Business Highlights


Memories of financial crisis fading as risks rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — The lessons of the financial crisis may already be fading from memory.

Last week, Congress acted to loosen the regulation of the high-risk investments that ignited the 2008 crisis. Housing regulators cut minimum down payments on home loans. And the Institute of International Finance declared it “worrisome” that global indebtedness, as a share of world economic output, has reached record levels.

All this comes as subprime auto loans for financially stretched buyers are surging. And the so-called too-big-to-fail banks now loom even larger than before the crisis.

The trend toward pre-crisis lending practices worries analysts who favoured far-reaching reforms to safeguard the system.


Sony threatens to sue for publishing stolen emails

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment is warning news organizations not to publish details of company files leaked by hackers in one of the largest digital breaches ever against an American company.

The Sony materials include studio financial records, employment files and what already has been revealed as salacious gossip by Hollywood executives.

Attorney David Boies demanded Sunday that Sony’s “stolen information” — publicly available on the Internet — should be returned or destroyed immediately because it contains privileged, private information. He says the studio could sue for damages or financial losses related to Sony’s intellectual property or trade secrets.


Study: Hotter days in US mean less cold cash

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hotter days mean less cold cash for Americans, according to a new study matching 40 years of temperatures to economics.

Days that averaged about 77 degrees ended up reducing people’s income by about $5 a day when compared with significantly cooler days. A county’s average economic productivity decreases by nearly 1 per cent for every degree Fahrenheit that the average daily temperature is above 59, says a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper released Monday.

The study’s authors predict that if the world continues on its current path of greenhouse gas emissions, even warmer temperatures later this century will squeeze the U.S. economy by tens of billions of dollars each year.


CEO of Bob Evans Farms steps down from post

NEW ALBANY, Ohio (AP) — The CEO of Bob Evans Farms Inc. is stepping down by mutual agreement after more than eight years in the post as the restaurant operator works on improving its performance.

Steve Davis is also giving up his position as a board member.

Bob Evans Farms said that it has created an interim Office of the CEO while it looks for a permanent replacement as CEO. It named Chief Financial Officer Mark Hood and Mike Townsley, president of the Bob Evans Foods division, to the office.


Fed likely to note gains but signal no rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve seems poised to recognize sustained improvement in the U.S. economy, but not quite ready to raise a key interest rate.

The Fed has long said it plans to keep a key interest rate near zero for a “considerable time.” But if it drops that phrase from its statement following this week’s policy meeting, it could signal that it is moving closer to raising rates.

However, most economists think the Fed will wait until June to raise short-term rates. And some think that as long as inflation stays below its target rate of 2 per cent, it could wait longer.

Low rates can encourage borrowing and spending and fuel growth. But if left too low for too long, they can accelerate inflation.


Sales of macadamias soar in Korea after nut rage

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Nut rage imploded the career of a Korean Air Lines executive and embarrassed her family and country. But South Korean retailers are seeing an unexpected upside — a boom in sales of macadamia nuts.

The flavourful nut was unfamiliar to many South Koreans until Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, ordered a flight attendant off a flight earlier this month after she was served them in a bag, instead of on a plate. She resigned last week amid a storm of criticism.

The incident, however, made macadamia nuts a household name in South Korea and with public curiosity about its taste piqued, sales jumped.


Factory output eclipses pre-recession high

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing output in November surpassed its pre-recession peak, as auto production kicked into a higher gear.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that factory production rose 1.1 per cent last month, up from a 0.4 per cent improvement in October. Manufacturing output has risen 4.8 per cent over the past 12 months. It’s now above the previous high set just before the downturn began in December 2007.

The growth points to a U.S. manufacturing base that has been insulated from a turbulent global economy.


UAW head: Companies can raise pay, be competitive

DETROIT (AP) — United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams says he’s not buying the automakers’ argument against wage increases for longtime workers.

Williams told reporters at a meeting Monday that keeping Detroit competitive with foreign automakers can’t always be done on the backs of workers. But he concedes that the companies’ costs must remain competitive.

Both sides will have to balance the competing interests when contract talks open with Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors this summer.

Longtime UAW workers have not had an hourly pay raise since 2007, although they have received hefty annual profit sharing checks. Entry-level workers who are paid about half of what veterans make got a pay raise in the 2011 contract talks.


London banker banned for dodging rail fares

LONDON (AP) — A London banker has been banned from working in the financial services industry after he was caught dodging rail fares.

The Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement Monday that Jonathan Burrows has been banned for not being “fit and proper.”

Railway officials say the former BlackRock director would pay only 7.20 pounds ($11.70) for his daily commute from the suburbs outside of London, instead of the full 21.50 pounds price required. By boarding at a station without a ticket gate barrier, he was able to exploit a loophole in the system of pre-paid transport passes.

Burrows paid 43,000 pounds ($67,000) in an out-of-court-settlement with Southeastern railways.


Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

SAO PAULO (AP) — A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

The federal court in the southern state of Parana said in a statement Monday that Google eventually did share the emails with Brazilian police several months ago but had to pay the fine for initially refusing to comply with the judicial order.

The Mountain View, California-based company had insisted it could only hand over the messages if the Brazilian and United States governments made a joint request.

A spokeswoman for Google confirmed the company “obeys judicial orders in Brazil” but declined to comment further.

The emails in question were sent by a money changer under investigation in a money laundering scheme at Petrobras.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 99.99 points, or 0.6 per cent, to close at 17,180.84. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 12.70 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,989.63. The Nasdaq composite lost 48.44 points, or 1 per cent, to 4,605.16.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.90, or 3.3 per cent, to close at $55.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 79 cents to close at $61.06 in London. In other futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline fell 2.1 cents to close at $1.576 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.4 cents to close at $2.002 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7.6 cents to close at $3.719 per 1,000 cubic feet.