Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2016 5:25 PM

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Unsafe transport leads to death: Farmworkers 'disposable'?

It has been just over a half-century since the nation's worst fatal vehicle accident killed nearly three dozen migrants, a horror that farmworker advocates had hoped would bring lasting reforms.

Yet, due to enforcement gaps and the sometimes callous attitudes of those who contract for the workers, laborers continue to ride in overloaded, poorly maintained, uninsured vehicles — often driven by a fellow crew member without a proper license, or with no license at all.

The Associated Press found more than a dozen accidents that left at least 38 dead and nearly 200 injured just since January 2015. The casualties included a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old, traveling with migrant worker parents.

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US economy grew at strong 3.5 pct. annual rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, the fastest pace in two years and more than the government had previously estimated. But the growth spurt isn't expected to last.

The gain in the gross domestic product — the economy's total output of goods and services — came from added strength in consumer spending, business investment and the government sector, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The government had previously estimated last quarter's annual growth rate at 3.2 percent.

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Stocks slide again as retailers and tech companies slip

NEW YORK (AP) — Retailers took losses Thursday and pulled U.S. stocks lower in another day of mild trading before the holidays.

Bed Bath & Beyond was pummeled after the home goods retailer reported weak results, and investors also dumped companies like Target, Staples and Dollar Tree. Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba fell after it was sanctioned by the U.S. government, while companies linked to investor Carl Icahn climbed after the billionaire was named as a future adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.

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Consumer spending growth weakened in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers slowed the growth in their spending in November and income growth was flat, two worrisome signs at the start of the holiday shopping season.

Consumer spending rose 0.2 percent in November, the weakest showing since a 0.1 percent rise in August, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

So far, spending in the holiday shopping season has not been as strong as last year. That has prompted some stores to offer better deals and incentives such as free shipping.

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US business investment rose in November for 2nd month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses stepped up their spending on industrial machinery, steel, and other big-ticket items last month, a sign that one of the economy's weak spots may be improving.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that a measure that tracks business investment rose 0.9 percent in November, after a slight 0.2 percent rise the previous month.

Orders for all big-ticket factory goods fell 4.6 percent, mostly because of a sharp fall in demand for commercial aircraft, a volatile category. Excluding transportation-related goods, orders rose 0.5 percent.

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Long-term US mortgage rates hit highest levels since 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term US mortgage rates climbed again this week, hitting the highest levels since 2014.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans jumped to an average 4.30 percent from 4.16 percent last week and the highest since April 2014. The average for a 15-year mortgage rose to 3.52 percent from 3.37 percent last week and highest since January 2014.

Rates have surged since the election of Donald Trump. Investors have bid rates higher because they believe the president-elect's plans for tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending will drive up economic growth and inflation.

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Ikea reaches $50M settlement in toddler deaths from dressers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lawyers for three families say Ikea is agreeing to pay $50 million because toddlers died when the company's dressers tipped over on them.

The Swedish home furnishings retailer has recalled millions of chests and dressers because of concerns the furniture can tip over when the drawers are opened. The families' lawyers say Ikea will also make donations to children's hospitals.

Johanna Iritz, a spokeswoman for Ikea in Sweden, said Thursday "it would be inappropriate to comment," adding the settlement was pending a U.S. court approval.

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Airbus secures Iran Air deal with list price of $18 billion

PARIS (AP) — Airbus and Iran Air finalized Thursday a deal for 100 planes worth more than $18 billion dollars at list prices — a contract that's potentially a big boost for Iran's post-sanctions economy.

Under the terms of the deal, which was initially announced in January, Airbus said deliveries are expected to begin early next year.

The contract includes single-aisle A320 and A330 jets and wide-body A350 XWB planes.

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China says it will cooperate with Trump but warns on Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China warned Thursday that ties with the U.S. will likely see new complications and the only way to maintain a stable relationship is by respecting each other's "core interests."

Foreign Minister Wang Yi's remarks appeared to underscore that China's position on Taiwan is non-negotiable, weeks after President-elect Donald Trump suggested he could re-evaluate U.S. policy on Taiwan. It also mirrored Beijing's relatively measured posture toward the incoming U.S. administration despite signs of growing wariness.

Wang told the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, that China will strive to boost cooperation with the U.S. but he foresaw "new, complicated and uncertain factors affecting bilateral relations" under the Trump administration.

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Uber moves self-driving cars from California to Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) — A fleet of self-driving Uber cars is headed to Arizona after they were banned from California roads over safety concerns.

The announcement came Thursday after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent several social media messages touting Arizona as an alternative to California for the ride-hailing company.

Uber said in a statement that it had shipped its cars to Arizona and will be expanding its self-driving pilot program in the next few weeks.

California officials announced on Wednesday they would revoke the cars' registrations after negotiations failed between the ride-hailing company and state regulators.

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Justice Dept. sues Barclays over mortgage-backed securities

The Justice Department has sued Barclays Bank PLC and several of its U.S. affiliates over the sale of risky mortgage-backed securities.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, seeks to recover civil penalties for fraud from the British bank. It accuses the bank and its employees of misrepresenting the quality of the loans they sold to investors between 2005 and 2007. The Justice Department says investors lost billions of dollars.

Barclays said it denies the allegations in the lawsuit and says the claims in it "are disconnected from the facts."

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The Dow Jones industrial average shed 23.08 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,918.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 4.22 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,260.96. The Nasdaq composite dipped 24.01 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,447.42.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 46 cents to $52.95 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 59 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $55.05 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline remained at $1.60 a gallon. Heating oil added 2 cents to $1.66 a gallon. Natural gas stayed at $3.54 per 1,000 cubic feet.