Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2015 5:15 PM

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Expect less and buy antacid: 2016 investment forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) — Investing is becoming more of a grind. Expect it to stay that way.

Analysts, mutual-fund managers and other forecasters are telling investors to expect lower returns from stocks and bonds in 2016 than in past years. They're also predicting more severe swings in prices. Remember that 10 percent drop for stocks that freaked investors out in August? It likely won't take another four years for the next one.

The good news is that few economists are predicting a recession in 2016. That means stocks and other investments can avoid a sustained slide and keep grinding higher, but don't expect outsized gains of recent years.

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Extreme weather poses increasing threat to US power grid

An Associated Press analysis of industry data found that severe weather is the leading cause of major outages on the nation's power grid. The number of weather-related power outages has climbed over the last decade, with the greatest spikes in 2008 and 2011, according to the AP analysis and independent studies.

That leaves utilities across the country balancing customer costs with the need for improvements to counter the rising number of violent storms, floods and droughts threatening the U.S. power grid.

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US existing home sales tank in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home sales plunged sharply in November, as buyers faced rising prices and new regulations that might have delayed some closings.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes collapsed 10.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million. It was the weakest pace in 19 months. The setback follows solid gains in real estate for much of 2015. Sales of existing homes are on track to rise roughly 5 percent for the entire year.

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US economy grew at 2 pct. rate over summer; a pickup is seen

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a slightly slower pace over the summer than the government had previously estimated. Most economists foresee a slight acceleration in the current quarter and stronger growth in the first half of 2016.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. That was a bit lower than its previous estimate of 2.1 percent, a result of less restocking by businesses than previously estimated.

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FAA fines Boeing $12M for fuel tank, other violations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Boeing has agreed to pay $12 million for failing to meet a deadline to submit service instructions that would enable airlines to reduce the risk of fuel tank explosions on hundreds of planes, among other violations, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

Boeing must also take a series of actions to improve the safety certification of its planes and its aircraft production quality control, the FAA said in a statement. The settlement is the second largest for regulatory violations in the history of the FAA.

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Ford recalls older large cars to fix headlight problem

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford is recalling about 313,000 older large cars in North America because the headlights can go dark and cause a crash.

The recall covers some Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis from the 2003 to 2005 model years. It came after U.S. safety regulators opened an investigation into the problem that found 15 crashes and one injury.

The company says solder joints in the lighting control module can crack and cut off power to the headlights.

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Hillshire Brands to pay $4M to settle discrimination claims

DALLAS (AP) — Hillshire Brands will pay $4 million to settle federal claims that black employees at a North Texas food plant were exposed to dangerous work conditions and subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier found that black workers at the Sara Lee plant in Paris, Texas were exposed to asbestos and other toxins. They also were targets of racial slurs and graffiti.

Sara Lee ended its Paris operations in 2011 and part of the company later became Hillshire Brands, which in turn was bought by Tyson Foods.

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Rights group offers guidelines for builders in Gulf states

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Human Rights Watch released a set of guidelines Tuesday that it says construction companies in the oil-rich Gulf Arab states should follow to ensure basic rights for migrant workers.

The New York-based rights group's latest recommendations shift the focus toward employers and are aimed at tackling some of the biggest abuses facing millions of low-paid laborers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

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US expands sanctions over Russia's activity in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Tuesday imposed financial restrictions on 34 additional people and entities for helping Russian and Ukrainian companies evade U.S. penalties and other infractions, prompting threats of retaliation from the Kremlin.

The action helps "maintain the efficacy of existing sanctions" established after Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula last year and support for eastern Ukrainian separatists, the Treasury Department said.

The U.S. has been trying to find the right balance of carrots and sticks to push Russia into making a full withdrawal from eastern Ukraine, while securing its cooperation on ending Syria's civil war, enforcing this summer's Iran nuclear agreement and advancing other international priorities.

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'Fireball' lawsuit between liquor companies cools off

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Heated competition between producers of cinnamon whiskeys has cooled off in the courtroom, with Sazerac dropping its lawsuit against Jack Daniel's.

Sazerac — whose brands include the long-established Fireball Cinnamon Whisky — had accused its rival of trademark infringement by using the term "Fireball" in online advertising for cinnamon-flavored Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire.

The legal fight ended quietly Monday when Sazerac filed a motion in federal court in Kentucky to voluntarily drop its claims. Sazerac's decision came just before Jack Daniel's — the flagship brand of Brown-Forman Corp. — was required to respond to the lawsuit.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 165.65 points, or 1 percent, to 17,417.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 17.82 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,038.97 and the Nasdaq composite rose 32.19 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,001.11.

U.S. crude oil futures closed up 33 cents to $36.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was down 24 cents to $36.11 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, heating oil fell 1.3 cents to $1.088 a gallon, wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 cents to $1.175 a gallon and natural gas fell 1.3 cents to $1.888 per thousand cubic feet.