Business News

Aug 24, 5:25 PM EDT

Business Highlights


--

The hidden risk to the economy in corporate balance sheets

NEW YORK (AP) - America's debt problem is showing up in an unexpected place: Corporate America.

Of the $1.8 trillion in cash that's sitting in U.S. corporate accounts, half of it belongs to just 25 of the 2,000 companies tracked by S&P Global Ratings. Outside of Apple, Google and the rest of the corporate 1 percent, cash has been falling over the last two years even as debt has been rising.

Investors in debt-laden companies could face losses, perhaps steep, if economic growth falters. The broader economy is also vulnerable because companies with more debt have to cut back further and lay off more whenever downturns hit.

---

Sensors, other devices can help prevent hot car deaths

DETROIT (AP) - Hot cars are a danger to children, particularly in a sweltering summer like this one.

So far this year, 27 children in the U.S. have died after they were left in hot vehicles, according to Kids and Cars, a Kansas City-based advocacy group. The total has already surpassed that of 2015.

Kids and Cars says the government should require automakers to install back seat reminder systems. But NHTSA says it's still researching the best ways to prevent deaths. In the meantime, the agency is sponsoring public information campaign and more devices are hitting the market that can help prevent kids from being left behind.

---

Stocks end lower as health care companies decline

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks closed lower on Wednesday, led by sharp declines in health care companies as outrage over the steep price hikes for Mylan's EpiPens escalates.

Trading remains quiet overall with many investors still on vacation. It was another below-average day of trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange.

Major indexes were down slightly for most of the day, and the losses deepened as a late-day sell-off in drugmakers dragged the broader market lower. Mylan dropped $2.47, or 5.5 percent, to $43.15 after falling nearly 5 percent the day before.

---

US home sales fell in July amid inventory shortage

WASHINGTON (AP) - US homebuyers pulled back in July, as sales declined amid a shortage of available properties and steadily rising prices.

Sales of existing homes fell 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The decline marks a reversal from rising demand that pushed sales in June to their highest level since February 2007.

Fewer homes are coming onto the market, putting a cap on the sales growth enjoyed earlier this year. Rising demand for homes is a positive, but the dwindling supply of listings has pushed up prices, which suggests a market not yet at full health.

---

Pfizer on buying spree with AstraZeneca antibiotics deal

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. is continuing its shopping spree with its fourth acquisition since the April collapse of its planned $160 billion megadeal to buy rival Allergan PLC.

In its second deal this week, Pfizer said it's buying rights to Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC's portfolio of approved and experimental antibiotic and antifungal pills. The deal is valued in excess of $1.5 billion, including rights to sell the medicines in most countries outside the U.S., royalties and other payments.

The acquisition indicates a thawing of relations between the two companies barely two years after London-based AstraZeneca fought off Pfizer's hostile takeover attempt.

---

Coal towns hit by layoffs to get job grants from US gov't

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - U.S. communities in eight Appalachian states and Texas that have been hard-hit by coal layoffs are being promised more than 3,000 jobs in several industries through a multimillion-dollar federal grant.

Officials for the Appalachian Regional Commission and other agencies announced the 29 projects totaling nearly $39 million Wednesday. The investments are expected to create or retain more than 3,400 jobs in agriculture, health care, manufacturing, technology and other industries.

The commission says about 23,000 Appalachian coal jobs were lost between 2011 and 2015.

---

Ford recalls over 88K vehicles due to stalling problem

DETROIT (AP) - Ford is recalling more than 88,000 cars and SUVs in North America because the engines can stall without warning due to a fuel pump problem.

The recall covers certain Ford Taurus and Police Interceptor sedans, Ford Flex wagons, Lincoln MKS sedans and Lincoln MKT SUVs from the 2013 through 2015 model years.

Ford says the fuel pump control modules can fail, and the engines may not start, or they could stall, leaving drivers without the ability to restart them. The company says it's not aware of any crashes or injuries from the problem.

---

Dealer that supplied Petco, PetSmart is charged with cruelty

BARTO, Pa. (AP) - Animal cruelty charges have been filed against a Pennsylvania small-animal dealer that supplied major pet retailers like Petco and PetSmart.

The Montgomery County district attorney's office and Douglass Township police say 49-year-old Clinton Arthur Holmes, of Alburtis, has been cited for 28 instances of animal cruelty.

Wednesday's charges followed an investigation at Holmes Farm in Barto that revealed multiple animals that weren't properly cared for. The investigation came after an animal-rights group shot video showing substandard conditions at the facility.

Petco said in January it severed its relationship with Holmes. PetSmart announced in May it had severed ties with Holmes.

---

EU backs former Greek statistics chief facing trial

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - The European Union's executive commission publicly defended Greece's former statistics chief, who is facing trial over accusations he exaggerated the government's 2009 deficit.

Former director Andreas Georgiou, who headed the reorganization of the Greek statistics agency from 2010 on, is accused by two former agency staff members of overestimating the deficit to the country's detriment for political reasons - to get the IMF to pitch in to the bailout. But the EU labor commissioner said Wednesday that data issued by the agency under Georgiou's leadership between 2010 and 2015 was reliable.

---

Sen. Manchin mum on EpiPen hikes by daughter's drug company

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - As a pharmaceutical company run by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's daughter faces scrutiny for hiking prices on life-saving allergy injection pens, Manchin is remaining mum.

The Democratic West Virginia senator's daughter, Heather Bresch, is CEO of Mylan, which manufactures EpiPens. A two-dose package cost around $94 nine years ago. The cost averaged more than six times that in May.

Several senators are demanding more information and requesting congressional hearings and investigations.

---

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 65.82 points, or 0.4 percent, to 18,481.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 11.46 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,175.44. The Nasdaq composite lost 42.38 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,217.69.

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.33 to $46.77 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price oil internationally, fell 91 cents to $49.05 a barrel. In other energy commodities, heating oil fell less than 1 cent to $1.496 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.51 a gallon and natural gas rose 3.5 cents to $2.796 per thousand cubic feet.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.