Update on the latest business

Posted October 13


Stocks fall

Stocks are broadly lower in midday trading on Wall Street following a surprisingly weak trade report from China.

Bank stocks are falling the most. Wells Fargo slumped 2 percent after the bank's embattled CEO abruptly left the company late Wednesday.

Companies that make basic materials also fell. Many of those companies rely heavily on exports to China, the world's second-largest economy.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.74 percent.


Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 3.47 percent

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week as the prospect of a year-end interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve grew more likely.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.47 percent from 3.42 percent last week. Rates still remain near historic lows. The benchmark 30-year rate is down from 3.82 percent a year ago and close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, ticked up to 2.76 percent from 2.72 percent.


Applications for US unemployment aid remain at 43-year low

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits stayed at a 43-year low last week in the latest sign that layoffs are scarce.

The Labor Department says unemployment benefit applications were unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 246,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 249,250.

Both figures were at their lowest levels since November 1973.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the figures indicate that companies are cutting few jobs. With the unemployment rate down to 5 percent from 10 percent in October 2009, some businesses say they are having trouble finding qualified workers. That suggests they are less likely to lay anyone off.

Hiring has been solid this year, though slower than in the two previous years.


Amazon adding 120,000 workers to meet holiday demand will add 120,000 seasonal workers in an effort to meet an expected spike in demand during the holidays.

The seasonal positions will be created at fulfillment centers, sorting centers and customer service sites in 27 states. The move marks a 20 percent boost from the 100,000 seasonal hires a year ago.

Last year, the company said it transitioned 14,000 seasonal positions to regular, full-time jobs and it expects to boost that figure this year.

The e-commerce giant saw its fourth-quarter profit in 2015 more than double on higher demand from online shoppers during the holiday season.


Verizon closing call centers 5 states, including New York

Verizon plans to close call centers in five states, including its home state of New York.

The company said Thursday a consolidation of its call centers will impact about 3,200 workers near Rochester and New York City; Bangor, Maine; Lincoln, Nebraska; Wallingford and Meriden, Connecticut, and Rancho Cordova, California.

Some 850 jobs will be lost at the two New York locations, including 600 in Henrietta, outside Rochester. In California, 700 jobs are being cut and another 300 are being relocated. The other cuts include 320 in Nebraska, 200 in Maine and 550 in Connecticut. Another 175 jobs at a customer service facility in Huntsville, Alabama, are being relocated to Hanover, Maryland.

Verizon Communications Inc. spokeswoman Kim Ancin said the affected workers are being offered jobs at other company sites or severance packages if they decide not to relocate.

The job losses in New York come at a time when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under increasing scrutiny for his economic development efforts in the upstate region. His office labeled the company's move as "corporate abuse."

Ancin called the Cuomo administration's response "out of line."


Samsung Note 7 recall in US expands to replacement phones

Samsung Electronics says it has expanded its recall of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the U.S. to include all replacement devices the company offered as a presumed safe alternative after the original Note 7s were found prone to catch fire.

The move announced on the company's website Thursday came after Samsung announced it was discontinuing the product because the replacements also were overheating.

At first, Samsung said a minor manufacturing error in the batteries for the Note 7 was causing the phones to overheat. The problem with the replacements is unclear.

Samsung said 1.9 million original and replacement Galaxy Note 7 smartphones are recalled in the U.S.

Seeking to retain customers, Samsung is giving an incentive of a $100 credit to Note 7 owners who switch to another Samsung phone.


Periscope extends beyond phones as Twitter ups ante on video

Twitter is taking the smartphone shackles off its live-video service Periscope in the struggling company's latest attempt to broaden its audience.

The Periscope Producer feature announced Thursday will let media companies and other users pipe live video feeds directly into Twitter, without using a smartphone to record the images. Until now, Periscope had been confined to live video taken through a smartphone.

The change means other websites will be able to redistribute live video on Twitter through Periscope.

To start, Producer will be limited to a small group of media companies before taking all comers.

Twitter has been focusing more on video over the past year, yet its user growth has slowed to a crawl, spurring speculation that the San Francisco company will be sold.


Disability rights groups sues Uber over wheelchair access

A Chicago disability rights group has sued the mobile ride-hailing service Uber for allegedly violating U.S. laws mandating wheelchair accessibility.

The suit was filed Thursday in Chicago federal court on behalf of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and several individuals. It seeks an order requiring that Uber comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide more wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

The filing notes Uber offers a service for wheelchair-bound customers called UberWAV. But it says Uber's mobile map often shows no such vehicles available in Chicago.

The suit says Uber provided nearly 2 million rides in Chicago in June last year. But it says Uber gave just 14 rides to motorized wheelchair users from 2011 to 2015.


