Business Highlights

Posted August 31


Impact of Houston's economy is felt well beyond its area

The Houston that was battered by Hurricane Harvey is an economic powerhouse whose influence reaches far beyond its region, leading many to worry about when its economy be able to stand up again. Houston produces the plastic used in everything from sports cars to baby bottles and is part of a low-lying coastal region that supplies nearly a third of U.S. oil-refining capacity. If it were an independent country, Houston would boast the world's 23rd-biggest economy, just below Sweden and just above Poland.


AP Explains: Harvey shines light on flood insurance program

The massive flooding Harvey has caused in Texas and Louisiana comes as Congress weighs renewing a federal flood insurance program that continually pays out more than it takes in through premiums, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for $24.6 billion and counting. The National Flood Insurance Program expires Sept. 30.


Texas drivers rush to fill gas tanks as pump prices rise

A major gasoline pipeline closed since Hurricane Harvey may be able to resume shipping fuel from the Houston area by Sunday, and that could ease gasoline shortages across the southern United States. But filling tanks is already getting harder in central Texas, where some stations are out of gas and pump costs are spiking. The Texas attorney general's office says $4 a gallon or more is price-gouging. They've received more than 200 complaints of unfair gas prices since Harvey hit Texas.


Medicaid fueling opioid epidemic? New theory is challenged

There's an intriguing new theory gaining traction among conservative foes of the Obama-era health law. The theory is that the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion to low-income adults may be fueling the opioid epidemic. If true, that would represent a shocking outcome for government policy. But university researchers who study the drug problem say there's no evidence to suggest that's happening. In fact, some say it's just the opposite.


Tax overhaul faces resistance from fans of some deductions

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have pledged to overhaul the nation's complex tax code. To slash taxes, they say they'll curb a web of expensive deductions and credits to allow more revenue to flow to the government. Problem is, they're likely to run into a wall of resistance from people and groups drawn together by a singular warning: Don't touch my deduction.


Explosions rock flood-crippled chemical plant near Houston

Explosions and fires have rocked a flood-crippled chemical plant near Houston, adding a new hazard to Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. The plant's owners are warning that more explosions could follow because a loss of refrigeration is causing certain chemicals to degrade and burn. The Environmental Protection Agency and local officials say air sampling shows no reason for alarm.


Apple expected to unveil next iPhones at Sept. 12 showcase

Apple's faithful fans and investors won't have to wait much longer to see what the iPhone maker has in store next. The company sent out invitations Thursday to set Sept. 12 as the date for an annual post-Labor Day showcase. As usual, the famously secretive Apple didn't say what's on tap, but this is typically when the company unveils new iPhones.


Mnuchin won't say if he wants Tubman on $20 bill

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is raising speculation that Harriet Tubman's future on the $20 bill could be in jeopardy. In a CNBC interview, Mnuchin on Thursday avoided a direct answer when asked whether he supported the decision made by the Obama administration to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Tubman, the 19th century African-American abolitionist who was a leader in the Underground Railroad.


Federal agency: Estee Lauder discriminates against new dads

The U.S. agency charged with stopping workplace discrimination has sued Estee Lauder, alleging that new fathers at the beauty products maker get lesser benefits than their female colleagues. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in Wednesday's lawsuit in Philadelphia that Estee Lauder allows new fathers to take two weeks of paid leave, but new moms can take six weeks. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Christopher Sullivan, who had asked to take primary caregiver leave for six weeks.


The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 14.05 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,471.64, its highest close in three weeks. That allowed the index to finish August with a tiny gain. The Dow Jones industrial average added 55.67 points, or 0.3 percent, to 21,948.10. The Nasdaq composite gained 60.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,428.66, above the record high it set in late July. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 13.95 points, or 1 percent, to 1,405.28.

Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.27, or 2.8 percent, to $47.23 a barrel in New York as the rains hitting the Gulf Coast began to abate. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added $1.52, or 3 percent, to $52.38 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline prices surged 26 cents, or 13.5 percent, to $2.14 a gallon, its highest price since June 2015. Heating oil rose 8 cents, or 5 percent, to $1.76 a gallon and natural gas gained 10 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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