Update on the latest in business:

Posted September 21


Asian shares gain as Bank of Japan tweaks monetary policy

Asian shares rose Wednesday after Japan's central bank wrapped up a policy meeting with a decision to keep short-term interest rates unchanged while adjusting its asset purchases to help push yields on long-term government bonds higher.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 reversed its early losses, gaining 1.8 percent to 16,784.98. The Hang Seng of Hong Kong gained 0.7 percent to 23,703.58 and the Shanghai Composite index added 0.2 percent to 3,027.59. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.7 percent to 5,342.00 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 2.034.77. Shares were higher in Taiwan and most markets in Southeast Asia.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 9.79 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,129.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.64 points to 2,139.76. The Nasdaq composite picked up 6.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,241.35.


Federal Reserve policymakers meet to set interest rates

—Investors are watching closely as Federal Reserve policymakers conclude their discussions in Washington later today to see if the central bank has decided to raise interest rates.

"The Fed, until they raise rates, are going to be the primary focus of the markets," said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. "The only reason people may take their eye off of that is the election."

Interest rates have been kept at historic lows for several years as the Fed has tried to pursue a pro-growth monetary policy to help the nation recover from the deep recession of 2008.

Also today, Spanish fashion retailer Inditex, which owns the Zara store chain, is due to present first-half financial results.


Officials from 21 states sue to block overtime pay expansion

Officials from 21 states are suing the U.S. Department of Labor over a new rule that would make about 4 million higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay, slamming the measure as inappropriate federal overreach by the Obama Administration.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, urging it to block implementation before the regulation takes effect on Dec. 1. Laxalt, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama's policies, said the rule would burden private and public sectors by straining budgets and forcing layoffs or cuts in working hours.

He says in a statement that the rule "tramples on state and local government budgets, forcing states to shift money from other important programs to balance their budgets."

The lawsuit came the same day that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 other business groups filed a legal challenge against the regulation.


IRS chief apologizes to Congress for lost information

The commissioner of the IRS has apologized to Congress for information his agency lost and inaccurate statements he made during congressional investigations of its treatment of tea party and other conservative groups.

But John Koskinen said he's been truthful and cooperative and insisted it would be wrong to impeach him.

Koskinen made the remarks in a written statement prepared for his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee later today. That panel is examining an election-year effort by conservatives to impeach Koskinen. The impeachment attempt has divided Republicans and is sure to ultimately fail for lack of votes.

Congressional Republicans launched several investigations after the IRS admitted in 2013 that during the 2010 and 2012 elections, it had singled out tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax exemptions to unusually stringent examinations.


Mylan CEO defends EpiPen prices

The head of pharmaceutical company Mylan is defending the cost for life-saving EpiPens and is signaling the company has no plans to lower prices despite a public outcry.

Heather Bresch says in testimony prepared for a congressional committee Wednesday that "price and access exist in a balance, and we believe we have struck that balance."

eform Committee ahead of her Wednesday appearance before the panel.

The price of EpiPens has grown to $608 for a two-pack, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2007. Republicans and Democrats have said families struggling to pay for the emergency allergy shots have every right to be outraged by Mylan, a company whose sales are in excess of $11 billion.

Bresch says in the testimony that she wishes the company had "better anticipated the magnitude and acceleration" of the rising prices for some families, saying that "we never intended this."

But she says investments are necessary to ensure more access for those who need it and the company has made strides to more widely distribute the drug to schools and others.


Senators heap criticism on Wells Fargo CEO, who apologizes

The CEO of Wells Fargo faced calls for his resignation from harshly critical senators over allegations that bank employees opened millions of unauthorized accounts to meet sales quotas.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee showed bipartisan outrage Tuesday over the long-running conduct, unsatisfied by Chief Executive John Stumpf's show of contrition.

Stumpf said he was "deeply sorry" that the bank failed to meet its responsibility to customers and didn't act sooner to stem "this unacceptable activity." He promised to assist affected customers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren flatly told Stumpf he should step down. "You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers," she said. "You should resign. You should give back the money you took while the scam was going on."

The Massachusetts Democrat, one of the fiercest critics of Wall Street, also advocated for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and a civil probe by securities regulators.


Pipeline will soon reopen, carrying gasoline to 5 states

Gasoline should begin flowing again Wednesday — through a temporary bypass on a critical pipeline — after a major leak in Alabama forced a shutdown that led to surging fuel prices and scattered gas shortages across the South. That's according to an official with Colonial Pipeline.

Company spokesman Steve Baker tells The Associated Press that the roughly 500-foot (152-meter) section of pipe serving as the bypass is now complete, but that supply disruptions may continue for days.

He says that when the line restarts, "it will take several days for the fuel delivery supply chain to return to normal."

The company says that some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions." It adds that Colonial "continues to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal."


