Oct 25, 5:46 PM EDT

Business Highlights


Anger still flares after judge OKs Volkswagen emissions deal

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal judge approved the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history Tuesday, giving nearly half a million Volkswagen owners the choice between selling their cars back or having them repaired so they don't cheat on emissions tests and spew excess pollution.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the nearly $15 billion deal "adequately and fairly" compensates consumers and gets the polluting vehicles off the road as soon as possible.

The German automaker acknowledged last year that about 475,000 Volkswagens and Audis with 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engines were programmed to cheat on emissions tests.


Despite warnings, extremely dangerous air bags not repaired

DETROIT (AP) - Despite thousands of mailed notices and warnings of grave danger, Honda is still having trouble finding and notifying about 300,000 people with potentially deadly air bag inflators in their cars.

About 69 million Takata inflators have been recalled due to possible rupture. And in June, government regulators said testing showed that inflators in 313,000 older Hondas and Acuras had as high as a 50 percent chance of rupturing in a crash. They told owners to stop driving them and get repairs. But four months later, only 13,000 of the cars have done so, highlighting major holes remain in the recall system.


New Wells Fargo CEO to employees: 'We're sorry'

NEW YORK (AP) - Newly appointed Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan has told employees that he is "sorry for the pain" that the bank's employees have felt as a result of the company's sales practices scandal.

Sloan's company-wide speech given Tuesday is the latest effort by Wells Fargo's executives to atone for the fact that the bank's employees, pushed by impossible sales goals, opened as many as 2 million bank and credit card accounts without customers' authorization.

In the speech, Sloan acknowledged that the bank did not respond to the problems in its branches soon enough and that upper management dodged responsibility for the bad behavior and wrongly placed blamed on its branch employees.


Consumer stocks fall as Whirlpool, GM and others skid

NEW YORK (AP) - Shaky results from consumer companies dragged the U.S. stock market lower on Tuesday as well-known names like appliance maker Whirlpool and athletic apparel maker Under Armour suffered their worst losses in years.

Third-quarter earnings continued to dominate the market and some of the biggest companies either reported disappointing results or lowered their expectations. Investors wondered if consumers will spend less money on home improvement, clothing and other goods. But companies including Procter & Gamble and Lockheed Martin soared after their reports. Looking for safer options, some investors bought bonds and utility company shares.


US home prices rose in August, lifted by dwindling supply

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. home prices climbed at a solid pace in August as more home buyers competed for fewer available properties.

The Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.1 percent in August, after a 5 percent gain in July. Portland, Seattle and Denver reported the strongest year-over-year increases for the seventh month in a row.

Steady hiring, low mortgage rates and some early signs of rising pay have encouraged more Americans to buy homes. Yet the number of homes for sale has fallen nearly 7 percent from a year ago.


Consumer confidence retreated slightly in October

WASHINGTON (AP) - American consumers felt less confident this month, but the small retreat came after confidence had risen to a 20-month high in September.

Consumer confidence slipped to 98.6 this month after rising to 103.5 in September, the Conference Board reported Tuesday. The September reading was the highest since confidence stood at 103.8 in January 2015. The September confidence number was revised down from an initial estimate of 104.1, which had been the highest in nine years.

The lower October reading reflected a drop in consumers' assessment of current business conditions and employment prospects.


Caterpillar stung by global economic funk

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Caterpillar's third-quarter profit was essentially cut in half with the global economy stuck in a funk, and the company said that it expects that malaise to extend into next year.

The construction and mining equipment maker lowered its outlook for the year. Falling commodity prices on the farm, in the mines, and in the oil patch have forced a deep reduction in equipment spending.

The earnings report Tuesday was the first since Caterpillar announced that longtime CEO Doug Oberhelman was stepping down.


Merck breezes past 3Q profit expectations, raises forecast

Higher sales of vaccines and prescription medicines, coupled with restrained spending, helped Merck & Co. post a 20 percent jump in third-quarter profit, trouncing Wall Street expectations.

The company raised and narrowed its 2016 financial forecasts, but noted some headwinds, including the start of U.S. generic competition to three drugs by year's end.


Procter & Gamble's 1Q performance tops Street's view

CINCINNATI (AP) - Procter & Gamble Co.'s fiscal first-quarter results beat Wall Street's expectations as it controlled expenses and saw solid sales growth in its health care segment.

P&G has been working on transforming its business to better focus on bigger brands with growth potential. The company has already shed some of the smaller brands it says collectively contribute little to its operating profit.


Under Armour takes a breather

BALTIMORE (AP) - Under Armour had one of the worst trading days in its history as investors sensed that the hard-charging athletic company may be hitting the wall.

The company reported Tuesday that quarterly revenue growth was the slowest in six years and it trimmed growth projections.

Chief Financial Officer Chip Molloy said that while Under Armour continues to believe that it will significantly outpace rivals, "the growth rate going forward will be less than" what was anticipated last year.


GM reports record 3Q earnings despite slowing US sales

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors doesn't seem too worried about slowing U.S. auto sales or economic troubles in Europe. If third-quarter numbers are any indication, the company has numbers to back that up.

The Detroit automaker reported a record profit on Tuesday that doubled results in the third quarter a year ago. And the automaker put a little more swagger behind its full-year guidance, predicting pretax earnings at the high end of previous forecasts of $5.50 to $6 per share.

GM earned $2.77 billion, or $1.76 per share, compared with $1.36 billion, or 84 cents per share a year ago. Revenue hit a record $42.8 billion.


Chipotles sales fall again as it tries to win back customers

NEW YORK (AP) - Chipotle says its sales fell for the fifth straight quarter, as the company struggles to win back customers after an E. coli scare last year.

The burrito chain says sales fell 21.9 percent at established restaurants during the quarter ending Sept. 30. That's worse than the 18.3 percent drop Wall Street analysts expected, according to FactSet.

The company has given out millions of free burritos and launched a three-month loyalty program in June to try to bring customers back. In September, it offered even more freebies: Kids could eat free on Sundays and students could grab free sodas or iced tea with their meals.


The Dow Jones industrial average sank 53.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,169.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gave up 8.17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,143.16. The Nasdaq composite slid 26.43 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,283.40.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $49.96 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 67 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $50.79 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline stayed at $1.50 a gallon. Heating oil lost 2 cent to $1.56 a gallon. Natural gas sank 6 cent, or 2 percent, to $2.77 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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