Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2016 5:12 PM

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Yellen faces GOP criticism over weak economic growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen came under fire Wednesday from House Republicans who charged that the central bank's policies have not boosted economic growth and have left financial markets confused about the Fed's next moves.

Democrats defended Yellen, noting that the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 4.7 percent, and 14 million jobs have been created despite modest overall growth.

Yellen said the Fed has used the tools it has available to keep interest rates low as a way to bolster job creation.

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Uber, Lyft battle governments over driver fingerprint checks

DETROIT (AP) — Hailing a ride in many cities is coming down to a fight over fingerprints.

Following incidents where Uber drivers were found to have criminal records, a number of state and local officials have proposed fingerprint background checks for ride-hailing drivers. But Uber and Lyft have fought those checks, contending their own vetting method is just as safe.

Chicago and Rhode Island both recently passed regulation that exclude finger print checks. Several other cities and states are considering similar measures.

Uber and Lyft have recently made good on threats to leave places that impose fingerprint checks.

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Betting on Britain's high-stakes EU vote breaks record

LONDON (AP) — As if the stakes were not high enough in Britain's nail-biting vote this week, people are betting record amounts of money on its outcome.

Thursday's vote on whether to leave the European Union, which will have lasting consequences for the country and Europe, is due to break the record as the most bet-upon political event in Britain's history. The industry is expecting 100 million pounds ($147 million) to be wagered by the time the result is known in the early hours of Friday.

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IMF downgrades outlook for US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for the U.S. economy this year and said America should raise the minimum wage to help the poor, offer paid maternity leave to encourage more women to work and overhaul the corporate tax system to boost productivity.

In its annual checkup of the U.S. economy, the IMF on Wednesday predicted 2.2 percent U.S. growth this year, down from 2.4 percent in 2015.

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US stocks slip as energy and tech companies struggle

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks gave up some early gains to finish lower Wednesday.

After two days of closing higher, stocks rose in the morning but couldn't hang on to the gains. Energy companies fell after U.S. energy stockpiles shrank by a smaller amount than analysts expected, and announcements from Adobe Systems and HP hurt tech stocks. Drug companies traded higher.

Trading was light as investors watched Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony before Congress and waited for Thursday's vote on Britain's membership in the European Union.

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US homes sell at strongest pace since 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans snapped up houses in May almost as soon as properties were listed, fueling the strongest sales rate in nearly a decade.

Sales of existing homes rose 1.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.53 million, the highest level since February 2007, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

People remain intent on buying homes, despite the low inventory of properties on the market that has caused prices to rise. The elevated demand likely stems from low mortgage rates and a relatively healthy jobs picture with unemployment at 4.7 percent, even with a recent slowdown in hiring.

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Trustees: Tiny rise in Social Security benefits next year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of Social Security beneficiaries would get a tiny increase in monthly payments next year — less than $2.50, about enough to buy a gallon of gas.

Meanwhile, Medicare is expected to go bankrupt sooner than expected — 12 years from now. And some beneficiaries could face higher monthly premiums next year.

The annual report from the trustees of the government's two bedrock retirement programs warned that politically gridlocked Washington needs to act sooner, rather than later, to shore up finances and avoid upending the lives of millions of retirees and their families.

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Obama signs major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules into law

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama signed the first major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules in 40 years into law on Wednesday, calling it proof that Washington can function despite intense polarization.

In a White House signing ceremony, Obama praised both chemicals industry groups and environmentalists alike for finding consensus despite their usual differences of opinion.

In addition to updating rules for tens of thousands of everyday chemicals, the law also sets safety standards for dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, asbestos and styrene. It aims to standardize on the national level what is currently a jumble of state rules governing the $800 billion-per-year industry.

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Infiniti recalls sedans to fix electronic steering problem

DETROIT (AP) — Nissan is recalling 60,000 Infiniti luxury sedans worldwide because the electronic steering can malfunction.

The recall covers certain Q50 gasoline and hybrid cars from the 2014 and 2015 model years. It includes more than 28,000 in the U.S.

The company said Wednesday in documents posted by the U.S. government a combination of low battery voltage and parking the cars with the wheels turned can confuse the steering control computer. That can change steering responsiveness and the turning radius, as well as cause the steering wheel to be off-center.

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The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 48.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,780.83. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.45 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,085.45. The Nasdaq composite edged down 10.44 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,833.32.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 72 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $49.13 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, lost 74 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $49.88 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.59 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1 cent to $1.50 a gallon. Natural gas lost 9 cents to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.