Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2015 6:00 PM

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Buck up, profits down: High dollar dents US company earnings

WASHINGTON (AP) — The rising U.S. dollar is denting the earnings of U.S. companies that operate overseas.

The damage started showing up in results for the July-September period, and the picture will likely get uglier as companies report earnings for the final three months of 2014.

A prolonged drop in profits risks rattling investors and pressuring stocks.

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Funding boom shows power of tech startups, raises concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Venture capitalists poured a whopping $48.3 billion into U.S. startup companies last year, investing at levels that haven't been seen since the heady days before the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.

Software and biotechnology companies were the leading recipients of venture funding in 2014, which rose more than 60 percent from the previous year, according to a new report issued Friday.

Experts say the surge comes as tech startups are performing well in public stock offerings, and shows that investors recognize the power of new technology to disrupt and replace old industries. But it also underscores a nagging concern that investors may be sinking money into some companies at inflated values.

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What happened to the Swiss franc and why it matters

NEW YORK (AP) — One of the world's safest investments — the Swiss franc — has swung wildly this week after the central bank in Switzerland announced it would scrap its policy of limited the rise of the currency.

It may seem like an arcane move, but it's not. The Swiss National Bank's surprise decision on Thursday caused the franc to surge against the euro and dollar, sending shockwaves through the global financial system.

Holders of Swiss francs profited handsomely, but many investors and brokerage firms were pounded with losses. Two brokerage firms in London and New Zealand's have announced huge losses and will have to close. A New York-based currency broker said clients suffered significant losses, and needed an emergency loan to stay in business.

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APNewsBreak: Company with chemical spill ties cited 8 times

NITRO, W.Va. (AP) — A few towns over from the chemical plant that leaked a coal-cleaning mixture into the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians last year, a new company run by some of the same people is being cited for similar environmental violations.

State regulators have written up the new firm, Lexycon LLC, eight times since September for pouring chemicals without a permit, lacking proper "last-resort" walls to contain spills, and hosting tanker-trailers full of unknown chemicals, among other infractions, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Some of the infractions at Lexycon still haven't been addressed despite three site-wide inspections and dozens of smaller visits by regulators from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection since May, state reports show.

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Wet Seal files for bankruptcy in effort to stay afloat

NEW YORK (AP) — The Wet Seal Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an effort to keep its remaining teen clothing stores open.

The announcement Friday comes a little over a week after the chain said that it was closing 338 stores, or about two-thirds of its total.

Fellow teen clothing retailers Delia's Inc. and Deb Stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, further evidence of trouble in a business being hurt by tough competition and changing tastes among teenagers.

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US consumer prices drop 0.4 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices fell in December by the largest amount in six years, reflecting another big monthly decline in gas prices and providing further evidence of falling inflation pressures.

The Labor Department said Friday that its consumer price index dropped 0.4 percent last month, the biggest one-month drop since December 2008. It was also the second straight monthly decline in prices with both months reflecting big decreases in gas prices.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, showed no increase in December, only the second time since 2010 that core prices have not risen.

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Goldman Sachs 4Q earnings fall 10 percent

Goldman Sachs posted a 10 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings Friday as trading activity declined.

The Wall Street investment bank's fixed income, currency and commodities division saw a 29 percent revenue slump during the quarter, from $1.72 billion to $1.22 billion.

Goldman follows other major U.S. banks this week in reporting a noticeable slowdown in trading over the past three months.

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US probes Jeep Cherokee fire, Nissan Rogue air bag trouble

U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating engine compartment smoke or fire complaints in two Jeep Cherokees, and air bags that didn't inflate properly in two Nissan Rogues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in documents posted on its website Friday that the Cherokee probe covers 50,000 of the SUVs from the 2015 model year.

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Growers struggle with glut of legal pot in Washington state

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's legal marijuana market opened last summer to a dearth of weed. Some stores periodically closed because they didn't have pot to sell. Prices were through the roof.

Six months later, the equation has flipped, bringing serious growing pains to the new industry.

A big harvest of sun-grown marijuana from eastern Washington last fall flooded the market. Prices are starting to come down in the state's licensed pot shops, but due to the glut, growers are — surprisingly — struggling to sell their marijuana.

Some are already worried about going belly-up, finding it tougher than expected to make a living in legal weed.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 190.86 points, or 1.1 percent, to close at 17,511.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 26.75 points, or 1.3 percent, to finish at 2,019.42. The Nasdaq composite rose 63.56 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,634.38.

Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $2.44 on Friday to settle at $48.69 a barrel in New York trading. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, added 31 cents to $50.17 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 6 cents to close at $1.359 a gallon. Heating oil rose 4.3 cents to close at $1.666 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.1 cents to close at $3.127 per 1,000 cubic feet.