Business Highlights


Morgan Stanley pushed murky China stock to market

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press discovered significant discrepancies between financial records and what a Chinese company backed by U.S. banking giant Morgan Stanley reported as part of its $654 million stock offering. Issues of murky financial information and lax oversight have become increasingly important as U.S. mutual funds and pension funds invest more regularly in Chinese companies.

The disarray in Tianhe’s official story calls into question Morgan Stanley’s roles in shepherding, then promoting, then defending Tianhe — which one of the bank’s investment funds partially owns — as a major international stock offering in Hong Kong. For the bank and fellow Tianhe underwriters Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS AG, trouble at Tianhe could mean reputational and legal trouble.


Berkshire buying Duracell from P&G in $3B deal

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble Co. in a deal valued at approximately $3 billion.

P&G, the world’s biggest consumer products maker, had announced last month that it wanted to make Duracell a stand-alone company. P&G, which acquired Duracell in 2005, said at the time that it preferred a spinoff of Duracell, but that it was considering a sale or other options.

The sale of Duracell to Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. turned out to be slightly different from P&G’s initial plans.

P&G will receive shares of its own stock that are currently held by Berkshire Hathaway. Those shares are currently valued at about $4.7 billion. Offsetting part of that price, P&G will contribute about $1.7 billion to the Duracell business before the deal closes.


Amazon, Hachette end monthslong dispute

NEW YORK (AP) — One of publishing’s nastiest, most high-profile conflicts, the monthslong standoff between and Hachette Book Group, is ending.

Amazon and Hachette announced a multiyear agreement Thursday. With e-book revenues reportedly the key issue, Amazon had removed pre-order tags for Hachette books, reduced discounts and slowed deliveries, hurdles that should be gone well before the crucial holiday shopping season.

David Naggar, an Amazon vice-president, said the company was pleased that the agreement “includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices, which we believe will be a great win for readers and authors alike.”


Small business insurance exchanges seek rebound

Early enrolment for the health overhaul’s small business insurance exchanges fell far short of the 2 million workers who were expected to sign up this year. The shortfall calls into question the future of the exchanges as they begin accepting enrolment for 2015.

About 76,000 people had purchased coverage on 18 exchanges through June 1, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Enrollment figures from 33 state exchanges that are run through the federal government are not yet available, but researchers expect those totals to be low as well.


Spending, ECB, reforms: What eurozone needs now

PARIS (AP) — A lot needs to go right for the eurozone’s economy to get going again.

A report Friday is expected to show the 18-nation currency union barely grew in the third quarter — its failure to achieve liftoff in the year since emerging from its longest-ever recession has proved frustrating for Europeans and burdensome for the global economy.

Not enough jobs are being created in Europe and wages remain stagnant. Europe’s troubles are casting a pall over its major trading partners, particularly the U.S., China and Japan.

The eurozone’s problems are no secret — companies are too worried to invest or hire, consumers are not spending and many banks are wary of lending. So why is it proving so difficult to solve them?


Facebook again tries to simplify privacy policy

NEW YORK (AP) — One more time, Facebook is trying to simplify its lengthy privacy policy — and make it much shorter — to explain how it targets advertisements to its 1.35 billion users.

The world’s largest online social network uses the information people share on its site, along with the apps they use and the outside websites they visit, to show them advertisements deemed relevant to them. In the July-September quarter, Facebook reported nearly $3 billion in advertising revenue, a 64 per cent increase from a year earlier.

Over the years, the company has faced concerns from users and from government regulators and privacy advocates that its policies are too complicated. Two years ago, it settled with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that it exposed details about their users’ lives without getting the required legal consent. Last year, an independent audit that was part of the settlement found its privacy practices sufficient.


New consumer protections for prepaid cards

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is extending many of the financial protections of bank accounts to prepaid cards.

New rules proposed Thursday by the federal regulator would require that prepaid card users be protected against fraudulent charges and provided with free monthly billing statements. The rules come as more Americans are using “reloadable” prepaid cards as a substitute for checking accounts. Consumers have gone from loading less than $1 billion onto their cards in 2003 to nearly $100 billion through 2014.

More than 2 million households without bank accounts relied on prepaid cards last year, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The cards can be used to make payments, store funds, make ATM withdrawals and receive direct deposits. The market has also expanded to include electronic services such as PayPal and GoogleWallet, CFPB director Richard Cordray noted in a speech to be delivered Thursday in Delaware.


Applications for US jobless aid climb to 290,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the increase wasn’t sharp enough to disrupt the job market’s positive momentum.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 290,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 6,000 to 285,000, up slightly from what had the lowest average in more than 14 years.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average has plunged 17.2 per cent in the past year, a sign that businesses feel more confident about their prospects, are holding onto workers and potentially looking to amplify hiring.

Thursday’s report marked the ninth straight week of applications below 300,000. That level suggests to economists that the steady gains in jobs this year should continue.


US companies hire at fastest pace in 7 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies ramped up hiring in September, and more Americans were confident enough to quit their jobs — two signs of a steadily improving economy. The number of available jobs declined but remained at a healthy level.

More than 5 million people were hired in September, the most since December 2007 when the recession began, the Labor Department said Thursday. And the number of people who quit their jobs jumped to 2.75 million from 2.5 million. That’s the most in more than six years.

More quitting and hiring means that the job market is becoming more dynamic, which creates additional opportunities for the unemployed. Greater quitting is a good sign for several reasons: People are more likely to leave jobs when they have a new position lined up, usually one that is higher-paying. Workers also quit when they are more confident they can find a new job. And quits open more positions that can be filled by those out of work, or by people seeking higher pay.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.59 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,652.79. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.08 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 2,039.33. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.01 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,680.14.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.97 to close at $74.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.46 to close at $77.92 — also another 4-year low — on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 10.5 cents to close at $2.002 a gallon. Heating oil fell 8.5 cents to close at $2.362 a gallon. Natural gas fell 20.8 cents to close at $3.977 per 1,000 cubic feet.