Business Highlights

10/13/2014 3:30 PM
By Associated Press

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Ebola deflating hopes for 3 poor African economies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just as their economies had begun to recover from the man-made horror of coups and civil war, the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been knocked back down by a terrifying force of nature: the Ebola virus.

In addition to the human toll — more than 4,000 dead so far — the outbreak has paralyzed economic life. Across the Ebola zone, shops are closed, hotels vacant, flights cancelled, fields untended, investments on hold.

In Conakry, capital of Guinea, stray dogs, goats and sheep are plopping down next to empty stalls in street markets devoid of shoppers.

About the only things people want to buy are products meant to guard against Ebola — antiseptic gels and devices that attach to faucets and add chlorine to the water.

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How Frenchman's Nobel research could aid consumers

U.S. consumers might be paying less than they are for cable and Internet access if regulators had followed the guidance of Jean Tirole in promoting industry competition.

So say experts in assessing the work of Tirole, a 61-year-old Frenchmen who won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for showing how to encourage better products and competitive prices in industries dominated by a few companies.

They haven't always listened.

Joshua Gans, management professor at the University of Toronto, says U.S. regulators didn't follow Tirole's advice to require cable and phone companies to sell competitors access to "the last mile" of cable connecting homes to telecommunications networks. Instead, giants such as Comcast and Time Warner now control the last mile.

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Why drop in oil prices has downside for US economy

NEW YORK (AP) — If you're a driver, a shipper or an airline, low oil prices sure feel nice. But there are downsides to the recent plunge in oil prices — for the oil industry and for the economy.

Low fuel prices can help boost economic growth by reducing fuel bills and leaving consumers and companies with more money to spend on other things. Problem is, two factors behind the oil-price drop — a weaker global economy and a stronger dollar — could hurt the U.S. economy by reducing exports, employment and spending. And all that, in turn, could outweigh the economic benefit of cheaper fuel.

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Banks harvest callers' voiceprints to fight fraud

LONDON (AP) — "This call may be monitored."

You hear it every time you phone your bank about a lost credit card or an unexpected charge. You may realize your bank is recording you, but did you know it could be taking your biometric data, too?

An Associated Press investigation has found that two of America's biggest retail banks — JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Wells Fargo & Co. — are quietly recording the biometric details of some callers' voices to weed out fraud. The technology, sometimes called voiceprinting, is aimed at bad guys rather than legitimate customers, but legal and privacy experts alike still have reservations about the practice.

Blacklists help banks by alerting them to repeat calls from clever crooks who try to break into people's accounts armed with personal data gleaned from credit bureau reports or stolen in high-profile cyberattacks like the ones which have rocked Target and other major U.S. retailers.

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JC Penney's new CEO faces challenges

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney's newly tapped CEO has a big challenge ahead of him: The troubled chain is showing signs of improvement after racking up billions in losses, but still hasn't figured out how to get shoppers back into its department stores.

Penney said Monday that Marvin Ellison, a 30-year retail veteran and executive vice president of stores at Home Depot, will become its CEO next August. Ellison will be the first black CEO in the company's 112-year history.

Ellison succeeds Mike Ullman, the former CEO who came out of retirement last year to take the helm again. His job was to stabilize the business following the ouster of Ron Johnson, a former Apple executive who tried unsuccessfully to reinvent the beleaguered chain by getting rid of sales and some basic merchandise. That led to billions in profit and sales losses.

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Top US, UK regulators do exercise on bank failure

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top U.S. and British bank regulators, including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, have taken part in an exercise to see how they would handle the failure of a large multinational bank and communicate with each other.

The exercise held Monday was part of the regulators' efforts to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and to end the need for governments to bail out big banks. The officials also included U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.

They discussed U.S. and British procedures for regulators to take over and break up big banks that fail, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said in a news release. The FDIC hosted the exercise, which took place at the agency's office in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington.

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Fiat Chrysler shares close down in 1st day on NYSE

DETROIT (AP) — Shares of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles bounced between negative and positive Monday after making their debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

The newly merged company's stock, traded under the symbol FCAU, opened at $9 and rose quickly to $9.55 before falling much of the day. The stock closed at $8.92 as the Dow Jones industrial average slumped 222 points in a late slide.

The company began trading in New York to raise its profile and give U.S. investors a chance to own part of the Chrysler comeback story. The stock will also trade in Milan, Italy.

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McDonald's invites icky questions about its food

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's wants to explain why its burgers may not rot and that there are no worms in its beef.

The world's biggest hamburger chain is confronting unappetizing questions as part of a U.S. campaign to beat back perceptions that it serves Frankenfood. The company has run similar campaigns in Canada and Australia and said Monday it's bringing the effort to its flagship market.

The push comes as McDonald's fights to boost its performance in the U.S., where sales slid 1.5 percent at established locations in the most recent quarter, following a 0.2 percent dip for last year. In addition to increased competition, McDonald's is trying to keep up with changing tastes, with places such as Chipotle marketing their food as more wholesome alternatives.

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US eyes sale of NY's Waldorf hotel to Chinese firm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Concerned about potential security risks, the U.S. government is taking a close look at last week's sale of New York's iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel to a Chinese insurance company.

U.S. officials said Monday they are reviewing the Oct. 6 purchase of the Waldorf by the Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, which bought the hotel from Hilton Worldwide for $1.95 billion. Terms of the sale allow Hilton to run the hotel for the next 100 years and call for "a major renovation" that officials say has raised eyebrows in Washington, where fears of Chinese eavesdropping and cyber espionage run high.

The officials also said the sale could have implications for the government's longstanding relationship with the hotel, which serves as home to the American ambassador to the United Nations and hosts the president and hundreds of U.S. diplomats during the annual U.N. General Assembly.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 223.03, or 1.4 percent, to 16,321.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 31.39, or 1.7 percent, to 1,874.74. The Nasdaq slid 62.58 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,213.66.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 8 cents to close at $85.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.32 to close at $88.89 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.3 cent to close at $2.255 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.3 cent to close at $2.557 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.7 cents to close at $3.916 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Has the Food and Drug Administration done enough to revise its produce safety rule?

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11/1/2014 | Last Updated: 10:45 PM