Business Highlights


Snapchat quiet after security breach

NEW YORK (AP) — Snapchat, the disappearing-message service popular with young people, has been quiet following a security breach that allowed hackers to collect the usernames and phone numbers of some 4.6 million of its users. The breach occurred after security experts say they warned the company at least twice about a vulnerability in its system. Snapchat’s seemingly detached response is causing some security specialists to wonder whether the relatively young company can handle the spotlight that it’s been thrust into over the last year as its service becomes enormously popular.


Factory, construction growth boost 2014 outlook

WASHINGTON (AP) — Expectations are rising for a stronger U.S. economy in 2014 after reports showed solid growth in manufacturing and construction spending at the end of last year. Factory activity in December stayed near a 2 1/2 -year high. Americans are buying more cars and homes, increasing demand for steel, furniture and other manufactured goods. Manufacturers have boosted hiring to meet that demand and may add jobs at a healthier pace this year. Builders stepped up spending on home construction in November, despite recent increases in borrowing rates. That suggests many remain confident in the housing recovery.


Warning issued about oil shipped from N.D., Mont.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Following a string of explosive accidents, federal officials said that crude oil being shipped by rail from the Northern Plains across the U.S. and Canada may be more flammable than traditional forms of oil. A safety alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation warns the public, emergency responders and shippers about the potential high volatility of crude from the Bakken oil shale patch. The massive oil reserve is fueling the surging industry in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, which is now the nation’s second-largest oil producer. The warning comes after a massive explosion caused by an oil train derailment on Monday near Casselton, N.D.


Macy’s, Martha Stewart Living settle dispute

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia say they have settled a breach-of-contract lawsuit involving J.C. Penney. But Macy’s said the settlement does not impact its lawsuit against J.C. Penney Co., which is still ongoing Macy’s Inc. and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. said their settlement terms are confidential and not material to their businesses. Both companies said that they look forward to “a continued, successful partnership together.”


U.S. construction spending up 1 per cent in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending rose in November at the strongest pace in more than four years, driven by solid gains in home construction and commercial projects. The Commerce Department said construction spending increased 1 per cent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $934.4 billion. That’s the fastest rate since March 2009 and a slight improvement on the revised 0.9 per cent gain in October. Residential construction rose 1.9 per cent in November, after falling in October. Spending on single-family homes has increased 18.4 per cent year over year, while spending on apartment buildings is up 36.3 per cent during the same period.


Fiat stock soars on Chrysler deal, but unions worry

ROME (AP) — Stock in Fiat soared on news the Italian automaker will take full ownership of Chrysler, but some Italian unions worried what the deal will mean for jobs and investments in the country. In a New Year’s day announcement, Fiat Spa said it could complete its acquisition of Chrysler without having to raise new capital through a rights issue. Investors cheered the fact, bidding the shares up 12 per cent on the Milan exchange. The stock was up by as much as 15.8 per cent earlier in the day.


Study finds Medicaid expansion drove up ER visits

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A new study has found that people enrolled recently in Medicaid went to the emergency room 40 per cent more frequently than others, often seeking help for conditions that could be treated less expensively in a doctor’s office or an urgent care clinic. The research, published by the journal Science, comes as millions of Americans gain health insurance this week under the federal health care law, many of them through Medicaid.


New drug approvals from FDA declined in 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration approved 27 first-of-a-kind drugs in 2013, down from 39 new medications in 2012, which was a 15-year high. Despite the decline, FDA officials say the tally of innovative medications approved last year is in line with the historical trend. On average, the FDA has approved 28 first-of-a-kind drugs annually over the past five years. FDA drug approvals are watched closely by analysts as both a barometer of industry innovation and the federal government’s efficiency in reviewing new therapies.

Experts say the number of drug approvals declined in 2013 mainly because there were fewer drugs submitted for review.


Court grants law license to man in U.S. illegally

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court granted a law license to a man who has been living in the U.S. illegally for two decades, a ruling that advocates hope will open the door to immigrants seeking to enter other professions such as medicine, nursing and accounting. It’s the latest in a string of legal and legislative victories for people who are in the country without permission. Other successes include the creation of a path to citizenship for many young people and the granting of drivers licenses in some states.


Average U.S. rate on 30-year loan at 4.53 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages edged higher this week for the third straight week but remained low by historical standards. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said that the average for the 30-year loan rose to 4.53 per cent from 4.48 per cent last week. The average for the 15-year loan increased to 3.55 per cent from 3.52 per cent.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 135.31 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 16,441.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 16.38 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 1,831.98. The Nasdaq composite slipped 33.52 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 4,143.07.

Benchmark oil for February delivery fell $2.98 to close at $95.44 a barrel in New York. Natural gas for February delivery rose 9.1 cents to close at $4.321 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 7.8 cents to close at $2.987 a gallon and wholesale gasoline fell 9.1 cents to close at $2.695 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude was down $3.02 to $107.78 a barrel.