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Jan 19, 9:19 PM EST

Business Highlights


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Treasury pick defends foreclosure actions, asset disclosure

WASHINGTON (AP) - Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump's pick as Treasury secretary, clashed with Democrats during a lengthy confirmation hearing Thursday over his handling of thousands of mortgage foreclosures and his failure to initially disclose to the committee $100 million in assets and interests in a Cayman Islands corporation.

Mnuchin said the failure to disclose the assets was an oversight that he had corrected when it was brought to his attention by staffers of the Senate Finance Committee. He said he had followed the advice of a lawyer who believed the disclosures were not necessary.

But Democrats seized on the issue as evidence of serious ethics challenges among Trump's Cabinet nominees.

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Trump expects 'big results' from his choice to lead USDA

WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump said Thursday that he expects that former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, his choice to lead the Agriculture Department, will "deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land."

Agriculture secretary was the final Cabinet post to be announced by Trump, who is set to take office Friday.

Perdue, 70, is a farmer's son who built businesses in grain trading and trucking before becoming governor of Georgia. He is not related to or affiliated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.

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US ends probe of Tesla fatal crash without seeking recall

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tesla Motors Inc. won't face a recall or fine as a result of a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system, but U.S. safety regulators are warning auto manufacturers and drivers not to treat semiautonomous cars as if they were fully self-driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it found that the system had no safety defects at the time of the May 7 crash in Florida, and that it was primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions rather than other crash scenarios.

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Dow erases gain for 2017 as stocks fall, bond yields climb

NEW YORK (AP) - The Dow Jones industrial average erased its gains for 2017 on Thursday as it fell for the fifth day in a row, part of a pullback for stock indexes as Treasury yields continued their upward march.

Losses were widespread, with three stocks falling on the New York Stock Exchange for every one that rose. Utilities, real-estate investment trusts and others that pay big dividends were among the hardest hit because their payouts look less attractive when bond yields are rising. Small company stocks took outsize losses.

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Union Pacific cost cuts offset declining shipments in 4Q

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Union Pacific's fourth-quarter profit grew 2 percent as cost reductions offset a 3 percent decline in shipments.

Net income reached $1.14 billion, or $1.39 per share, well above the per-share earnings of $1.34 that Wall Street was looking for, according to Zacks Investment Research. Revenue declined 1 percent to $5.17 billion, but that was also better than the $5.14 billion analysts expected.

The railroad reduced its expenses 3 percent to $3.2 billion in the quarter in response to the slower shipping volume.

Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz said higher energy prices, favorable agricultural markets and improving consumer confidence all suggest railroad shipping volumes will grow this year.

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American Express misses 4Q profit forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) - American Express Co. on Thursday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $825 million, or 88 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were 91 cents per share.

The results missed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 98 cents per share.

The credit card issuer and global payments company posted revenue of $8.02 billion in the period, exceeding market forecasts of $7.94 billion.

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Over 652K vehicles involved in latest Takata air bag recall

DETROIT (AP) - Thirteen automakers are recalling more than 652,000 vehicles in the U.S. in the latest round of dangerous Takata air bag inflator recalls.

Automakers with recalls posted Thursday are Audi, Nissan, Jaguar-Land Rover, Subaru, Daimler Vans, Tesla, Mitsubishi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mazda, McLaren and Karma. All the recalls are to replace front passenger inflators.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. Sixteen people have died worldwide and more than 180 have been hurt due to the problem.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.09 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Long-term US mortgage rates marked their third week of declines this week, after snapping a nine-week run of increases.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans fell to an average 4.09 percent from 4.12 percent last week. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.81 percent.

The average for a 15-year mortgage declined to 3.34 percent from 3.37 percent last week.

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Pizza Hut plans to hire 11,000 ahead of the Super Bowl

NEW YORK (AP) - Pizza Hut is gearing up for the Super Bowl by hiring 11,000 people in the U.S. to cook up its pies, deliver them to hungry customers or manage its restaurants.

The Super Bowl is the busiest day of the year for Pizza Hut, and it expects to sell more than 2 million pizzas during the game.

It plans to fill as many of the positions as possible before the Super Bowl, but those that aren't will be filled afterward.

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Western Union to pay $586 million for fraud victims

NEW YORK (AP) - Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to the U.S. government to pay back victims of fraud that the money transfer company failed to protect.

The government says that Western Union did not have a strong enough anti-fraud program, allowing scammers to use its money transfer services to rip off customers.

As part of the agreement, Western Union has also agreed to implement and maintain an anti-fraud program and properly train its staff to identify potential fraud.

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Costco agrees to pay $12M over lax pharmacy practices

SEATTLE (AP) - Costco Wholesale Corp. has agreed to pay nearly $12 million to settle Justice Department allegations of lax pharmacy controls over a four-year period.

The Issaquah, Washington-based company acknowledges in the settlement announced Thursday that some of its pharmacies improperly filled prescriptions, kept poor records or failed to adequately track inventory between the start of 2012 and the end of 2015.

The case grew out of separate investigations conducted by federal authorities in Washington, Michigan and California.

Costco has invested in a new, $127 million pharmacy management system and adopted new audit protocols.

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The Dow declined 72.32 points, or 0.4 percent, to 19,732.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 8.20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,263.69. The Nasdaq composite shed 15.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,540.08.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 29 cents to close at $51.37 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 24 cents to $54.16. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to $1.53 a gallon and heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.62 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $3.37 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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This item has been corrected to show that the Dow declined 72.32 points, not 72.23 points.

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