Business Highlights


New United Airlines CEO faces long list of challenges

The new CEO of United Airlines faces a daunting list of problems he must fix, including late flights and technology that too often suffers embarrassing outages.

But if Oscar Munoz listens to people who fly his airline — and some who have stopped — he’ll start his tenure by addressing a longtime problem for the world’s second-biggest airline: poor customer service.

Early signs point to a honeymoon for Munoz, the railroad executive tapped to replace Jeff Smisek as CEO. United’s labour unions and Wall Street analysts were mostly upbeat about Munoz’s arrival — or maybe more accurately, Smisek’s departure.


Seeing pope in US? Pics, tweets and streaming video

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pope Francis’ personality is more joyful than grumpy cat, his vestments undeniably white and gold — not blue or black — and you’ll never hear him say OMG or ermahgerd.

The 78-year-old pontiff isn’t your typical social media star. He doesn’t even carry a cellphone. But wherever Pope Francis goes, millions of tweets, posts, pictures and video streams are sure to follow.

Two weeks after spurring a viral frenzy with a trip to a Rome eyeglass shop to get new lenses, the wildly popular Francis is embarking on his first journey to the greatest fishbowl of all: America.


US unemployment benefit applications dropped to 275,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, keeping this key indicator of labour market health near historic lows.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 500 to 275,750.

Benefit applications had risen 11,000 in the previous week to 281,000. But even that temporary uptick left benefit claims, a proxy for layoffs, below the 300,000 mark. Applications have been below that level for the past six months, a stretch last seen 42 years ago.


US wholesale stockpiles slipped in July, weighed down by oil

Expectations for U.S. consumer spending appear to have dimmed in July, as wholesalers cut their inventories slightly and sales fell.

Wholesale stockpiles slipped 0.1 per cent, while sales dropped 0.3 per cent, the Commerce Department said Thursday. This follows a solid 0.7 per cent gain in inventories and 0.4 per cent sales increase in June.

Cheaper oil prices are weighing on the value of wholesalers’ holdings, while consumer spending elsewhere has yet to fully offset the steep drop in petroleum costs. Oil inventories — which are measured in dollars — plunged 4.8 per cent in July and 19.8 per cent over the past 12 months.


Average US rate on 30-year mortgage inches up to 3.9 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates inched up this week as financial markets awaited the Federal Reserve’s crucial decision next week on interest rates.

The subdued gains followed a sharp drop the previous week, as global markets continued to whipsaw amid economic disruption in China and uncertainty over the Fed’s interest-rate policy.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 3.90 per cent from 3.89 per cent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.10 per cent from 3.09 per cent.


New York state OKs $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers

NEW YORK (AP) — New York state will gradually raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour — the first time any state has set the minimum that high.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration formally approved the increase Thursday — a move the Democratic governor announced at a labour rally with Vice-President Joe Biden. Cuomo said he will work to pass legislation setting a $15 minimum for all industries — a promise that comes as more and more cities around the country move toward a $15 minimum wage.


Li says China to open currency market to central banks

BEIJING (AP) — China plans to allow foreign central banks into its interbank currency market, the country’s No. 2 leader said Thursday, in a new move to expand use of the tightly controlled Chinese yuan.

Speaking at a business conference, Premier Li Keqiang gave no time frame for the change or details of what foreign institutions would be allowed to do. The move follows Beijing’s decision in March to allow some foreign investors into the market in which its state-owned banks trade bonds.


Wall Street exec who lost harassment case charged with fraud

NEW YORK (AP) — The founder of a Wall Street firm who was recently ordered to pay $18 million after losing a sexual harassment lawsuit was arrested on securities fraud charges Thursday, accused of making tens of millions of dollars illegally by manipulating stock prices.

Benjamin Wey, 43, was arrested at his Manhattan home. The founder and president of New York Global Group, an investment consulting firm, was charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, along with separate counts of securities and wire fraud. If convicted, he could face up to 90 years in prison.


First ‘biosimilar’ of a biologic drug reaches US, finally

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Years after discounted versions of some of the most expensive drugs ever went on sale in other countries, they’re finally coming to the world’s biggest medicine market.

Last week brought the first U.S. launch in a new category called “biosimilars.” They’re near-copies of powerful prescription drugs known as biologics “manufactured” in living cells.

Biologics are injected or infused medicines for very serious conditions such as cancer and immune system disorders. They can cost $100,000 or more annually.


Fiat Chrysler recalls 1.7M trucks for air bag, weld troubles

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.7 million trucks to fix problems with air bags and welds in the steering system.

The biggest of three recalls announced Thursday covers 1.35 million Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks and 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs, mainly in North America. All are from the 2012 through 2014 model years.

Fiat Chrysler says a company investigation found that some trucks may have steering wheel electrical wires that can wear due to contact with a spring. That can cause a short circuit that could make the driver’s side air bags inflate without a crash.


China auto sales shrink again in August

BEIJING (AP) — China’s auto sales declined in August for a third month but some brands reported gains following a market downturn that shook the global industry.

Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans fell 3.4 per cent from a year earlier to 1.4 million vehicles, according to an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That dragged down the growth rate for the first eight months of the year to 2.6 per cent following declines of 6.6 per cent in July and 3.4 per cent in June.

China’s auto market has been cooling since growth peaked at 45 per cent in 2009 but this year’s plunge prompted analysts to cut growth forecasts and General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG to reduce prices.


Mondelez plans to concentrate more on healthy snacks

NEW YORK (AP) — Mondelez, the company behind the Oreo and Cadbury brands, says that it plans to have 50 per cent of its portfolio contain healthy snacks within the next five years.

Healthy snacks currently comprise more than a third of its total revenue, according to Executive Vice-President and Chief Growth Officer Mark Clouse.

Major food companies, such as Kellogg, General Mills and others, are shifting from foods that are perceived by some consumers as too processed to options that are considered healthier.


Google debuts mobile-pay service in 2nd try

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google’s answer to the Apple Pay mobile-payment service is debuting in the U.S., marking a do-over by the company behind the world’s most-used operating system for smartphones.

Android Pay will be similar to Apple Pay, except it works on Android phones rather than Apple’s iPhones. On some Samsung Android phones, it will sit alongside Samsung Pay. All three services let people buy goods at retail stores by tapping their phones against the store’s payment terminal. The user’s debit or credit card on file then gets charged.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average added 76.83 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 16,330.40. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.25 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,952.29. The Nasdaq composite climbed 39.72 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 4,796.25.

U.S. crude rose $1.77 to close at $45.92 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.31 to close at $48.89 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3.4 cents to close at $1.394 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.6 cents to close at $1.575 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.2 cents to close at $2.683 per 1,000 cubic feet.