Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2016 5:27 PM

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Stocks avoid biggest losses but slide again as oil tumbles

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks slumped Wednesday as the price of oil suffered its worst one-day drop since September. A huge sell-off earlier in the day pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index to its lowest level in almost two years.

Investors are worried that low oil prices mean there's not that much demand for fuel. That would be a sign that growth in the global economy is slowing down. Stocks in the U.S. started sharply lower, following widespread selling overseas, and at one point the Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 565 points.

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Anxiety in the air as world elite meets in Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — In the couple of hours before Morgan Stanley chief James Gorman sat down Wednesday to speak on a panel in Davos, Switzerland, he had lost some $600,000 on the value of his shares in the bank.

As the world's richest business leaders and public figures kicked off the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort, a renewed plunge in stock markets and global oil prices clouded the air with anxiety. Gorman is not alone — already this year trillions of dollars have been wiped off the value of shares around the world.

Some participants voiced a high degree of concern over the global economy, saying the recent turbulence in financial markets — which saw the Dow plunge over 500 points on Wednesday — was akin to a "meltdown." Others sought to describe it as a natural adjustment. Not many were upbeat.

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Iran's big market tempts European firms despite hazards

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — With many barriers to dealing with Iran suddenly lifted as part of a nuclear deal, some European companies are ready to seize business opportunities in a tempting market of 78.5 million people.

At first glance, the allure is obvious — Iran is the second-largest economy in the region, the second most populous country and it has infrastructure and vehicles overdue for an upgrade after years of sanctions. But those companies that take the plunge face serious risks from the remaining sanctions, geopolitical uncertainty, red tape and corruption.

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Palestinians lambast Airbnb's West Bank settlement listings

NOFEI PRAT, West Bank (AP) — Airbnb is coming under Palestinian criticism for listings that fail to mention the property is in a West Bank settlement, on occupied land claimed by the Palestinians. Such criticism puts Airbnb in the crosshairs of an increasingly aggressive global boycott movement and has injected a dose of Mideast politics into the sharing economy.

The Palestinians say that by contributing to the settlement economy, Airbnb, like other companies doing business in the West Bank, helps perpetuate Israel's settlement enterprise. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat sent a letter to Airbnb's CEO last week demanding the company cease working with settlers.

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US Treasury Sec: Puerto Rico needs congressional action

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew stressed on Wednesday during a visit to Puerto Rico that congressional action is the only solution to pulling the U.S. territory out of its worsening economic crisis.

He called on Congress to approve a restructuring mechanism to help the island deal with its $72 billion public debt. He also said some kind of oversight authority that respects Puerto Rico's system of self-government is needed.

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Wal-Mart to give pay raises to most of its workers

NEW YORK (AP) — The vast majority of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees will get raises as part of the world's largest retailer's previously announced commitment to invest in its workforce as it faces pressure from labor-backed groups and seeks to retain workers in a tighter labor force.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday said more than 1.2 million U.S. hourly workers will get wage increases on Feb. 20. The company, which is the largest U.S. private employer with 1.4 million total workers, also said it will provide free, basic short-term disability to full-time hourly workers. And it will start allowing workers to accrue paid time off as they earn it.

The moves mark the biggest changes Wal-Mart has made in its efforts to offer better wages and benefits to its workers.

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New Mexico sues Volkswagen over emissions scandal

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP) — New Mexico has become the first U.S. state to sue Volkswagen and other German automakers over an emissions cheating scandal that involves millions of cars worldwide.

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the lawsuit in state district court late Tuesday. He alleges Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and their U.S. subsidiaries violated New Mexico's air quality standards and engaged in deceptive marketing to pass off certain diesel models as clean and efficient.

Dozens of state attorneys general have teamed up for a civil investigation of VW. Others are conducting separate inquiries.

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Feds probe complaints that Ford Focus doors won't latch

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto safety regulators have opened an investigation into complaints that doors won't latch properly on about 400,000 Ford Focus compact cars, including some reports that the doors have opened while the cars are moving.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers Focuses from the 2012 and 2013 model years, according to documents posted Wednesday on the agency's website. It's similar to an investigation that caused a recall last year of more than 456,000 Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion and Fiesta models.

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Russian ruble slides to record low in Moscow trading

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian ruble slid to a record low against the dollar Wednesday under pressure from low oil prices.

The ruble traded above 81.8 to the dollar in Moscow on Wednesday evening, down by around four percent. That beat the mark of 80.1 set when the currency crashed in value in December 2014 before stabilizing.

Russia's economy and government revenues are suffering due to the country's dependence on oil, which has traded at 12-year lows in recent weeks because of a supply glut and the return of Iran to world markets.

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Pot states take fresh look at out-of-state investment

DENVER (AP) — States that have legalized pot are taking a fresh look at making it easier for out-of-state investors to get in the weed business, saying the industry's ongoing difficulty in banking means they need new options to finance expansion.

The four states that allow recreational pot sales — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have another big reason to take a new look at pot investment. That's California, the nation's most populous state and largest marijuana producer.

California voters could approve recreational pot this fall, which gives the nascent pot industries in the other states reason to want to attract investment before a giant enters the picture.

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Dow Chemical adds paid weeks to parental leave benefit

Dow Chemical is fattening the paid leave it gives employees after the birth of a child as it becomes the latest major U.S. employer to rethink how it treats parents.

The creator of Ziploc bags and Saran Wrap said Wednesday that mothers will receive a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave, while non-birthing parents can get two weeks. That's up from six to eight weeks and one week, respectively.

This leave can be taken in the 12 months after a child's birth, and the change applies to all of the company's 53,000 employees worldwide.

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The Dow Jones industrial average lost 249.28 points, or 1.6 percent, to close at 15,766.74. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,859.33. The Nasdaq composite index shed 5.26 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,471.69.

U.S. crude dropped $1.91, or 6.7 percent, to $26.55 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 88 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $27.88 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline dipped to $1.018 a gallon. Heating oil plunged 4.3 cents, or 4.7 percent, to 86.6 cents a gallon. Natural gas rose 2.7 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $2.118 per 1,000 cubic feet.