Business Highlights


Job creator or job killer? A look at the Pacific trade deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal now being debated would cover everything from Vietnamese labour unions to copyright protections to trade in sockeye salmon. With the details having been released Thursday, a furious dispute is expected in the United States and some of the 11 other countries that negotiated it.

Supporters say the Trans Pacific Partnership would promote economic growth and provide protections for workers on both sides of the Pacific. Critics say it contains giveaways to drug manufacturers and other multinational companies and exposes American workers to unfair competition with low-wage labour in countries like Vietnam.


US housing recovery divided on age, race and place

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans are qualifying for mortgages, yet minorities still get disproportionately rejected.

Three new industry analyses released Thursday show that the recovering economy has produced a divided U.S. housing market. Where people live, their age and the colour of their skin have largely influenced who has benefited as real estate continues to heal from the bursting of a mortgage bubble that triggered the worst economic downturn in nearly 80 years.


Pfizer doubling patient income limit for free drug program

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — As the furor over soaring U.S. prescription drug prices escalates and outrageous price hikes by several smaller drugmakers give the entire industry a black eye, the biggest U.S.-based drugmaker is expanding financial assistance to patients.

Pfizer Inc. said Thursday that it’s doubling the allowable income level for people to receive dozens of its medicines without a copayment because more patients are in need. Patients’ insurance plans generally must pay the bulk of the drug’s cost. Some critics say this isn’t the best way to keep drugs affordable for everyone.


US jobless aid requests rise but still near historic lows

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but levels remain near historic lows as employers are hesitant to let go of workers.

The Labor Department said Thursday that a seasonally adjusted 276,000 people sought jobless aid last week, up from 260,000 in the prior week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 3,500 to 262,750.

Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. Recent multi-decade lows indicate that employers expect the economy to continue to improve despite global pressures on growth, prompting them to hold onto workers.


Stocks end nearly flat in quiet session

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended nearly unchanged after a quiet session as traders weighed mixed corporate earnings and waited for the government’s monthly jobs report, due out Friday.

A strong jobs report would be good news for the economy, but it could prompt the Federal Reserve to consider raising interest rates next month, which could in turn take some steam out of stocks. In corporate news, Facebook and Ralph Lauren impressed investors with strong quarterly results, but Whole Foods profits slumped.


Fannie Mae posts $2B profit for 3Q; paying $2.2B dividend

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported net income of $2 billion for the July-September period, down from $3.9 billion a year earlier.

The government-controlled company attributed the third-quarter decline in profit mainly to losses on the investments it uses to hedge against swings in interest rates.

Nonetheless, the results posted Thursday marked the 15th straight profitable quarter for Washington-based Fannie Mae.


Fiat Chrysler’ US 3Q profit falls 89 per cent on recall costs

DETROIT (AP) — Net income at Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. operations fell 89 per cent in the third quarter as the company set aside millions to pay for future safety recalls.

The Auburn Hills, Michigan, company says its net profit was $70 million from July through September compared with $611 million a year ago.

Fiat Chrysler US posted just over $1 billion in one-time pretax charges, including an $848 million adjustment for recalls and $159 million for vehicles damaged in a Chinese port explosion last August.


United Airlines CEO plans to return in the first quarter

NEW YORK (AP) — United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz says he plans to return to work sometime in the first quarter of 2016.

Munoz, 56, has been out on medical following an Oct. 15 heart attack. The company’s general counsel, Brett J. Hart, has led the company in his absence.

Munoz had spent a month leading the Chicago-based United Continental Holdings before having the heart attack. He became CEO on Sept. 8 after Jeff Smisek was pushed out amid a federal investigation into the airline’s dealings with the government agency running one of its most important airports.


Wells Fargo to pay $81.6M to homeowners in bankruptcy

Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $81.6 million to settle claims that it failed to notify homeowners in bankruptcy of changes in their mortgage payments.

The Department of Justice said Thursday that the lender’s failure to give borrowers timely notice of payment hikes or reductions violated a federal bankruptcy rule aimed at ensuring proper accounting of consumers’ costs in bankruptcy.

Under the rule, which took effect in December of 2011, mortgage lenders are required to give borrowers in Chapter 13 bankruptcy 21 days’ notice before making an adjustment to their monthly payment.


Expedia buys vacation rental company in expansion move

NEW YORK (AP) — Expedia has stepped up its push to become a one-stop hub for all things vacation and travel with its planned buyout of HomeAway, a vacation-rental company.

The $3.9 billion deal announced late Wednesday would further consolidate an industry which is becoming increasingly competitive.

Expedia already has an arsenal of offerings, including Orbitz, Travelocity and Cheap Tickets.


US regulators: Still heavy risk in big bank loans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators say they’re still seeing a heavy dose of risk in large loans made by banks and other financial institutions, despite the recovering U.S. economy.

The Federal Reserve and other agencies cite ongoing loose lending standards and an increase in loans made for financing takeovers of companies. Those loans are risky because they can greatly exceed the amount of a firm’s earnings.

The steep decline in oil prices over the past year has hurt many energy companies. Loans in the industry are at greater risk of souring or are already in default, according to the agencies’ 2014 annual review.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell four points to close at 17,863. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,099. The Nasdaq composite fell 15 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,127.

U.S. crude oil fell $1.12, or 2.4 per cent, to $45.20 a barrel in electronic trading in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 60 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $47.98 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline futures fell 2 cents, or 1 per cent, to $1.487 a gallon, heating oil fell 3 cents, or 2 per cent, to $1.361 a gallon and natural gas futures rose 10 cents, or 4.5 per cent, to $2.364 per 1,000 cubic feet.