Business News

Dec 8, 5:13 PM EST

Business Highlights


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Trump picks labor secretary

NEW YORK (AP) - President-elect Donald Trump is expected to pick fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to lead the Labor Department. That's according to a Republican official and a person close to Trump's transition, both speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose the information before the official announcement.

Puzder heads CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent of Carl's Jr., Hardee's and other chains. The Californian was one of Trump's earliest campaign financiers, and his selection would bring another wealthy business person and elite donor into the president-elect's Cabinet.

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Gains for banks and materials lead stocks to all-time highs

NEW YORK (AP) - After a quiet start, major U.S. stock indexes again set all-time highs Thursday afternoon as the market built on a surge the previous day. Banks continued to lead the way as bond yields jumped, and small-company stocks soared again.

Bond yields in the U.S. and Europe, particularly in heavily indebted countries, jumped after the European Central Bank surprised investors by saying it will reduce the size of its monthly bond purchases. That sent interest rates higher, which makes it more profitable for banks to lend money.

Energy companies rose with the price of oil and companies that make chemicals and other basic materials also climbed. Industrial companies and makers of household goods slipped, which held stocks back from even larger gains.

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European Central Bank adds half a trillion euros in stimulus

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -The European Central Bank will pour another half-trillion euros ($579 billion) in newly printed money into the eurozone economy to support its recovery as the currency union heads into what could be a tumultuous election year.

The bank's 25-member governing council extended the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program by at least nine months, from March until December next year. But the council startled markets Thursday by reducing the monthly amount of bonds it will buy after March, to 60 billion euros ($64 billion) from 80 billion euros currently.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the reduction did not mean the bank was tapering, or phasing out, the stimulus.

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Claims for US unemployment aid slide again

WASHINGTON (AP) - Fewer Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, another sign the U.S. job market remains healthy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless aid slid by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 1,000 to 252,500. Overall, 2.01 million Americans are collecting unemployment checks, down 10 percent from a year ago.

Claims have come in below 300,000 for 92 straight weeks, longest such streak since 1970. The applications are a proxy for layoffs, and the low numbers suggest that employers are hanging onto their workers and that most Americans enjoy job security.

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US home price gains lift household wealth to $90.2 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) - A healthy increase in home values and higher stock prices drove up U.S. household wealth in the July-September quarter, though the gains are largely concentrated among wealthier Americans.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that real estate values increased $554 billion in the third quarter, while Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios rose $494 billion. Total household wealth, which includes checking and savings accounts and subtracts mortgages and other debt, increased 1.8 percent to $90.2 trillion.

The rise suggests that Americans' finances are improving, with more families building equity in their homes.

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US 30-year average mortgage rate rises to 4.13 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Long-term U.S. mortgage rates climbed for the sixth straight week in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election win, marking new highs for the year.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan jumped this week to 4.13 percent from 4.08 percent the previous week. The benchmark rate surpassed its 3.95 percent level of a year ago. The rate on 15-year home loans, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, rose to 3.36 percent from 3.34 percent.

Long-term mortgage and interest rates have surged in the five weeks since Trump's surprise victory in November to become the country's next president.

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Airlines project 'soft landing' in 2017 after record profits

GENEVA (AP) - The world's leading association of airlines is lowering its projection for record industry net profit this year, while predicting a 16 percent drop next year due to rising oil prices.

The International Air Transport Association forecasts profit of $35.6 billion this year, down from its previous projections for $39.4 billion due to slower economic growth and rising costs. Profit is expected to be $29.8 billion in 2017.

IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac cited continued economic, political and security risks, but said the industry's more resilient after years of restructuring. He cautioned profits are not evenly distributed, with the best performance centered on North America.

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Surgeon General sounding alarm on teens' use of e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. surgeon general is calling e-cigarettes an emerging public health threat to the nation's youth.

In a report released Thursday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy acknowledged a need for more research into the health effects of "vaping," but said e-cigarettes aren't harmless and too many teens are using them.

"My concern is e-cigarettes have the potential to create a whole new generation of kids who are addicted to nicotine," Murthy told The Associated Press. "If that leads to the use of other tobacco-related products, then we are going to be moving backward instead of forward."

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Michael Jordan wins China court ruling after yearslong case

BEIJING (AP) - Basketball legend Michael Jordan now owns his Chinese name, after China's highest court sided with him Thursday following a yearslong legal battle over a trademark dispute.

The former NBA star has fought a Chinese sportswear maker since 2012 over the name "Qiaodan" - the transliteration of "Jordan" in Mandarin. Qiaodan Sports had registered the trademark under which it was selling its own shoes and sportswear. Jordan had previously argued unsuccessfully that Qiaodan Sports had used his Chinese name, his old jersey number 23 and basketball player logo to make it look like he was associated with their brand.

The Supreme People's Court on Thursday announced that it was overturning two rulings by Beijing courts against Jordan.

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AstraZeneca cuts about 700 jobs

DOVER, Del. (AP) - British-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca says it is eliminating about 700 jobs in its U.S. commercial business.

The company said Thursday that the cuts affect about 120 people at its U.S. headquarters in Delaware. It also impacts sales and non-sales positions across the United States, and include roughly 80 vacant positions.

AstraZeneca, which once employed close to 5,000 workers in Delaware, announced in 2013 that it was cutting 1,200 jobs at its Wilmington headquarters. The latest job cuts will leave AstraZeneca with about 1,500 employees in Delaware.

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Hyundai recalls minivans; hoods can fly open while moving

DETROIT (AP) - Hyundai is recalling more than 41,000 older minivans because the hoods can fly open while they're being driven.

The recall covers the Entourage minivan from the 2007 and 2008 model years. Hyundai says a secondary hood latch can rust and remain in the unlatched position. So if the primary latch is released, the secondary latch may not keep the hood in place.

The company says it has no reports of crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the secondary latches in cold-weather states where corrosive salt is used to clear the roads. They'll inspect and either lubricate or replace the secondary latch in all other states.

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The Dow Jones industrial average gained 65.19 points, or 0.3 percent, to 19,614.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 4.84 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,246.19. The Nasdaq composite jumped 23.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,417.36.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.07, or 2.1 percent, to $50.84 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, added 89 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $53.89 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.50 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1 cent to $1.63 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 9 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $3.70 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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