Cheap jet fuel helps Delta report a profit

Lower airfares and rising salaries are putting a squeeze on Delta Air Lines.

Luckily for the airline, the price of jet fuel remains cheap and the Atlanta-based carrier was able to report a third-quarter profit of $1.26 billion, down 4 percent from the same period last year.

The amount of money Delta collected for each mile that each available seat flew plunged 6.8 percent during the three months that ended Sept. 30. But Delta paid $1.50 for each gallon of jet fuel in the quarter, down from $1.89 during the same period last year. Every penny per gallon saved adds up with the airline consuming 1.1 billion gallons of fuel during the quarter. Delta warned in its earnings release that, for the first time in several years, year-over-year fuel prices will be higher in the next quarter.

Delta, the world's second-largest airline by passenger traffic, said it plans to slow its growth to 1 percent in the next quarter and into 2017 so it can try to raise airfares. It hopes that its industry-leading on-time performance will convince travelers — especially higher-paying business fliers — to book with Delta and possibly pay more to do so.


Gov't says colder weather will boost winter heating bills

Expect to pay more to heat your home this winter than you spent last year.

That's the message from government analysts who sifted through forecasts for a colder winter and slightly higher energy prices.

The Energy Department said Thursday that household bills from October through March are likely to be higher for all four main heating fuels — natural gas, electricity, heating oil, and propane.

Consumers got a break last winter, when temperatures were mild. Government meteorologists are expecting a colder winter this time in the Northeast, Midwest and South.


Dueling protests as Brexit battle goes to UK's High Court

Rival groups protested outside the High Court in London on Thursday as lawyers inside battled over whether the British government has the power to trigger the U.K.'s exit from the European Union without approval from Parliament.

Half a dozen protesters carrying a banner asking for the EU exit known as Brexit to start now were met by a dozen other people carrying EU flags.

The case is considered the most important constitutional matter in a generation and centers around whether Prime Minister Theresa May can start negotiating Britain's exit from the EU without a vote in the House of Commons.

May has said she will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty — triggering two years of official exit talks — by March 31. She is under pressure from lawmakers to give them a vote first, but insists that is not necessary.

The claimants' lawyer, David Pannick, says the executive branch should not be allowed to remove citizens' rights without lawmakers' approval.


EU chief promises tough talks on UK departure

European Union chief Donald Tusk is taking a tough stance ahead of talks on Britain's departure from the bloc, vowing there can be no compromises as London heads toward a "hard Brexit."

Tusk said Thursday that the task of European negotiators "will be to protect the interests of the EU as a whole and each of the 27 member states."

He insisted that Britain cannot hope to stay in Europe's single market while restricting the movement of EU migrants, saying "there will be no compromises."

Tusk, who chairs talks among EU leaders, said London had chosen "to radically loosen relations with the EU — something that goes by the name of 'hard Brexit'."

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger Britain's exit negotiations in March.


Scottish govt takes step toward another independence vote

Scotland's leader says she will publish a bill next week laying the groundwork for a new independence referendum — the first step toward a new vote on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.

Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014, but Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union has reopened the Scotland question. By a large majority, Scots backed remaining in the EU, but they were outnumbered by a majority in England who wanted to leave.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told her pro-independence Scottish National Party on Thursday that "the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week."

She said if Britain leaves the EU's enormous single market, "Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path."


Greece warns of 'devastating results' without debt relief

Europeans lawmakers supportive of Greece's left-wing government are urging the European Commission to act swiftly on debt relief for the bailed out eurozone member, warning that delays would produce "devastating results" for its economy.

In a letter Thursday to EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, 36 lawmakers from Greece's ruling Syriza party and European allies parties urged the EU to press eurozone bailout lenders to start negotiating new terms on the whopping 315 billion euro ($347.5 billion) Greek national debt. That would entail longer maturities and a smoother repayment schedule.

Creditors are committed to improving terms, but lead eurozone lender Germany and the International Monetary Fund are at odds over the urgency, with several eurozone members arguing Greece already has generous repayment terms and has delayed vital structural reforms.


German court rejects complaint to suspend Canada trade deal

Germany's highest court has rejected calls from opponents of a European Union-Canada trade deal for an injunction that had the potential to spell an end to the pact.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled Thursday against the complaints against the trade deal with Canada, known as CETA. Tens of thousands of citizens joined in two of those complaints.

The plaintiffs had wanted the government to be forced to vote against approving the accord at an EU meeting Oct. 18 pending full consideration by the court of their contention that it violates the principles of democracy.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany's economy minister, had warned putting off CETA's signing could effectively torpedo the accord.

The judges attached some conditions to their decision designed to help address the plantiffs' concerns.


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