Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 5:55 PM

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Snapchat, Seagate among companies duped in tax-fraud scam

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A major phishing scheme has tricked several major companies — including messaging service Snapchat and disk-drive maker Seagate Technology — into relinquishing tax documents that exposed their workers' incomes, addresses and Social Security numbers.

The scam, which involved fake emails purportedly sent by top company officials, convinced the companies involved to send out W-2 tax forms that are ideal for identity theft. For instance, W-2 data can easily be used to file bogus tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds.

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Millennials are finally arriving in the car market

DETROIT (AP) — Millennials were once a source of panic in the auto industry. Dubbed the "go nowhere" generation, they weren't getting driver's licenses, never mind buying cars.

New data suggests at least some of that worry was misplaced. Millennials — especially the oldest ones — are these days buying cars in big numbers. They just had a late start.

Now the largest generation in the U.S., millennials bought 4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. last year, second only to the baby boomers, according to J.D. Power's Power Information Network,

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Tampon tax: Does being female in the US carry unfair costs?

NEW YORK (AP) — A group of New York City women filed a lawsuit last week arguing that it is unconstitutional for the state to levy sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins while offering medical-product exemptions to many other items used by both genders, like lip balm and dandruff shampoo.

The case, they say, is about more than the few cents in tax levied on each pack. A national push to abolish sales tax on tampons is gathering steam.

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Volkswagen's top US executive out amid emissions scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Volkswagen's top U.S. executive is stepping down amid the company's ongoing emissions cheating scandal, the company announced Wednesday.

U.S. President and Chief Executive Michael Horn is leaving "to pursue other opportunities effective immediately," the automaker said in a statement. He had been with the German auto maker for 25 years, assuming his most recent post in 2014.

Horn's sudden departure comes as the company continues to grapple with the fallout from its admission last year that nearly 600,000 cars were sold in the U.S. with software that regulators say was designed to cheat on required emissions tests.

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How low can they go? A guide to the ECB's rates meeting

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — European Central Bank head Mario Draghi has all but promised more monetary stimulus for the 19-country eurozone economy at Thursday's meeting of the bank's governing council. Now the question is, exactly how much will he deliver — and how much effect will it have?

Expectations at a minimum are that the ECB's governing council will cut the deposit rate for funds from commercial banks even farther below zero, a step aimed at pushing banks to lend.

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US wholesale stockpiles up in January, but sales fell

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles by the largest amount in five months, but their sales fell for the sixth time in the past seven months.

The Commerce Department says inventories held by wholesale businesses rose 0.3 percent in January, the biggest increase since August.

Sales at the wholesale level dropped a sharp 1.3 percent. That the biggest setback since a similar fall in November and the sixth time that sales have been down in the past seven months.

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Bill would standardize the way airlines disclose fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government would standardize the way airlines disclose fees for basic services like checked bags, seat assignments and ticket changes so that passengers can more easily comparison-shop the full cost of flights under a bipartisan Senate bill introduced Wednesday.

The bill would require the Department of Transportation develop a way to display fees that's easy for consumers to understand and require that airlines and ticket agents use the system. A report last year by the committee's Democratic staff found that airline fees, especially for things like ticket cancellations or changes, are often hidden from consumers or are difficult to comprehend.

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Amazon leases 20 jets to build out logistics network

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is taking to the skies.

The e-commerce powerhouse has finalized an agreement to lease 20 Boeing jets from Air Transport Services Group Inc. as it builds out its U.S. delivery capabilities.

Amazon says the goal is not to compete with package delivery carriers such as FedEx Corp. and UPS but work on improving its own logistics to offer faster delivery for customers as well as providing shipping services for third-party sellers on the site.

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Dos Equis says 'adios' to 'Most Interesting Man' pitchman

NEW YORK (AP) — Even the "Most Interesting Man in the World" can get dumped.

Mexican beer brand Dos Equis is letting go of its gray-haired spokesman, 77-year-old Jonathan Goldsmith with an unnamed replacement. Goldsmith, known in the ads as the "Most Interesting Man in the World," has been appearing in Dos Equis commercials for about nine years.

Dos Equis is making the change to a new actor to attract new drinkers, said Andrew Katz, the brand's vice president of marketing. A new "Most Interesting Man in the World" will appear in commercials later this year.

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Chipotle store in Mass. closed on norovirus fears

NEW YORK (AP) — A Chipotle store in Massachusetts was closed Wednesday after the local health board said an employee there tested positive for norovirus.

Richard Berube, director for the health board in Billerica, Massachusetts, said his agency confirmed one case of norovirus, and found two other suspected cases. Chipotle first closed the store Tuesday at the board's suggestion, and it is scheduled to reopen Thursday.

Chipotle is already fighting to win back customers following a rash of incidents in which customers were sickened around the country.

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Maple syrup-makers say warm winter may hurt production

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Producers in the U.S. "Maple Belt" say a mild winter has allowed them to tap trees early, but the harvest could be down from last year due to the early onset of spring warmth.

Some producers in maple-rich states such as Maine and New York tapped trees as early as January, atypical in an industry when March is usually the money month. But they might have done so out of necessity: The arrival of consistently warm weather typically ends the maple season, because budding trees produce sap that makes for much less palatable syrup.

Maine's maple syrup season got started abnormally early this year, with sap buckets visible on trees around Valentine's Day in the southern part of the state. But producers promise the state's official sweetener will still be available when the annual statewide Maine Maple Sunday celebration arrives on Easter Sunday.

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The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 36.26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,000.36. The S&P 500 climbed 10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,989.26. The Nasdaq composite increased 25.55 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,674.38.

A barrel of benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.79, or 5 percent, to $38.29. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained $1.42, or 3.6 percent, to $41.07 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 8.3 cents to $1.471 a gallon, heating oil rose 3.3 cents to $1.233 a gallon and natural gas rose 4 cents to $1.752 per 1,000 cubic feet.