Business Highlights


Fed keeps key rate unchanged; no hint on timing of next hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve kept a key interest rate unchanged Wednesday against the backdrop of a slowdown in U.S. and global growth and provided no hint of when its next rate hike may occur.

In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed noted that the United States is enjoying solid job gains but that “economic activity appears to have slowed.” At the same time, it expressed less alarm about global economic conditions than it had after its previous meeting.


Lawmakers blast Valeant for price-gouging tactics

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers accused Valeant Pharmaceuticals of gouging patients to reward Wall Street investors at a hearing Wednesday focused on the embattled drugmaker’s pricing tactics.

The tough words from Senate Republicans and Democrats came as billionaire hedge fund manager William Ackman defended the company’s business model and its outgoing CEO expressed regrets for its most egregious price increases.

The intense scrutiny of the Laval, Quebec-based company has triggered repeated sell-offs of Valeant shares, which have lost nearly 90 per cent of their value since peaking last August.


Facebook reports stronger-than-expected 1Q results

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Facebook posted stronger-than-expected results for its first quarter, helped by a growing number of users and higher advertising revenue, especially on mobile devices.

The social media giant on Wednesday reported earnings of $1.51 billion, or 52 cents per share, up from $512 million, or 18 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were 77 cents per share in the latest quarter, well above the 62 cents that analysts polled by FactSet were expecting.

Revenue was $5.38 billion, up from $3.54 billion. Analysts had forecast $5.26 billion.


McDonald’s tests McNuggets without artificial additives

NEW YORK (AP) — Like the indestructible Twinkie, Chicken McNuggets are practically a culinary punchline, a symbol of hyper-processed fast food with a list of ingredients that reads like a chemistry exam. But now McDonald’s wants to take at least some of the mystery substances out.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain says it is testing a version without artificial preservatives.

It’s the latest move by McDonald’s to try to catch up with changing tastes and turn around its business, which has lost customers in recent years.

The new McNugget recipe is “simpler,” and “parents can feel good” about it, the fast-food company said.


Germany to subsidize electric cars to help own auto industry

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s auto industry risks being overtaken by foreign competitors unless it receives greater domestic support, the country’s economy minister said Wednesday, announcing a 1 billion euro ($1.13 billion) plan to subsidize electric cars.

Electric vehicles have had a sluggish start in Germany, the country where the combustion engine-powered automobile was born. A government plan to get 1 million e-cars on the streets by 2020 is far behind schedule, with just 50,000 sold so far. Starting in May, buyers will get 4,000 euros ($4,514.80) toward the purchase of an all-electric vehicle, while plug-in hybrids will receive a subsidy of up to 3,000 euros.


Anthem trumps Street 1Q forecasts, reaffirms 2016 guidance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Growing government business fueled Anthem in the first quarter, as earnings for the nation’s second-largest health insurer easily topped Wall Street expectations.

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer said Wednesday that operating revenue from its work for the government, which includes Medicaid and Medicare Advantage coverage, jumped 14 per cent and makes up slightly more than half of its total of $20.31 billion. Operating revenue excludes investment gains.

Anthem’s enrolment in the state and federally funded Medicaid program climbed 7.6 per cent from last year’s first quarter to more than 6 million people, as the company’s total membership grew past 39 million.


Comcast beats Street 1Q forecasts, adds subscribers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Comcast Corp. on Wednesday reported first-quarter earnings of $2.13 billion, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations with help from an increase in subscriber numbers.

The company added 53,000 video subscribers during the quarter, appeasing fears about “cord-cutters” who get rid of cable subscription in favour of video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. In all, Comcast added 269,000 subscribers during the quarter, up nearly 36 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

On a per-share basis, the Philadelphia-based company said it had profit of 87 cents. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, came to 84 cents per share.


High product, labour costs lead to decline in Boeing’s profit

NEW YORK (AP) — Aerospace giant Boeing Co. saw its quarterly earnings plunge 9 per cent compared to last year, with the Chicago-based company posting $1.2 billion in profits.

Revenues were up 2 per cent to $22.6 billion but that was not enough to offset higher costs for Boeing’s products and labour.

During the first three months of this year, Boeing’s products and labour costs increased to $19.1 billion, up 3.2 per cent from the same period last year. It also spent an extra $148 million — or 19 per cent — on research and development as it prepares to roll out a new generation of its popular 737 and 777 jets.


Ford recalls 202K pickups, SUVs, cars to fix transmissions

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling nearly 202,000 pickup trucks, SUVs and cars in North America because the automatic transmissions can suddenly downshift to first gear.

The transmission recall covers the 2011 and 2012 F-150 and the 2012 Expedition, Mustang and Lincoln Navigator. Ford says a software problem in a speed sensor can force the vehicles into a downshift. The problem has caused three crashes but no injuries.

Dealers will inspect the sensors and repair as needed.


FTC rules Amazon is liable for in-app charges

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that Amazon is liable for in-app purchases made by children, the latest development in a suit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014.

The FTC reached a settlement agreement with Apple and Google in 2014 about in-app purchases made by children without parental consent but sued Amazon when the Seattle company did not agree to settle. All three companies now require a password for in-app purchases or an opt-in to enable purchases without a password.

The judge asked for information from the FTC and Amazon about how much money Amazon owes consumers related to the in-app purchases.


The Dow Jones industrial average gained 51.23 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 18,041.55. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 3.45 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,095.15. The Nasdaq composite index slipped 25.14 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4,863.14.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.29, or 2.9 per cent, to close at $45.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, added $1.44, or 3.1 per cent, to $47.18 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline edged up 1 cent to $1.58 a gallon. Heating oil jumped 5 cents, or 3.5 per cent, to $1.38 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $2 per 1,000 cubic feet.