lead the Honey team as part of PayPal’s global consumer product and technology organization, reporting to Senior Vice President John Kunze.

“Honey’s vision has always been to give consumers the tools they need to make the best decisions with their money,” said Ruan. “PayPal shares that vision and together we can build powerful commerce capabilities that create real value for both consumers and retailers around the world.”

“Combining PayPal’s assets and reach with our technology, we can build powerful new online shopping experiences for consumers and merchants,” said Hudson. “We’ll have the ability to help millions of retailers efficiently reach consumers with offers that deliver more and more value to Honey members.”

Honey was profitable on a net income basis in 2018. Subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to PayPal’s non-GAAP earnings per share in 2021.

Perella Weinberg Partners LP is acting as sole financial adviser to PayPal, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as its legal adviser with regard to the transaction. Qatalyst Partners is acting as sole financial adviser to Honey, while Latham & Watkins, LLP is acting as its legal adviser.

About PayPal

PayPal has remained at the forefront of the digital payment revolution for more than 20 years. By leveraging technology to make financial services and commerce more convenient, affordable, and secure, the PayPal platform is empowering 300 million consumers and merchants in more than 200 markets to join and thrive in the global economy. For more information, visit paypal.com.

About Honey

Honey Science Corporation is an L.A.-based tech company building tools to help people save time and money when shopping online. What started as a browser extension has grown into a suite of free tools that help everyone shop with confidence. From notifying you when a price drops, to showing you the lowest prices available, Honey provides you with the information that you need to make the best decisions with your money. With approximately 17 million monthly active users, Honey has helped millions of people find more than $1 billion in savings in the past year. Visit www.joinhoney.com to shop smarter.

Forward-Looking Statements

This announcement contains “forward-looking” statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Forward-looking statements and information relate to future events and future performance and reflect PayPal’s expectations regarding the impact of this transaction on PayPal’s and Honey’s financial and operating results and business, the operation and management of Honey after the acquisition, and the timing of the closing of the acquisition. Forward-looking statements may be identified by words such as “seek”, “believe”, “plan”, “estimate”, “anticipate”, expect”, “project, “forecast”, or “intend”, and statements that an event or result “may”, “will”, “should”, “could”, or “might” occur or be achieved and any other similar expressions.

Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties which may cause actual results to differ materially from the statements made, and, accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and information. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, the timing and possible outcome of security holder and regulatory approvals in connection with the transaction, the possibility that the transaction may not close, the reaction to the transaction of Honey’s customers and business partners, the reaction of competitors to the transaction, the retention of Honey’s employees, PayPal’s plans for Honey, economic and political conditions in the global markets in which PayPal and Honey operate, the future growth of PayPal’s and Honey’s businesses and the possibility that integration following the transaction may be more difficult than expected.

More information about these and other factors that could adversely affect PayPal’s results of operations, financial condition and prospects or that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in forward-looking statements can be found in PayPal Holdings, Inc.’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), and its future filings with the SEC.

The forward-looking statements contained in this announcement speak only as of the date hereof. PayPal expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to disseminate any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

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