Hillicon Valley: Apple drives rough day for markets | Senate confirms FCC nominees | Federal elections agency back to full strength | China lands craft on far side of the moon

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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New Year, New Congress. The House elected Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government Overnight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Calif.) to her second Speakership as Democrats took charge in the chamber. 

 

DON'T GO LOOKING AT YOUR 401Ks FOR A WHILE: Stocks tanked Thursday morning after Apple slashed its earnings forecast, citing an unexpected drop in global orders caused by trade tensions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped as many as 650 points Thursday morning, while the Nasdaq composite and S&P 500 index dropped 2.7 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. A sharp plunge in technology and industrial stocks drove broad losses across the market in the first hours of trading.

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Apple stock plummeted 10 percent lower Thursday morning, a day after CEO Tim Cook announced the company is now projecting first-quarter revenue of $84 billion after initially predicting between $89 billion and $93 billion.

Cook blamed Apple's shortfall on the mounting costs of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE's tariffs on steel, aluminum and Chinese imports, along with trouble in emerging market economies. His warning was the latest red flag to indicate a potential global economic slowdown.

"While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China," Cook wrote in a letter to investors.

"In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad."

 

How the day ended: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 660 points down, with the S&P 500 down 2.48 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq down 3.04 percent.

 

White House sees more trouble ahead: Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, on Thursday, said that plenty of other U.S. companies will face losses in China until Beijing agrees to a new trade deal.

"It's not going to be just Apple," Hassett said in an interview on CNN. "There are a heck of a lot of U.S. companies that have sales in China that are going to be watching their earnings being downgraded next year until we get a deal with China."

More on his remarks here.

 

Trump weighs in: Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping face a self-imposed deadline of March 1 to strike a deal to lift tariffs and other trade barriers. Trump sought to calm the market Thursday, insisting on Twitter that his administration is "doing well in various Trade Negotiations currently going on."

"At some point this had to be done!" Trump tweeted.

 

Read more here. Also, more on Apple's rough day here.

 

CONFIRMED: The Senate returned the Federal Communications Commission to full strength Wednesday night, confirming a bipartisan pair of nominees to full five-year terms.

Brendan Carr, a sitting Republican commissioner, was reconfirmed to a new term and Democratic nominee Geoffrey Starks was confirmed after a months-long delay in a voice vote Wednesday night, on the last day of the session.

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Their confirmations had been delayed after Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering MORE (R-Alaska) had placed a hold on Carr's nomination, which had been paired with Starks, over a dispute about the agency's rural health care efforts. Sullivan agreed to release the hold last month after talks with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

"The agreement to pair and confirm these nominees finally gives us a full FCC to decide important questions about spectrum management, the deployment of broadband to underserved communities, and building next-generation wireless networks," Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions Mnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement. "I congratulate Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr on this Senate action allowing them to turn their attention toward work benefiting the public."

Starks was nominated by President Trump in June of last year. He had been serving as the assistant bureau chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau after leaving the Justice Department in 2015, where he was a senior counsel to Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole.

Carr, who was confirmed to a partial term in 2017, had previously been a legal adviser to Pai before briefly serving as the FCC's general counsel.

More on the FCC here.

 

YOU ALSO MADE IT: The Senate late Wednesday confirmed by voice vote a pair of commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), giving the agency a quorum for the first time since last March.

Benjamin Hovland and Donald Palmer were among several nominees passed in the final hours of the Senate session. If they had not been confirmed before noon Thursday, when the 115th Congress adjourns, both nominees would have to go through the confirmation process again.

Having a quorum means the EAC can now carry out major policy moves. The small federal agency -- created in 2002 to help state and local officials administer elections -- had only two commissioners since March, one short of the three needed to take on significant initiatives.

Hovland and Palmer said during their confirmation hearing last month that their likely first moves after joining the EAC would be to review its standards for voting machine vendors.

That statement was echoed by current EAC Commissioners Christy McCormick and Thomas Hicks during an interview with The Hill last month.

 

In the spotlight: The EAC has faced criticism for not taking the threat of Russian interference in the 2016 election as seriously as some say it should, and Republican lawmakers have attempted to close down the small agency in previous years, claiming that it was unnecessary.

However, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have recently pointed to the commission as being able to help lead the charge in securing elections from outside interference.

More on the agency here.

 

CUE THE ELECTRIC SLIDE: General Motors (GM) reached 200,000 in electric vehicle sales in 2018, prompting the phasing out of a tax-credit for buyers of those vehicles, according to Reuters.

GM hit the 200,000-mark in the fourth quarter of 2018, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the matter.

The $7,500 tax-credit, according to Reuters, will be phased out over the next 15 months. It will drop to $3,750 in April before sliding to $1,875 in October. It will then be completely gone by April of next year, Reuters reported.

GM, which has previously lobbied Congress to extend the tax-credit, declined to comment to Reuters.

The phasing out of the tax-credit comes after GM in November announced it would cut 15,000 jobs and close up to four factories in the U.S.

Those layoffs drew the ire of President Trump, who said last month that the company is "not going to be treated well" following the layoffs.

"To tell me a couple of weeks before Christmas that she's going to close in Ohio and Michigan, not acceptable to me," Trump said in a Fox News interview at the time, referring to GM CEO Mary Barra.

Barra has previously called on Congress to expand the tax credit, Reuters noted.

More here.

 

E.T. PHONE HOME: A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday landed on the dark side of the moon, marking the first time in history a country has sent a rover to the part of the moon that perpetually faces away from the Earth.

The Associated Press reported that the China National Space Administration called the touchdown of the Chang'e 4 a "new chapter in human lunar exploration." The spacecraft touched down at 10:26 a.m. China time and was announced to the public on a state news broadcast at noon.

Only China, the former Soviet Union and the United States have sent spacecraft to the surface of the moon, though previous explorations have landed on the near side that faces Earth.

The AP reported that China plans to send a Chang'e 5 mission to the moon next year, with the goal of having it bring back samples to Earth. The country also has ambitions to launch a Mars rover in the next decade, the AP reported.

China's rapid progress in space exploration comes as the Trump administration has given the subject a renewed focus.

More on the Chinese mission here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Only in Australia.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Netflix's new interactive format for certain films also leads to insightful user data. (The Verge)

GM's self-driving unit is exploring food delivery service with DoorDash. (CNBC)

When glasses become equipped with cameras. (Engadget)

Overlooked no more: Karen Sparck Jones, who established the basis for search engines. (The New York Times)

Google moves closer to creating 'Minority Report'-style sensors for controlling devices with hand gestures (The Washington Post)