Business Highlights

Posted 5:42 p.m. Wednesday


Fed debated mystery of persistently low inflation

Federal Reserve officials at their September meeting struggled to come to terms with persistently low inflation. But minutes of their discussions released Wednesday show that in the end, they decided that they should continue to signal the possibility of a third rate hike this year.


How Trump tax plan would alter mortgage interest deduction

Each year, taxpayers subsidize America's homeowners by roughly $70 billion, with the benefits flowing disproportionately to coastal areas with high incomes and pricey homes, from New York and Washington to Los Angeles and San Francisco. But under President Donald Trump's tax proposal, some Americans would likely be steered away from this tax break. Here's why: Trump's plan would double the standard deduction, which taxpayers can take if they don't itemize deductions. The doubled standard deduction could exceed the savings many receive now from itemizing their expenses for housing, state and local taxes and related costs.


US demands raise fears that leaving NAFTA could hurt economy

The North American Free Trade Agreement is in its 23rd year. But there are growing doubts that it will survive through its 24th. President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from the agreement if he can't get what he wants in a renegotiation. But what he wants — from requiring that more auto production be made-in-America to shifting more government contracts to U.S. companies — will likely be unacceptable to America's two NAFTA partners, Mexico and Canada.


Coach no more; New York company wants to be called Tapestry

To better incorporate all of the brands it now owns, the storied Coach company of New York is changing its name to Tapestry. The luxury goods company that came to prominence in the "Mad Men" era now owns brands like Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade & Co. as well. CEO Victor Luis said Wednesday that the name Tapestry is more inclusive.


Could cyberattacks knock out lights in the US? Not so easily

Hackers likely linked to the North Korean government targeted a U.S. electricity company last month, according to a security firm that says it detected and stopped the attacks. The phishing emails aimed at executives didn't threaten critical infrastructure. It's the latest example of cyberespionage targeting U.S. energy utilities, though experts say such attacks are often more about creating a psychological effect than they are a serious threat to the electricity grid.


Odd bedfellows fight Trump move on coal, nuclear

An unusual coalition of business and environmental groups is fighting a Trump administration plan to bolster coal and nuclear energy at the expense of natural gas, wind and solar. Dow Chemical and Koch Industries stand with environmental groups in opposing the plan, which would reward nuclear and coal-fired power plants for adding reliability to the nation's power grid. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the plan would help prevent outages such as those caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.


Facebook's Sandberg meets with lawmakers amid Russia probe

One of Facebook's top executives met Wednesday with House members investigating the company's Russia-linked ads, and told them the social media giant is serious about dealing with the issue. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, told lawmakers the company is working hard to ensure Americans "understand what the propaganda is that they may or may not be reading," said House Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who is leading the House intelligence committee probe.


Justices could rule out business liability under 1789 law

The Supreme Court appears ready to rule out lawsuits in U.S. courts against businesses by foreign victims of human rights abuses and extremist attacks. The case pits Israeli victims of attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1990s and 2000s against Jordan-based Arab Bank. The victims claim that the bank helped finance the attacks. The issue is whether the foreigners can use an 18th-century law to hold the bank accountable for its role.


Report: Key changes needed to prevent fiery rail crashes

A prestigious scientific organization on Wednesday called for more frequent and better inspections of freight railroad tracks to prevent potentially catastrophic oil and ethanol train crashes. A report by the National Academies of Sciences also urged better training for emergency workers and questioned the validity of recent train speed regulation.


Facebook gets real about broadening virtual reality's appeal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be realizing a sobering reality about his company's expansion into virtual reality. The headsets that Facebook's Oculus subsidiary has been making to put users into artificial worlds have been too expensive and confining to appeal to the masses. Zuckerberg says Oculus will tackle the problem with a stand-alone headset that will set at a fraction of the price of its Rift headset that requires a connection to a personal computer.


Get lost mom and dad! Amazon lets teens shop on their own

Teens will soon be able to shop on Amazon on their own, without having to beg mom or dad each time. The online retail giant says adults will soon be able to add up to four teens to their Amazon accounts and give them their own login information. Parents choose the card that they will pay with, and teens won't be able to see the card's information. Parents will be alerted when something is bought.


U.S. stocks edge up just enough to set more records as technology, health care and household goods companies move higher. Delta and JetBlue lead airlines higher, but banks fall as investors prepare for them to start reporting their quarterly results. Twenty-First Century Fox skids as it stands to lose advertising revenue after the U.S. men fail to quality for the 2018 World Cup.


The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 4.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,555.24. The Dow Jones industrial average added 42.21 points, or 0.2 percent, to 22,872.89. The Nasdaq composite rose 16.30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,603.55. All three indexes finished at all-time highs. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks edged down 1.08 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,506.92.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 38 cents to $51.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 33 cents to $56.94 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 2 cents to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil gained 2 cents to $1.79 a gallon. Natural gas remained at $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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