Citi Will Refund $335 Million in Card Charges: LIVE MARKETS BLOG

 | Feb 23, 2018 | 1:57 PM EST
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Citi to Pay Back $335 Million to Customers for Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

An interest-rate problem that overcharged customers will force Citigroup (C) to pay back $355 million, the bank said Friday. 

The bank failed to lower interest rates on the cards as was required by federal law, resulting in the overcharges. 

Citigroup increased annual interest rates for customers who missed payments, but federal law requires card issuers to reduce the rate back to the original level if customers begin paying their bills on time. The company said that it delivered about for 90% to the customers affected. 

The issue affected about 1.75 million credit card accounts. On average, affected customers will receive about $190. 


China Seizes Control of Anbang Insurance, Owner of Waldorf Astoria

Chinese regulators seized control of Anbang Insurance Group due to the precarious nature of the company's finances following suspected illegal activity. Anbang is the owner of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, among other high profile holdings. 

The company will now be overseen by a working group of regulators from various agencies for at least one year. 

"All transactions of your company, asset trading, information dissemination, contract signing other than traditional insurance business are subject to the consent of the working group," a statement from China's regulators read. 

 Chinese regulators had slowed the company's ambitious acquisition spree in recent years because of its reliance on the sale short-term investment products and its plan to expand outside of insurance. 


BMW in Talks to Build EVs in China

German carmaker BMW said that it is in talks to build battery-powered electric vehicles in China, which would mark the first time the cars will be made outside of Europe. 

BMW delivered 560,000 vehicles to China, the world's largest auto market, in 2017, of which, 35,000 were Minis. 

The Chinese government has stipulated that it wants 20% of vehicles sold in the country to be electric or rechargeable by 2025. 


New FCC Rules Governing ISPs Goes Into Effect April 23

The Federal Communications Commission will implement its new rules governing how internet service providers administer broadband services to their customers on April 23. 

The FCC has famously scrapped Obama-era net neutrality rules that mandated against ISPs slowing down internet services for products that may originate from competitors. The practice is known as "throttling." 

The 60-day delay in implementation does give opponents of the new rule an opportunity to push back against the new directive. On Thursday, the Federal Register, a collection of 23 state attorney generals, filed a lawsuit against the FCC's decision in the U.S. Court of appeals for the D.C. circuit. 

"An open internet, and the free exchange of ideas it allows, is critical to our democratic process," said Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general who is leading the charge. "Repealing net neutrality will allow internet service providers to put corporate profits over consumers by controlling what we see, do, and say online. Consumers and businesses in New York and across the country have the right to a free and open internet, and our coalition of attorneys general won't stop fighting to protect that right."


Opening Bell

U.S. markets were looking to capitalize on the bit of momentum that the Dow and S&P built in trading Thursday while the Nasdaq was looking to avoid a five-session losing streak Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average started trading up 0.55%, or 137 points, to 25,100 out of the gate, while the S&P 500 rose 0.57%, or 15 points, to 2,719 and the Nasdaq rose 0.66%, or 46 points, to 7,256.

The Dow's gains were driven by strong sessions from Intel Corp. (INTC) , up more than 2%, and McDonald's Corp. (MCD) , up 1.5%.

The Dow and S&P are still down overall for the holiday-shortened week.

Commodities markets were mixed Friday. After starting the day in negative territory, industry benchmark Brent crude prices were flat at $66.39 per barrel while West Texas crude prices fell 0.06% to $62.73.


PlayStation Videogame Network Goes Down for 4th Time This Year

Gamers looking for access to Sony's (SNY) PlayStation Network were frustrated last night after the network went down for the fourth time in 2018 and the second time in February. 

"You may have some difficulty launching games, applications, or online features," Sony's PSN page said last night. "Our engineers are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, and we thank you for your patience."

Sony has since restored service to the network. 


Oil Prices Fall on Record U.S. Output

If the steady 10.27 million barrels of oil a day the U.S. produced last week is confirmed by monthly figures then the bull rally in oil prices could hit a snag.

Industry benchmark Brent crude prices fell 0.23%, or 15 cents, to $66.24 while West Texas crude declined 0.1%, or 6 cents, to $62.71. Major oil plays were not moving premarket Friday, but could face pressure Friday.

A supply glut dropped oil prices as low as the high $30's in recent years, but crude prices have steadily risen over the past 18 months as the OPEC oil cartel has cut production in order to increase prices and spur demand.

However, those efforts have been stymied by a suddenly robust U.S. oil market. U.S. shale plays are producing oil at record rates as exports have also increased. Crude exports rose to more than 2 million barrels per day last week, close to the record of 2.1 million barrels that was reached in October.

In spite of the steady production, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that crude stocks fell unexpectedly by 1.6 million barrels last week. The decline was blamed on low import figures.


Toyota Takes Top Spots in Consumer Reports Rankings

Toyota Motor (TM) may not be the biggest car maker by sales volume anymore, but it is the best, according to Consumer Reports 2018 rankings.

The consumer magazine named Toyota vehicles top in their class in four of the 10 categories that were ranked.

The Toyota Corolla was ranked best compact car, the Camry was ranked top midsize car, the Highlander won best midsize SUV and the Sienna was the industry's top minivan.

"Part of what helps Toyota is just really impressive reliability across the board," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

"Our continued commitment to bringing quality products with key safety technologies to our customers remains a top priority," Toyota said in a statement.


General Mills to Purchase Natural Pet Food Co. Blue Buffalo

Consumer food product maker General Mills (GIS) announced plans to purchase natural pet food maker Blue Buffalo Pet Products (BUFF) in an all-cash deal worth nearly $8 billion. 

General Mills offered $40 per share for the company, a 17.2% premium over the company's Thursday closing price. Shares of the company were up nearly 18% premarket to $40.15. 

General Mills says that the deal will be neutral to its cash earnings per share in 2019 and will begin to add to its bottom line in fiscal 2020. 


Premarket

U.S. futures indicated a positive opening for markets Friday as the Dow and S&P look to build momentum off of Thursday's volatile day of trading. 

Dow futures were rising 0.32%, indicating an opening 81 points higher to 25,094 while S&P futures rose 0.21%, indicating an open 6 points higher to 2,717. Nasdaq futures rose 0.26%, indicating an open 18 points higher after the Nasdaq was the lone index to fall in trading Thursday.

Asian markets had a strong day of trading with the three major average all closing the day well into the green. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.63% while the Hang Seng jumped 0.98% and the Nikkei gained 0.72%. 

Markets in Europe were struggling with the FTSE 100 and CAC 40 both falling about 0.2% while the DAX in Germany was basically flat. 

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