Business Highlights


Fed voices concern about global economic pressures

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve sounded a note of concern Wednesday about how global pressures could affect the U.S. economy, while keeping a key interest rate unchanged.

The statement it issued after its latest policy meeting signalled that it might consider slowing future rate hikes if market losses and global weakness don’t abate.

But the Fed did not commit to slowing its pace of rate increases, and stock investors appeared disappointed. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down about 223 points, or 1.4 per cent. The Dow had been up slightly before the Fed issued its statement.


Facebook posts strong 4Q as company closes gap with Google

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook is growing at an exceptional pace as it enters adolescence, propelling it into a better position to challenge Google as the Internet’s most powerful company.

Facebook’s fourth-quarter report Wednesday provided the latest gauge of the company’s impressive strides.

It marked the first time that Facebook’s quarterly revenue has surpassed $5 billion. Its earnings also more than doubled to $1.56 billion, even as the Menlo Park, California, company invests heavily in virtual reality, Internet access in remote parts of the world and a mobile ad network for services other than its own.


Federal pain panel rife with links to pharma companies

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal panel that has recently criticized efforts to cut back on painkiller prescriptions is studded with members who have financial ties to drug companies.

Nearly a third of members on the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee have financial connections to makers of opioid drugs like OxyContin.

The government advisory panel consists of federal scientists, outside academics and patient representatives. Of the 18 committee members at a recent meeting to discuss the government’s handling of pain issues, at least five had drug-industry connections.


US new-home sales soar in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans rushed to buy new homes in December at the strongest pace in 10 months, with 2015 marking the strongest year for this segment of the housing market since 2007.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new-home sales surged 10.8 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000. It was the third consecutive monthly gain since sales collapsed in September.

Sales of new homes accelerated sharply in 2015, rising 14.5 per cent on the entire year to 501,000.


UN chief wants clean energy investments doubled by 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. secretary-general on Wednesday challenged investors around the world to at least double their investments in clean energy by 2020, saying that “we must begin the shift away from fossil fuels immediately.”

Ban Ki-moon told an investor summit on climate risk that increasing investment in clean energy is critical in following up on the landmark agreement to tackle climate change reached in Paris last year.

Ban said about $330 billion was invested in clean energy last year, but that is far from what he calls the “clean trillion” needed per year in the decades to come.


Boeing adjusted 4Q profit beats, 2016 outlook disappoints

DALLAS (AP) — Boeing Co. shares slid to their lowest levels in more than two years on Wednesday after the company reported lower fourth-quarter profit and gave a disappointing forecast for 2016.

The company said it expects adjusted 2016 earnings of between $8.15 and $8.35 per share, below market expectations of $9.41. It also gave a disappointing revenue forecast, and said aircraft deliveries would slip from a record 762 in 2015 to between 740 and 745 this year.

All of that could stoke fears that Boeing faces headwinds from a lacklustre global economy, and that the market for new planes may be slowing after several boom years.


Norfolk Southern 4Q profit falls 29 per cent as volume slows

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Norfolk Southern Corp.’s fourth-quarter profit slid 29 per cent as the railroad delivered 6 per cent less freight. It plans to cut 2,000 jobs, or 4 per cent of its workforce, as it fends off a takeover bid from rival Canadian Pacific.

The railroad also plans to reduce overtime costs, eliminate about 1,500 miles of little-used track and improve efficiency by upgrading its locomotive fleet.

In the fourth quarter, the railroad reported net income of $361 million, or $1.20 per share. That’s down from $511 million, or $1.64 per share, a year earlier.


Wal-Mart’s shutdown creates new food deserts

FAIRFIELD, Ala. (AP) — Wal-Mart’s decision to shutter 154 stores across the country means will create three new food deserts in Alabama, Arkansas and Kansas, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Besides the these new food deserts, another 31 neighbourhoods in 15 states will lack any place that sells fresh produce and meat once the last of the Wal-Mart stores slated for closure turns off the lights Feb. 5. However, poverty is not so pervasive in those neighbourhoods that they would qualify as food deserts, as defined by the federal government.


Toyota stays No. 1 automaker, sells 10.15M vehicles in 2015

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it sold 10.151 million vehicles in 2015, retaining its status as the world’s top-selling automaker for the fourth straight year.

The sales figure compared with 2015 sales of 9.93 million vehicles for Volkswagen AG and 9.8 million for General Motors.

Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, has forecast sales at 10.114 million vehicles in 2016. Its actual sales in 2015 beat its forecast for sales of 10.098 million vehicles.


FTC sues for-profit DeVry University for job, earning claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government on Wednesday sued the operators of the for-profit DeVry University, alleging they misled consumers about students’ job and earnings prospects.

In the complaint, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that DeVry deceived students by claiming that 90 per cent of its graduates actively seeking employment landed jobs in their fields within six months of graduation. The agency also says DeVry was misleading when it claimed its graduates had 15 per cent higher incomes one year after graduation on average than graduates of all other colleges or universities.

Instead of landing jobs in their field of study, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, some graduates found themselves working as delivery drivers or restaurant servers. She said up to 50,000 or so students may have been affected by the alleged wrongdoing.


Wendy’s investigating ‘unusual activity’ on payment cards

NEW YORK (AP) — Wendy’s says it is investigating reports of “unusual activity” on payment cards that had been used at some of its restaurants.

The company says it learned from payment industry contacts this month of reports indicating fraudulent charges may have occurred on cards that had been used legitimately at some of its locations. It says it is has launched an investigation with the help of cybersecurity experts and that it is co-operating with law enforcement officials.

Wendy’s Co., based in Dublin, Ohio, encouraged customers to watch for unauthorized charges on their cards.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 222.77 points, to 1.4 per cent, to close at 15,944.46. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank 20.68 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 1,882.95. The Nasdaq composite index lost 99.51 points, or 2.2 per cent, to 4,468.17.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 85 cents, or 2.7 per cent, to close at $32.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, rose $1.30, or 4.1 per cent, to $31.10 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline slipped to $1.0457 a gallon. Heating oil rose 5.8 cents, or 5.9 per cent, to $1.025 a gallon. Natural gas added 0.9 cents to $2.189 per 1,000 cubic feet.