Business Highlights


Auto makers mostly enjoy strong sales in November, Volkswagen struggles

DETROIT (AP) — Thanks partly to Black Friday promotions, most automakers are reporting booming sales last month.

Car buying site predicts that sales of new cars and trucks will hit 1.33 million, eclipsing the previous November record set in 2001.

General Motors’ sales rose 1.5 per cent over last November, while Toyota and Fiat Chrysler’s each saw 3 per cent sales gains. Hyundai’s sales jumped 12 per cent, while Nissan’s were up 4 per cent. Ford’s sales were flat.

Honda’s sales fell 5 per cent, hurt by lower CR-V sales. But the biggest sales declines were at Volkswagen. VW’s U.S. sales plummeted almost 25 per cent, hurt by the company’s admission that its diesel vehicles cheated on emissions tests.


Group funded by Coke to fight obesity disbanding

NEW YORK (AP) — A non-profit funded by the Coca-Cola Co. to combat obesity is disbanding following revelations about the beverage maker’s involvement with the group.

The Global Energy Balance Network said on its website Monday night that it is “discontinuing operations due to resource limitations.” The decision was effective immediately.

The group had previously said that it received an “unrestricted gift” from Coke and that the Atlanta-based soft drink giant had “no input” into its activities.But last week, The Associated Press reported on emails showing that Coke was closely involved with its direction.


Zuckerberg is a dad, and he’s giving away most of his money

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife announced the birth of their daughter Max as well as plans to donate most of their wealth, or roughly $45 billion, to a new organization that will tackle a broad range of the world’s ills.

Zuckerberg said he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will commit 99 per cent of their Facebook stock to such causes as fighting disease, improving education, harnessing clean energy, reducing poverty and promoting equal rights.

They are forming a new organization, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to pursue those goals.


Puerto Rico makes debt payment, warns of dwindling funds

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico narrowly avoided a multimillion-dollar default on Tuesday by announcing a last-minute bond payment while warning that a deepening financial crisis has forced the government to divert money slated for future debt payments to avoid a shutdown of basic services.

The announcement by Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank came as Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla testified at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the island was facing a liquidity crunch.


Express Scripts offers low-cost alternative to Turing drug

The nation’s biggest pharmacy benefits manager is muscling back into the debate over soaring drug costs by promoting a less-expensive alternative to a life-saving medicine with a list price of $750 per pill.

Express Scripts Holding Co. said Tuesday that it will make a treatment for the rare infection toxoplasmosis that costs $1 per pill available on its biggest formulary, or list of covered drugs.

Daraprim, the drug that costs $750 per pill, comes from Turing Pharmaceuticals, which stirred outrage among doctors, patients and politicians when it bought rights to the pill earlier this year and then jacked up the price. The 62-year-old drug had been priced at $13.50 per pill before that.


Obama says parts of climate deal must be legally binding

PARIS (AP) — President Barack Obama said Tuesday that parts of the global warming deal being negotiated in Paris should be legally binding on the participating countries, setting up a potential fight with Republicans at home.

Obama’s stand won praise at the U.N. climate conference from those who want a strong agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The Obama administration has pledged during the international talks to reduce U.S. emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2025. But inscribing the emissions target in the Paris deal would probably require Obama to submit the pact to Congress, where it would be unlikely to win ratification. Many Republicans doubt global warming is real or fear that stringent pollution controls could kill jobs.

So the administration is looking to keep the targets out while including binding procedures on when and how countries should review their targets and raise them if possible.


Monsanto pledges to be carbon neutral by 2021

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Monsanto Co. plans to make its operations carbon neutral by 2021, in part by working with farmers who use its products to help them reduce carbon emissions, the company’s CEO told The Associated Press.

To be carbon neutral, Monsanto must reduce its net emission of climate-changing carbon to zero. Monsanto’s announcement comes as world leaders gather in Paris for two weeks of negotiations to finalize a sweeping global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.


Rudder problem, pilot actions led to Indonesia AirAsia crash

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A rudder control system problem that had occurred nearly two dozen times in the previous 12 months coupled with the pilots’ response led to last year’s crash of an AirAsia plane in Indonesia that killed all 162 people on board, investigators said Tuesday.

In releasing their report, the country’s National Transportation Safety Committee said an analysis of Flight 8501’s data recorder showed the rudder control system had sent repeated warnings to the pilots during the Dec. 28 flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.


RV industry completes turnaround after stalling in recession

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — After a long, bumpy ride, production of RVs has just about returned to where it was before the Great Recession put sales in the slow lane.

Overall recreational vehicle shipments from manufacturers to dealers — a key measure of consumer demand — are expected to increase 3.5 per cent to 369,100 units in 2015, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association said Tuesday at the start of an industry trade show in Louisville. And the industry expects to ride the momentum into 2016, when total wholesale shipments are projected to reach 375,100.

That would be the highest total since the pre-recessionary boom times a decade ago.


US factory activity drops in Nov.; first decline in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory activity plummeted last month to the lowest level in more than six years, with a stronger dollar and low oil prices cutting new orders and hurting production.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index of factory activity in November dropped to 48.6 from 50.1 in October. Any reading below 50 signals contraction.

It now rests at its lowest level since 2009, a worrisome sign as Federal Reserve officials will consider raising short-term interest rates this month on the understanding that the economy has sufficiently healed from the Great Recession.


US construction spending rises to highest level in 8 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending jumped in October, fueled by solid gains in home building and the largest increase in federal construction in nine years.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that construction spending rose 1 per cent in October from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of more than $1.1 trillion. That’s the highest level since December 2007 when the Great Recession began.

More Americans are buying new homes or renting apartments, driving greater residential development. And federal, state and local governments, spurred partly by greater tax revenue, are building more roads and schools. Construction spending has increased 13 per cent in the past 12 months.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 168.43 points, or 1 per cent, to close at 17,888.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 22.22 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 2,102.63 and the Nasdaq composite rose 47.64 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 5,156.31.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 20 cents to $41.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price oil internationally, lost 17 cents to $44.44 a barrel in London. Heating oil rose a cent to $1.369 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose six cents to $1.363 a gallon and natural gas was roughly unchanged at $2.231 per thousand cubic feet.