Hong Kong finance group to Beijing: Back off, please

A group of Hong Kong finance industry professionals is pledging to join an Occupy-style movement to protest growing influence from Beijing that they say is undermining the Asian financial hub’s economy.

The bankers, traders and stockbrokers who make up Hong Kong’s financial-worker class are notoriously apolitical. But the group, which currently numbers about 70 people, added their voices to wider calls for full democracy in an open letter to China’s President Xi Jinping.

Worried that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is being eroded, they expressed fears about growing threats to the city’s freedom of speech and the press, rule of law and strong anti-corruption culture.

U.S. consumer confidence nears pre-recession level

U.S. consumer confidence surged in April, approaching the highest level since the recession began in 2007 as Americans reported greater optimism about their financial situation and the economy.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 84.1 in April from 80 in March.

Americans have cut back on debt and benefited from steady hiring and rising stock and home prices. Just 28 percent said this month that their finances were getting worse, down from 37 percent in March and the lowest level since April 2007.

United Auto Workers official nominated to GM board seat

General Motors Co. could, for the first time, have an official of the United Auto Workers union on its board of directors.

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton was nominated to a board seat controlled by a UAW trust fund that pays retiree health care bills. He plans to retire from his union post in June.

The move is a first for General Motors, and a sign of how the relationship between the company and the union has changed in the past decade.

If elected at the company’s annual meeting in Detroit in June, Ashton would replace former GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky as the trust’s voice on the board.

Nokia, Microsoft complete $7.5 billion cellphone deal

Nokia says it has completed the $7.5 billion sale of its troubled cellphone and services division to Microsoft Corp., ending a chapter in the history of the once world-leading cellphone maker.

The closing of the deal Friday follows delays in global regulatory approvals and ends the production of mobile phones by the Finnish company.

Nokia said the total transaction price would be “slightly higher” than originally thought because of adjustments made for net working capital and cash earnings. The deal was to have closed during the first quarter but was held up because of delays in approvals, including from China.

– From news service reports