Business Highlights

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 04, 2017 5:08 PM

___

The big thing in TV sets this year is ... big TV sets

LAS VEGAS (AP) — What's new in television sets this year? Incrementally better pictures, larger screens and cheaper prices.

True, set manufacturers are bombarding consumers with a whole series of buzzwords — OLED, 4K, 8K, HDR, QLED — intended to spur excitement and generate sales. Flashy new sets with these supposedly "must have" features are getting the spotlight Wednesday at the annual CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

But when it comes down to it, none of these amount to revolutionary improvements for your living room. Set manufacturers may not have run out of technological tricks yet, but for this year, at least, they're reduced to improving what's already out there.

___

Mortgage rates, home sales and prices seen rising in 2017

As recently as this summer, homebuyers had ultra-low mortgage rates on their side. But that was then.

While mortgage rates remain low by historical standards, they've risen sharply over the past couple of months, pushing the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage to 4.32 percent this week. That's the highest level since April 2014.

Economists predict mortgage rates will continue to climb next year, just one of the trends that suggest 2017 could be a more challenging year for homebuyers.

___

Macy's to close stores, cut jobs amid weak sales

Macy's says it is eliminating more than 10,000 jobs and plans to move forward with 68 store closures after a disappointing holiday shopping season. The department store chain also lowered its full-year earnings forecast.

The retailer said Wednesday that sales at established stores fell 2.1 percent in November and December compared to the same period last year. Macy's Inc. pointed to changing consumer behavior and said it reflects challenges facing much of the retail industry.

The company said it plans to close by midyear the 68 stores that are part of 100 closings announced in August. It also plans to restructure parts of its business and sell some properties. The moves are estimated to save $550 million annually.

___

Trump names Wall Street lawyer Clayton as SEC chairman

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday chose a Wall Street attorney with experience in corporate mergers and public stock launches as his nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Trump announced his nomination of Jay Clayton, a partner in the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, as chairman of the independent agency that oversees Wall Street and the financial markets. If confirmed by the Senate, his responsibilities will include enforcing the scores of rules already written by the agency under the 2010 law that reshaped financial regulation after the 2008-09 crisis.

The law, known as Dodd-Frank, has long been scorned by Republicans and is high on Trump's target list.

___

Tillerson and Exxon part ways; $180M retirement package

NEW YORK (AP) — Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state, is severing ties with Exxon Mobil through a $180 million retirement package one week before his Senate confirmation hearing begins.

Tillerson will potentially surrender all unpaid stock that was part of his pay package. In exchange, the company will make a cash payment equal to the value of those shares to a trust overseen by a third party, according to a regulatory filing.

Because of the way the compensation is being dispensed, Tillerson will give up about $7 million, versus what he would have been paid had he retired in March as he had previously planned.

___

Fed minutes: If economy heats up, rate hikes may accelerate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials, who boosted a key interest rate last month, said they might need to accelerate future rate hikes if a faster-growing economy pushes down the unemployment rate farther than currently expected.

Minutes of the Fed's December meeting released Wednesday showed that Fed officials discussed the impact of Donald Trump's proposed economic program of tax cuts, deregulation and increased infrastructure spending.

The minutes said that Fed officials believed they could maintain plans for gradual rate hikes but would need to be ready to hasten those increases if necessary to fight inflation.

___

US auto sales near record highs in 2016

DETROIT (AP) — Demand may be slowing, but U.S. consumers still bought a whole lot of cars and trucks in 2016.

U.S. sales of new vehicles could hit a new high in 2016. Consulting firm LMC Automotive and car-buying site Edmunds.com each predict sales will squeak past the previous record and reach 17.5 million in 2016.

But after six straight years of sales gains, U.S. sales appear to have reached a plateau. The National Automobile Dealers Association expects U.S. sales to drop to 17.1 million vehicles in 2017 as interest rates and vehicle prices rise.

___

Insurer: 2016 saw highest natural disaster losses in 4 years

BERLIN (AP) — Last year saw the highest costs from natural disasters since 2012, with a pair of earthquakes in Japan in April accounting for the heaviest losses, a leading insurer said Wednesday.

Losses from natural disasters worldwide totaled $175 billion last year, some $50 billion of which was covered by insurance, Munich Re said in an annual survey .

The earthquakes on Japan's southern Kyushu island caused $31 billion worth of damage, with $6 billion of the costs covered by insurance. Floods in China in June and July caused $20 billion in costs, only $300 million of which was insured.

___

Hulu adds CBS for upcoming live TV streaming service

NEW YORK (AP) — Hulu is teaming up with CBS to add three of the network's channels to its upcoming live TV streaming service.

The service will cost under $40 a month, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said at a conference Wednesday, but he did not give a specific price. That will include Hulu's library of on-demand videos as well.

Hulu said the live-streaming service will launch in the coming months, but did not give a date.

The CBS deal will give Hulu the right to live-stream the nation's most-watched broadcast network as well as CBS Sports Network and cable channel Pop.

___

Crab boats tied up as strike extends up and down West Coast

SEATTLE (AP) — Dungeness crab could be harder to come by if hundreds of fishing boats remain tied up at docks from California to Washington state by a dispute between crabbers and seafood processors over the price of the sought-after crustaceans.

Crab fleets that have been fishing in parts of Oregon and near San Francisco are now anchored, and other vessels in Washington state and northern California have opted not to go out as their season gears up, said John Corbin, a commercial crab fisherman in Warrenton, Oregon, and chairman of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

___

The Dow Jones industrial average added 60.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 19,942.16. The S&P 500 jumped 12.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,270.75. The Nasdaq composite rose 47.92 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,477.

Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 93 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $53.26 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 99 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $56.46 a barrel in London. The price of natural gas fell another 1.8 percent, to $3.33 per 1,000 cubic feet, after a drop of almost 11 percent Tuesday. Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cent to $1.65 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 2 cents to $1.69 a gallon.