Business Highlights


Leaving rates alone, Fed sees ultra-slow pace of hikes ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve signalled Wednesday that it foresees an exceedingly slow pace of interest rate hikes — and is in no hurry to resume them.

In explaining its decision to keep interest rates unchanged, the Fed expressed concern about a recent slump in U.S. job growth and the potential consequences of Britain’s upcoming vote on whether to leave the European Union.

The Fed suggested in a statement that it needs a clearer economic picture before resuming the rate hikes it began in December.


Home Depot: US credit card firms slow to upgrade security

ATLANTA (AP) — Visa and MasterCard are using security measures prone to fraud, putting retailers and customers at risk of thieves, The Home Depot Inc. says in a new federal lawsuit.

It’s the latest large retailer to raise the security concerns. Last month, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sued Visa Inc. over similar issues.

Home Depot says new payment cards with “chip” technology remain less secure in the U.S. than cards used in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Even with chips, U.S. cards still rely on customers’ hand-written signatures for verification, rather than more secure Personal Identification Numbers, or PINs, Home Depot maintains.


Smart money is looking to the bookies to guess UK vote

LONDON (AP) — To gauge whether Britain will vote to leave the European Union, the smart money is looking to the bookies.

After polls missed badly in measuring sentiment before some of Britain’s most recent votes, bookies’ odds have become the point of reference for anyone trying to guess the outcome of the June 23 referendum on the country’s EU membership.

And it’s not just your average Joe plunking down a bill at the local betting shop. Big investors including Morgan Stanley, BlackRock and UBS have all turned to the gamblers for guidance on this seismic vote.


Strike looming at Macy’s iconic New York store

NEW YORK (AP) — Workers at Macy’s flagship store in New York City are threatening to strike if there is no new contract by a midnight deadline. The store, a Manhattan tourist hot spot, hasn’t had a strike since 1972.

The union representing store workers said contested issues include health care, unpredictable schedules and pension plans for senior employees. Three other area stores may strike as well.

Macy’s sees the threat of the strike as real and has placed ads in local newspapers seeking temporary workers. Macy’s says negotiations are ongoing.


Report: New evidence of rising ‘Obamacare’ premiums

WASHINGTON (AP) — Premiums for popular low-cost medical plans under the federal health care law are expected to go up an average of 11 per cent next year, said a study that reinforced reports of sharp increases around the country.

For consumers, the impact will depend on whether they get government subsidies for their premiums, as well as on their own willingness to switch plans to keep the increases more manageable, said the analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The full picture on 2017 premiums will emerge later this summer.


Price hikes in Egypt bite hard during holy month of Ramadan

CAIRO (AP) — Recent price hikes in Egypt are particularly painful during Ramadan, when families traditionally break the dawn-to-dusk fast with lavish feasts. The holy month began June 6.

In an attempt to soften the impact on low-income families, the government has opened new, mobile markets offering basic products at discount prices, and the army has fed and distributed basic goods to the poor in highly publicized events.

Annual inflation hit 12.23 per cent in May — the highest level in seven years — driven partly by dollar appreciation. The economy has yet to recover from the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.


Alaska Airlines CEO says he might keep Virgin America brand

NEW YORK (AP) — Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said Wednesday that he might keep the Virgin America brand, running it and Alaska as two different products within the same airline group.

In April, Alaska announced plans to buy Virgin America for $2.6 billion, a deal which would make it a West Coast powerhouse. Both airlines have very loyal — but different — followings and almost immediately both groups expressed fears that the combination would kill off what they love about their own airline.

A decision hasn’t yet been made but Tilden noted that European carriers have kept their own identity following mergers.


Johnson Publishing announces sale of Jet, Ebony magazines

CHICAGO (AP) — Ebony and Jet magazines, which have chronicled African-American life for the past 71 years, have been sold to an Austin, Texas-based private equity firm.

Johnson Publishing Co. announced Tuesday that Ebony and digital-only Jet were sold to Clear View Group. The sale of the magazines was closed in May, and no sale price was disclosed.

The sale of the magazines allows the publishing company to reduce its debt associated with the media industry, Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers said in a statement.


Foreign ownership of US debt falls for 1st time in 6 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities slipped for the first time in six months, led by declines in Ireland and the Cayman Islands, the third and fourth largest owners of U.S. debt.

The Treasury Department says total foreign holdings declined 0.7 per cent to $6.24 trillion.

The Cayman Islands, a Caribbean banking centre, reduced its holdings 2.5 per cent to $258.5 billion, while Ireland cut back 2.4 per cent to $257.9 billion.

China, the largest overseas owner of U.S. debt, also reduced its holdings by a slight 0.1 per cent, to $1.24 trillion. Japan, the second largest, raised its ownership 0.5 per cent to $1.14 trillion.


Feds propose shutting down big for-profit college accreditor

BOSTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education proposed on Wednesday to shut down the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges, a rare move that could put dozens of schools at risk of losing federal funding.

The recommendation from the department’s staff would sever ties with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, a national group that oversees 900 campuses and wields the seal of approval that colleges need to receive federal aid. The group has been under intense scrutiny after critics, including attorneys general in 13 states, accused it of overlooking deception at some schools.


Tesla opening gallery within Los Angeles Nordstrom store

DETROIT (AP) — Shoppers at a Los Angeles Nordstrom can soon browse Tesla Motors’ cars while they’re in the men’s department.

A Tesla Gallery opens Saturday at Nordstrom in The Grove shopping complex. The department store collaboration is the first of its kind for Tesla, which operates its own stores and doesn’t sell through a traditional dealer network.

It will showcase Tesla’s new Model X SUV. Customers can’t buy a Tesla in the gallery, but they can explore trim options and go for a test ride with a Tesla employee.

Tesla is working on obtaining a license to sell cars from the Nordstrom location.


The Dow Jones industrial average lost 34.65 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,640.17. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3.82 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,071.50. The Nasdaq composite fell 8.62 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,834.93.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 48 cents to close at $48.01 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 86 cents to close at $48.97 a barrel in London. In other energy commodities, wholesale gasoline futures fell 2 cents to $1.50 a gallon, heating oil closed down 2 cents to $1.48 a gallon and natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.595 per 1,000 cubic feet.