Business Highlights


Viacom CEO’s tenure may be up soon after board shake-up

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman may not have much time left at the entertainment conglomerate.

National Amusements, the theatre company through which Sumner Redstone controls both Viacom and CBS, said Thursday that it has replaced Dauman and four other directors on Viacom’s 11-member board.

The shake-up comes as lawyers battle over whether Redstone, 93, is mentally competent to run the multibillion-dollar New York-based media companies Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.


Shanghai Disneyland opens with hopes cash will rain down

SHANGHAI (AP) — Walt Disney Co. opened Shanghai Disneyland, its first theme park in mainland China, with a lavish celebration Thursday featuring Communist Party leaders, a children’s choir, Sleeping Beauty and other Disney characters.

A vice-premier joined Disney CEO Bob Iger in cutting the grand opening’s red ribbon, showing the ruling party’s support for the $5.5 billion investment in promoting tourism at a time of slowing economic growth. They read letters of congratulations from the Chinese and American presidents, Xi Jinping and Barack Obama.


Strike averted at Macy’s flagship store with tentative deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Hours after a midnight deadline had passed Macy’s announced a tentative deal with workers, averting what could have become the first strike at its flagship Manhattan store in more than four decades.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said Thursday that it negotiated higher wages and more affordable health care. The union declined to release further details about the four-year contract until it is approved by workers. Macy’s also would not discuss specifics of the new contract.

The strike would have brought in other area Macy’s stores as well. The union represents 5,000 Macy’s workers in the New York City area, including 3,500 employees the flagship store.


Volkswagen to launch more electric cars after diesel scandal

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German automaker Volkswagen plans to ramp up its offerings of electric vehicles as it fights to bounce back from a scandal over diesel cars rigged to cheat on emissions tests.

The electric campaign is part of a wide-ranging review of the company’s strategy that also includes increasing profitability, investing in new ways of getting around that don’t necessarily involve owning a car, and making the company’s management more open and trustworthy.


Philadelphia is 1st major American city with soda tax

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia became the first major American city with a soda tax on Thursday despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the beverage industry to block it.

The City Council gave final approval to a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet beverages. The tax is set to take effect Jan. 1.

Only Berkeley, California, has a similar law. Soda tax proposals have failed in more than 30 cities and states, including twice in Philadelphia, in recent years. Such plans are typically criticized as disproportionately affecting the poor, who are more likely to consume sugary drinks.


Revlon to buy Elizabeth Arden for $419 million

NEW YORK (AP) — Revlon Inc. said Thursday it is buying Elizabeth Arden Inc. for about $419.3 million in cash, a deal uniting two well-known names in the world of beauty and cosmetics.

The New York company is paying $14 for each Elizabeth Arden share, a premium of 50 per cent over their closing price Thursday. The companies value the deal at $870 million including debt.

Revlon said the combined company will benefit from having a presence in more markets worldwide. It expects savings of about $140 million from the combination.


Western leaders, CEOs visit Russia amid sanctions fatigue

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The European Union needs to engage with Russia despite the painful sanctions exchanged over the past two years, a top EU official said Thursday during a rare visit that included talks with President Vladimir Putin and raised hopes for a thaw in ties.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU’s executive Commission, is the highest ranking EU official to visit Russia since the country annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014, triggering sanctions from the U.S. and EU. Moscow retaliated by banning imports of meat, vegetable and dairy products from the EU, a blow to many of the bloc’s members.


Applications for US unemployment aid rise to still-low level

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, but to a low level that indicates employers are still cutting relatively few jobs.

Weekly applications rose 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000, the highest in four weeks. The less volatile four-week average declined slightly to 269,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs and have remained below 300,000 for 67 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.

Just 2.15 million Americans are receiving benefits, 4 per cent lower than a year earlier.


US consumer prices climbed in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices rose a moderate amount in May, driven up by rising energy costs and the biggest increase in shelter costs in more than nine years.

Consumer prices increased 0.2 per cent last month following a 0.4 per cent April increase, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Energy prices rose for a third straight month, but food costs fell.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, was also up 0.2 per cent in May.


US homebuilder sentiment rises in June

U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic about their sales prospects this month than they have since the beginning of the year.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday rose two points to 60. That’s the highest reading since January.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The index had been in the low 60s for eight months until February, when it slipped to 58. It held steady there for another three months.


Average US 30-year mortgage falls to 3.54 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week amid continued global economic concerns.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 3.54 per cent from 3.60 per cent last week. That is well below its level a year ago of 4.00 per cent.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.81 per cent from 2.87 per cent.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 92.93 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 17,733.10. It had been down more than 100 points earlier in the day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.49 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,077.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 9.98 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,844.91.

The price of benchmark U.S. crude oil sank $1.80 to $46.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed $1.78 to $47.19 a barrel in London. Heating oil fell 5 cents to $1.42 a gallon, wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $1.47 a gallon and natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.58 per 1,000 cubic feet.