Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2016 6:03 PM

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Startup wants to put self-driving big rigs on US highways

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An 18-wheel truck barreling down the highway with only a robot at the wheel is a frightening idea to some. But it's the vision of Anthony Levandowski, a robot-loving engineer, who is convinced autonomous big rigs on the road will help with a safer transportation system.

Levandowski left Google earlier this year to pursue his vision at Otto, a startup the he co-founded with two other former Google employees and another robotics expert.

Otto is aiming to equip trucks so they eventually will be able to navigate U.S. highways on their own, while a human driver naps or handles other tasks.

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China's Huawei looks to build global smartphone brand

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — Chinese tech giant Huawei wants Americans to start thinking of it as a stylish smartphone brand.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. became the No. 3 global smartphone seller last year and passed Apple in China. This year, it launched a new flagship smartphone, the P9, and is positioning it to compete with Apple and Samsung.

But the company's success hinges on the United States, where it has no brand name recognition and faces an uphill battle with perception about security issues. The company has yet to say when it might sell the Android-based P9 to Americans or exactly how it will rebuild its U.S. presence.

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US builders increase home construction in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — Builders ramped up construction of new homes in April, suggesting that the market remains solid despite sluggish economic growth at the beginning of the year.

Housing starts climbed 6.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The increase makes up for much of March's 9.4 percent drop in starts, a decline that partially reflected the volatile swings in residential construction on a monthly basis.

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US consumer prices post 0.4 percent April increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices jumped in April by the largest amount in more than three years, reflecting a surge in the price of gasoline and other energy products. But outside of volatile food and energy, core inflation posted another modest gain.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that overall consumer prices rose 0.4 percent in April after a 0.1 percent increase in March. Core inflation was up 0.2 percent compared to a 0.1 percent March gain.

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US industrial production jumps by most since November 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. industrial production in April posted the biggest increase since November 2014 as utility output surged, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday.

Industrial output — which includes factories, mines and utilities — rose 0.7 percent from March. It had dropped the previous two months. Fueling the improvement was utility production, which surged 5.8 percent in April. It was the biggest jump since February 2007. Demand for electricity and natural gas returned to more normal levels after unusually mild March weather.

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Home Depot rises above the retail fray

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot topped expectations for the first quarter thanks in part to mild weather and the company, riding a strong rebound in housing, lifted its outlook for the year.

Americans are plowing money into homes as prices continue to rise. In its most recent report, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 percent and the National Association of Realtors' seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.4 percent to 110.5, the highest level since May 2015.

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Justice investigation adds to LendingClub's woes

NEW YORK (AP) — LendingClub, which forced out its founder last week, slumped further Tuesday after the company disclosed the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into its business.

The sudden departure of Chairman and CEO Renaud Laplanch came after an internal review determined that its business practices were violated with the sale of $22 million in loans, made to people with sketchy credit scores, to a single investor. It was also determined that Laplanch did not fully disclose a stake he held in a company in which LendingClub was also considering an investment. Following the review, the Justice Department delivered a grand jury subpoena.

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Target names Nordstrom exec as chief merchandising officer

NEW YORK (AP) — Target has poached a Nordstrom executive for its new chief merchandising officer, a crucial position and the one who determines what appears on store shelves.

Mark Tritton was president of Nordstrom Product Group where he oversaw the merchandising, design, manufacturing, marketing and omnichannel distribution of more than 50 private-label brands across Nordstrom's full-price and off-price portfolio.

In his new role, Tritton will oversee buying, product design and development, sourcing, visual merchandising strategy and merchandising transformation for the retailer.

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Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay to open stores in Netherlands

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay Company says it plans to open up to 20 new stores in the Netherlands over the next two years, creating thousands of new jobs in a nation recently hit by the closure of a major chain of stores.

Hudson's Bay announced the expansion Tuesday, saying it will open both Hudson's Bay and Saks Off 5th stores.

The Toronto-headquartered company says its move should create some 2,500 jobs in the stores and a further 2,500 for construction workers and involve capital investment of some 300 million euros ($340 million).

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Westfield co-CEO talks about how he's adapting to change

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The co-CEO of Westfield Corp., one of the world's largest mall operators, said that shopping centers have to act more like technology companies in order to be relevant to the fast-changing consumer.

"Clearly, there's a shake-up going on," said Steven M. Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield, which operates 34 shopping centers worldwide in key cities like London and New York. "Amazon is having a massive impact...We understand the need to change and adapt."

But Lowy noted the largest online leader can't do "all things," such as create "beautiful spaces" for shopping. He was addressing a few thousand retailers, suppliers, venture capitalists and analysts on Tuesday, the second day of Shoptalk, a three-day technology and retail conference.

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Drug maker to build $20M factory after evaluating LGBT law

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A drug-maker that spent six weeks deciding whether to scrap plans for a new North Carolina factory after the state passed a law limiting LBGT protections says it's going ahead.

New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday it will build a $20 million manufacturing and research center in Durham County. The 50 new jobs paying an average of nearly $76,000 a year were announced just before state officials passed House Bill 2 in March. Braeburn said the law caused it to re-evaluate.

The company said in a news release it expects legal challenges will overturn the law.

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The Dow Jones industrial average lost 180.73 points, or 1 percent, to 17,529.98. The S&P 500 index gave up 19.45 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,047.21. The Nasdaq composite pulled back 59.73 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,715.73.

U.S. crude rose 59 cents to $48.31 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 31 cents to $49.28 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.63 a gallon, heating oil also rose 3 cents to $1.47 a gallon and natural gas rose 2 cents to $2.05 per 1,000 cubic feet.