Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 27, 2016 5:49 PM

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2017 investment forecasts: Possibly good, no longer great

Get ready for investments to be merely good again.

They've already been great for years, as both stocks and bonds have delivered fat returns since the worst of the financial crisis passed in 2009.

But after such a strong and long gallop upward, markets have many reasons to slow down, analysts and fund managers say.

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Growing number of Americans are retiring outside the US

A growing number of Americans who are retiring outside the United States. The number grew 17 percent between 2010 and 2015 and is expected to increase over the next 10 years as more baby boomers retire.

Just under 400,000 American retirees are now living abroad, according to the Social Security Administration. The countries they have chosen most often: Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Retirees most often cite the cost of living as the reason for moving elsewhere said Olivia S. Mitchell, director of the Pension Research Council at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

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Feds say 3 hacked law firms' networks, made insider trades

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged three Chinese nationals accused of profiting from insider information about mergers and acquisitions by hacking into the networks of law firms working on the deals, authorities said Tuesday.

The three men made more than $4 million in profits by buying stock in companies that were about to be acquired and then selling the shares after the acquisitions were announced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Prosecutors say the trio got the insider information between April 2014 and late 2015 by hacking into the email systems of multiple international law firms with offices in New York.

One defendant, Iat Hong, was arrested Monday in Hong Kong and is awaiting extradition. Two others, Bo Zheng and Chin Hung, have not been arrested.

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Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan cars investigated for brake issue

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government is investigating some Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars because the brake pedal may lose pressure, making it hard for drivers to stop the vehicle.

Three crashes were blamed on the braking issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday. The brake pedal can go "soft" when driving on slippery or uneven surfaces. NHTSA received 141 complaints, with some reporting that their car stopped past red lights, leaving them in the middle of flowing traffic.

The investigation covers Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars with model years 2007 to 2009. NHTSA estimated that there are about 475,000 of those vehicles.

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Cuba sees economic slump despite US detente

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban officials announced Tuesday that the island's economy shrank this year despite an increased opening with the United States.

Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas told Parliament that the island's gross domestic product fell nearly 1 percent after seeing a growth rate of nearly 3 percent from 2011-2015. He blamed the slump on shrinking exports and financial troubles in allied Venezuela.

The last time official figures showed a fall in Cuba's gross domestic product was in 1993 after the Soviet Union collapsed, abruptly stripping away much of the country's aid and trade.

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United settles suit over baggage handlers' stress injuries

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — United Airlines has reached a settlement in a lawsuit over the working conditions for baggage handlers, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed after inspectors found baggage handlers at Newark Liberty International Airport often were forced to lift heavy bags or perform other functions while leaning over, twisting or reaching overhead.

The Labor Department said United baggage handlers reported more than 600 musculoskeletal injuries between 2011 and early 2015.

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U.S. home prices rise 5.1 percent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose again in October as buyers bidding for scarce properties drove prices higher.

The Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 5.1 percent in October from a year earlier after climbing 5 percent in September. Prices for the 20 cities are still 7.1 percent below their July 2006 peak.

The broader Case-Shiller national home price index was up 5.6 percent in October and has fully recovered from the financial crisis.

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U.S. consumer confidence climbed to 15-year high in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers are the sunniest they've been in more than 15 years.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index climbed to 113.7 in December, up from 109.4 in November and the highest since it reached 114 in August 2001. It's another sign consumers are confident in the aftermath of a divisive election campaign.

The index measures consumers' assessment of current conditions, which dipped from November but was still very positive, and their expectations for the future, which hit a 13-year high.

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Iran's rial at all-time low over strong dollar, other woes

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — At money changers across Tehran, shouting voices accompany each change of the signboards out front showing the value of the Iranian rial, which slips ever lower against the U.S. dollar.

This week saw Iran's currency fall to 41,600 rials to $1, its lowest point ever.

While making Iranian exports more attractive to the world market in the wake of the nuclear deal, it also means people's savings continue to lose value in the Islamic Republic.

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The Dow added 11.23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,945.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.09 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,268.88. The Nasdaq rose 24.75 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,487.44. The tech-heavy index's previous record high was 5,483 on Dec. 20.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 88 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $53.90 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $56.09 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, natural gas futures rose 10 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $3.76 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.65 a gallon and heating oil gained 4 cents to $1.70 a gallon.