Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2017 5:29 PM

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Ford cancels plan to build new Mexican plant, adds US jobs

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (AP) — The auto industry's relationship with President-elect Donald Trump took a dramatic turn Tuesday as Ford Motor Co. decided to shift investment dollars targeted for Mexico to the U.S., while Trump threatened General Motors with a tax on some imported small cars.

Ford is canceling plans to build a new $1.6 billion factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and will instead invest some of that money in a U.S. factory that will build new electric and autonomous vehicles.

Ford said last spring it would move production of the Ford Focus small car to the new plant from Michigan. Trump has repeatedly criticized the plan, and Ford was among the companies he threatened to hit with a 35-percent tariff on products made in Mexico and exported to the U.S.

Trump added General Motors to that group today, saying in a tweet that the Cruze small cars GM makes in Mexico and sends to U.S. dealers could face "a big border tax!"

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Megyn Kelly leaving Fox News, will host 2 shows on NBC

NEW YORK (AP) — Megyn Kelly, the Fox News star who's had a contentious relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, said Tuesday that she's leaving the network for NBC News, where she will host a daytime talk show and a weekend newsmagazine, as well as contribute to breaking news coverage.

NBC News made the announcement Tuesday, ending months of speculation over whether she would re-up with Fox, where she has flourished while suffering bruised feelings in recent months, or start a new chapter in her career. Her contract with Fox expires this summer. Her last show on Fox will be Friday night.

Kelly's departure deprives Fox News of its second-most-watched host, behind only Bill O'Reilly, and a hole at 9 p.m. in its prime-time lineup.

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Here come 'smart stores' with robots, interactive shelves

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tomorrow's retail stores want to take a page from their online rivals by embracing advanced technology — everything from helpful robots to interactive mirrors to shelves embedded with sensors.

The goal: Use these real-world store features to lure shoppers back from the internet, and maybe even nudge them to spend more in the process.

Amazon's new experimental grocery store in Seattle, opening in early 2017, will let shoppers buy goods without needing to stop at a checkout line. Sensors track items as shoppers put them into baskets or return them to the shelf. The shopper's Amazon account gets automatically charged.

Kroger, Neiman Marcus and Lowe's are among the companies already experimenting with futuristic retail stores. Robots, for instance, could help guide shoppers to the right aisle, while augmented reality apps could help you see how a particular shade of paint will look in the living room — or how you might look in a pair of jeans. Many of these technologies will be unveiled or demonstrated at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, which begins Tuesday with media previews.

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Beantown as Shoetown: Sneaker makers stake claim in Boston

BOSTON (AP) — Shoe makers are racing to the Boston area as they compete for millennial talent.

Reebok picked the city's rapidly growing Seaport District for its new global headquarters in December. New Balance and Converse both opened splashy new headquarters in 2015 that helped redefine the city skyline.

Wolverine, which owns Saucony, Keds, Sperry and other brands, moved a regional campus in Waltham, just outside Boston, this summer from Lexington, Massachusetts. And shoe maker Rockport in January will open a new headquarters in the affluent Boston suburb of Newton.

The new locales recognize that younger, more skilled workers prefer to be closer to cities and the amenities they provide rather than distant suburbs, industry watchers say.

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Trump names lawyer Lighthizer as top trade rep

NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday he will nominate lawyer Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, picking an experienced trade official who has questioned the conservative movement's commitment to free trade.

Lighthizer, who served as deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan, would play a key role in Trump's trade agenda. The president-elect has vigorously opposed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, but has said he would ink one-on-one trade deals with individual countries. Trump has also signaled a tough stance on trade with China, including levying a hefty tariff on Chinese imports.

Lighthizer, who played a senior role during Bob Dole's 1996 campaign, has more recently worked on trade issues as a lawyer, representing manufacturing, agricultural and high-tech companies, according to his law firm biography. Lighthizer's bio also states that he focused on "market-opening trade actions on behalf of U.S. companies seeking access to foreign markets."

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FDA probes dangers of exploding e-cigarette batteries

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is probing the dangers of exploding batteries in e-cigarettes, following dozens of reports of devices that have combusted, overheated or caught fire and sometimes injured users.

The agency announced a two-day public meeting for April, according to an online posting.

The Associated Press reported last month that 66 explosions were identified by the FDA in 2015 and early 2016.

E-cigarettes are hand-held devices that vaporize liquid nicotine. Their safety has not been extensively studied and there's no scientific consensus on whether they help reduce rates of cigarette smoking.

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US construction spending hits highest level in 10 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders boosted spending on construction projects for a second straight month in November, pushing activity to the highest level in more than a decade.

Construction spending rose 0.9 percent in November after a 0.6 percent increase in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The increase reflected solid gains in home construction, nonresidential building and government construction activity.

The gains in all three categories pushed total construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.18 trillion, the highest point since April 2006 when a housing boom fueled building.

Economists believe construction will continue to show gains in 2017, reflecting a strong job market with unemployment at the lowest point in nine years.

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US factory activity hit 2-year high in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing activity expanded in December to its highest level in two years, as new orders and production jumped in a positive sign for economic growth.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its manufacturing index came in at 54.7 last month, up from 53.2 in November and the highest reading since the end of 2014. Any reading over 50 signals growth.

U.S. factories are steadily rebounding from a rough patch hit in late 2015 and early 2016. A prior decline in energy prices caused cutbacks in orders for equipment and pipelines, while a stronger dollar and slower economic growth abroad hurt exports.

New orders registered a reading of 60.2 and production improved to 60.3, evidence of greater demand for factory goods. The employment reading was a weaker but still expanding 53.1.

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APNewsBreak: US yanks funds from unbuilt windmill farm

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A plan to build windmills off the New Jersey coast that has already burned through nearly $11 million and remains dead in the water is being cut off from further government funding.

The U.S. Department of Energy says Fishermen's Energy failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to have a power purchase agreement in place.

The department is revoking most of the $47 million in funding it pledged to the project in 2014; about $10.6 million has been spent already on preliminary work.

The project would have involved building six windmills about three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, which could have generated enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

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The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 119.16 points, or 0.6 percent, to 19,881.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,257.83. The Nasdaq composite gained 45.97 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,429.08.

U.S. crude gave up $1.39, or 2.6 percent, to $52.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, skidded $1.35, or 2.4 percent, to $55.47 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil lost 5 cents, or 3 percent, to $1.68 a gallon.