Report: SEC probing Exxon response to cheaper oil

Securities regulators are investigating why Exxon Mobil Corp. hasn't written down the value of assets during the plunge in oil prices that started in mid-2014, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission is also looking into Exxon's calculations for asset values in an atmosphere of tougher climate-change regulations.

The newspaper cited people familiar with the matter.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. said, "We are fully complying with the SEC request for information and are confident our financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements."

The SEC declined to comment.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating similar issues at Exxon Mobil. Schneiderman has suggested that the company deceived investors by downplaying its vulnerability to tougher climate-change rules.


Innovation, safety sought in self-driving car guidelines

Obama administration officials have rolled out a plan they say will enable automakers to get self-driving cars onto the road without compromising safety.

In drawing up 112 pages of guidelines, the government tried to be vague enough to allow innovation while at the same time making sure that car makers, tech companies and ride-hailing firms put safety first as the cars are developed.

Only time will tell whether the mission was accomplished, but the document generally was praised by businesses and analysts as good guidance in a field that's evolving faster than anyone imagined just a few years ago.

The guidelines from the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration don't tell companies specifically how to get to an autonomous car that can safely carry people down the road, leaving a lot to interpretation.


FedEx beats Wall Street forecasts with profit of $715 milliion

FedEx is raising prices, boosting earnings and making plans for handling the crush of holiday packages.

Company executives said Tuesday they expect to hire more than 50,000 holiday-season workers after adding 55,000 last year.

They forecast another record holiday shipping season, thanks to continuing growth of online shopping. Peak loads are expected on the last four Mondays before Christmas.

Over the summer, FedEx earned $715 million in the latest quarter, up 3 percent from the year before. The results beat Wall Street expectations.

The results were helped by higher base prices on FedEx express and ground services and higher volume in the ground-shipping business.


Allergan targets liver disease drugs with Tobira acquisition

UNDATED (A)P ) -Botox-maker Allergan is bulking up its drug pipeline with two acquisitions announced, both of which target liver disease.

Allergan PLC said Tuesday that it's acquiring Tobira Therapeutics Inc. and two potential liver disease treatments in a deal that could be worth almost $1.7 billion.

Tobira is testing two treatments for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a disease that triggers inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis, cancer and eventual liver failure.

Allergan said it will pay $28.35 in cash up front for each Tobira share plus up to $49.84 in contingent value rights, depending on whether certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones are met.

Shares of Dublin-based Allergan slipped nearly 3 percent, or $6.62, to $238.67. Shares in Tobira, which is based in South San Francisco, California, closed at $4.74 Monday before soaring more than 720 percent to end Tuesday at $38.91.


Samsung says replacements available for recalled Note 7

Samsung says new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones will be available in U.S. stores starting Wednesday to replace about 1 million devices that are being recalled because their batteries can catch fire.

The South Korean company has been scrambling to fix problems caused by faulty batteries in the latest version of its top-of-the-line smartphone, which first went on sale last month.

When it first offered on Sept. 2 to replace the affected Note 7 phones, Samsung said it would swap them for models of its other phones, such as the Galaxy S7, until supplies of replacement Note 7 devices became available.

Samsung followed up last week by announcing that U.S. consumers who had purchased one of the recalled phones could choose between a replacement or a refund for the device, which sells for about $850. That offer was jointly announced with officials at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission after Samsung was criticized for not coordinating more closely with the commission.


Macy's to hire about 83,000 holiday workers

Macy's plans to hire about 83,000 people for the busy holiday shopping season, about equal to the number of hires last year.

The new hires will work at Macy's or Bloomingdale's department stores, call centers or at the company's facilities that ship products to stores and to online shoppers.

Other retailers have already announced their hiring plans. Kohl's Corp. plans to hire more than 69,000 additional workers for the holidays. Target Corp. says it will hire more than 70,000.

Macy's Inc., based in Cincinnati, has about 880 stores.


Whole Foods reaches $3.5M environmental waste settlement

Whole Foods Market Inc. has reached a $3.5 million settlement with regulators over its improper identification or mishandling of hazardous waste at stores.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the fine and an agreement Tuesday for Austin-based Whole Foods to comply with waste regulations and better train workers.

Whole Foods Market Inc. said the matter often involves products — such as nail polish remover, vitamins, liquor and cleaning items — that are purchased, opened, returned and then can no longer be sold and are declared waste.

The EPA says the grocer's violations were at stores in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In a statement, Whole Foods said there was no allegation or finding by the EPA that it improperly disposed of hazardous wastes, but that it addressed "record keeping" with regard to hazardous waste in its stores.

A copy of the settlement agreement said the EPA concluded that Whole Foods "failed to make a sufficient hazardous waste determination." It said the EPA did not identify any spills, leaks or releases at the company's facilities.


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