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The U.S. had 7.3 million job openings in December, a new report says. File/AP

National debt climbs past $22T

WASHINGTON — The national debt has passed a new milestone, topping $22 trillion for the first time.

The Treasury Department's daily statement shows that total outstanding public debt stands at $22.01 trillion. It was $19.95 trillion when President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

The debt figure has been rising at a faster pace following passage of Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and action by Congress last year to increase spending on domestic and military programs.

Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, says "our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American."

The national debt is the total of the annual budget deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects this year's deficit will be $897 billion.

US job openings hit a record high

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers posted the most open jobs in December in the nearly two decades that records have been kept, evidence that the job market is strong despite several challenges facing the economy.

The Labor Department says job openings jumped 2.4 percent in December to 7.3 million. That is the most since records began in December 2000. It is also far greater than the number of unemployed, which stood at 6.3 million that month.

Businesses have shrugged off a variety of potential troubles for the economy and kept on hiring. The 35-day partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, and growth in China, Europe and Japan has weakened, threatening U.S. exports. Still, employers added 304,000 jobs in December, the government said earlier this month, the most in nearly a year.

Fed chair doesn't see elevated risks

ITTA BENA, Miss. — Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell does not feel the probability of a recession "is at all elevated," and that the country is continuing to see solid economic growth.

But in a visit to a historically black university in the Mississippi Delta, Powell says that many rural areas have not benefited from the national prosperity. He says those areas need special support, such as access to affordable credit to start small businesses and high-quality education to train workers.

Powell says in a discussion with students at Mississippi Valley State University that he doesn't see signs of an economic downturn. He says unemployment remains near a half-century low and describes economic output as continuing at a "solid pace."

NY Fed: Late car payments rising

DETROIT — The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says borrowers are behind in their auto loan payments in numbers not seen since delinquencies peaked at the end of 2010, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

But economists and auto industry analysts say they aren't sounding an alarm yet. The number is higher largely because there are far more auto loans out there as sales grew since the financial crisis, peaking at 17.5 million in 2016.

More than 7 million Americans were 90 or more days behind on their car loans at the end of last year. A report from the New York Fed says that's 1 million more than eight years ago.

Record U.S. oil output projected

WASHINGTON — The U.S. says domestic oil production levels will reach new heights this year and next, and that prices will be lower than they were in 2018.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Tuesday that it expects the United States to pump 12.4 million barrels of crude a day in 2019 and 13.2 million barrels a day in 2020. The January average was 12 million barrels a day, up 90,000 from December.

Most of the increase is expected to come from Texas and New Mexico.

The energy agency expects U.S. benchmark crude to cost less than $55 a barrel this year and $58 next year, down from $65 in 2018. It expects internationally traded oil to be $61 this year and $62 next year, down from $71 in 2018.

Dominion plans cuts to methane

RICHMOND, Va. — Dominion Energy says it plans to cut methane emissions from its natural gas infrastructure by 50 percent over the next decade based on 2010 levels.

Dominion announced Tuesday that the initiative will prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere. The company says over the last decade it has prevented more than 180,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere. It says the effort builds on a 50 percent carbon emissions cut across its electric fleet since 2000.

To reach the goal, the company says it will reduce or eliminate gas venting during planned maintenance and inspections, the largest source of these emission in its pipeline system. It also plans to replace older equipment with new, low-emission equipment and expand leak detection and repair programs.

Dominion is the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, which it purchased on Jan. 1.

FedEx unit picks new HQ site

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FedEx Logistics is establishing a new headquarters in downtown Memphis and bringing 700 jobs along with it.

FedEx Logistics CEO Richard W. Smith said the logistics arm of the world's largest shipping company is moving into a building formerly occupied by the Gibson Guitar factory.

Smith said about 350 of the jobs will be new positions. Smith said the rest will be workers brought from other locations after operations are consolidated in the new spot just steps from historic Beale Street and across from the FedExForum sports arena.

The company plans to move into the building in April 2020. FedEx Logistics joins AutoZone, ServiceMaster and First Tennessee Bank as large companies with headquarters in downtown Memphis.

Buyer stalks CoverGirl maker Coty

NEW YORK — German conglomerate JAB Holdings is seeking a majority stake in Coty Inc., which makes CoverGirl, Max Factor and Hugo Boss brand cosmetics and fragrances.

JAB is offering to buy up existing stock from shareholders at $11.65 per share, marking a 20 percent premium from its closing on Monday. Specifically, it's hoping to buy up to 150 million shares which would boost its stake from 40 percent to 60 percent.

Coty's board has to consider the proposal.

Coty CEO Camillo Pane recently resigned from the company, which is facing supply chain and revenue issues. Pierre Laubies took over in November. He also has a seat on the board.

Katy Perry shoes pulled after blackface criticism

LOS ANGELES — Katy Perry's fashion line has pulled two types of shoes after some people compared them to blackface.

The Ora Face Block Heel and Rue Face Slip-On Loafers were released last summer in nine different colors. They included protruding eyes, nose and red lips.

In a statement by the singer and company, they said the shoes were "envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism." Perry says she was saddened when she learned they were being compared to blackface and were "immediately removed" from the company's website.

Perry's is the latest company to withdraw products after they were compared to blackface. Gucci took a sweater off the market last week and Prada removed a series of accessories that resembled black monkeys with red lips in December.

40 countries agree on auto braking

GENEVA — Forty countries led by Japan and the European Union — but not the U.S. or China — have agreed to require new cars and light commercial vehicles to be equipped with automated braking systems starting next year, a U.N. agency said.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, a key U.N. standards agency, said the draft agreement was reached Feb. 1. It was only announced Tuesday after the finishing touches were put on the deal, spokesman Jean Rodriguez said.

The regulation will require all vehicles sold to come equipped with the technology by which sensors monitor how close a pedestrian or object might be. It can trigger the brakes automatically if a collision is deemed imminent and if the driver doesn't appear set to respond in time.

The measure will apply to vehicles at "low speeds": 42 mph or less, and only affects new cars sold in the markets of signatory countries — so vehicle owners won't be required to retrofit their cars and trucks already on the roads today.

Tariffs take toll on whiskey exports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A spirits industry group says retaliatory tariffs caused a sharp downturn in American whiskey exports in the last half of 2018 as distillers started feeling the pain from global trade disputes.

Exports gyrated last year as the industry braced for tariffs in some key overseas markets.

The Distilled Spirits Council said Tuesday that American whiskey exports to the European Union — the industry's biggest export market — fell by 8.7 percent from July through November of last year, compared to the same period in 2017.

In the first half of 2018, whiskey exports to the EU surged by 33 percent.

Larger distillers stockpiled supplies for a short-term cushion against tariffs that amount to a tax.

Global American whiskey exports grew by 28 percent in the first half of 2018, then fell by 8.2 percent from July to November.

Reddit financing led by Tencent

SAN FRANCISCO — Social media service Reddit Inc. says it has raised $300 million in a financing round led by Chinese Internet giant Tencent.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told CNBC on Monday that values the privately held company at $3 billion.

Half the new money came from Tencent, Asia's most valuable tech company. Other investors included Sequoia, Fidelity, Andreessen Horowitz, Quiet Capital, VY and Snoop Dogg.

The announcement prompted criticism of Reddit for linking itself with a company from China, where the ruling Communist Party enforces extensive online censorship. Access to Reddit is blocked in China.

Tencent operates online games and popular WeChat social media service. It owns 40 percent of "Fortnite" creator Epic Games and 15 percent of photo service Snap.

Wire reports