Business Highlights

February 15, 2018


US mortgage rates climb to a nearly 4-year peak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week to their highest level in nearly four years. It’s a sign that the prospect of higher inflation is steadily increasing the cost of borrowing to buy a home. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.38 percent this week, up from 4.32 percent last week. The average is the highest since April 2014.


McDonald’s moves cheeseburgers off Happy Meal menu

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s is moving cheeseburgers and chocolate milk off its Happy Meal menu in an effort to get kids to eat less calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar at its restaurants. Diners can still ask for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kid’s meal, but the fast-food company says not listing them will cut down on orders. The latest changes will happen in the United States by June.


Judge orders Trump administration to implement energy limits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered the Trump administration to implement energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products that were adopted during the last days of the Obama presidency. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria says Thursday that the Department of Energy was required to publish the limits after a 45-day period to identify any errors and does not have the authority to continue to assess them after that date.


Uber CEO aims to pare losses and get ‘the love back’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is focused on cutting the company’s massive losses and “getting the love back” after a year of damaging revelations about the ride-hailing service’s sometimes heartless treatment of its employees, drivers, regulators and rivals. He conceded it’s proving to be a more difficult task than he anticipated after Uber hired him five months ago to replace its embattled co-founder, Travis Kalanick.


Kept out: How banks block people of color from homeownership

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. This modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhoods, according to millions of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records analyzed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.


For builders, demand and economy up; so are interest rates

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. builders are maintaining an optimistic view on sales as the economy improves and demand for homes remains strong. The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday remained at 72 as expected. That’s still just two points shy of an 18-year high in December. At the same time, long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week to their highest level in nearly four years.


US stocks keep gaining as tech, industrial companies rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies led indexes higher Thursday as US stocks rose for the fifth day in a row. Apple and Cisco were among the big winners in tech, while industrial companies including Boeing also rose. Energy companies continued to struggle. The gains helped erase part of the steep losses the market suffered in early February.


Amazon to pay $1.2 million for illegal pesticide sales

SEATTLE (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says it has reached a $1.2 million settlement with Amazon over the sale of illegal pesticides. It’s one of the largest penalties assessed under federal pesticides laws. Federal authorities say the agreement settles allegations that the internet giant committed nearly four thousand violations - dating back to 2013 - for selling and distributing imported pesticide products that were not licensed for sale in the United States.


US factory output flat for 2nd straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output was unchanged in January for the second straight month after three months of healthy gains. The Federal Reserve says production fell in wood products, aircraft and a category including concrete and glass. The past two months’ readings suggest that factory production has slowed in the new year.


US Bank pays $613 million over money laundering charges

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Bancorp said Thursday it will pay $613 million in fines and penalties to settle allegations that the bank had poor anti-money laundering controls, which put the bank repeatedly at risk of being used as a conduit for criminals. Regulators say the Minneapolis-based bank “willfully” violated the Bank Secrecy Act, failing to report suspicious activity.


Sears: 4Q sales drop but it expects a profit

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp. says sales dropped during the critical fourth quarter, but the ailing retailer expects a profit, helped by the windfall from the new U.S. tax reform. Sears, which operates its namesake stores and Kmart, said sales in stores open at least a year fell 15.6 percent.


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rallied and rose 32.57 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,731.20. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 306.88 points, or 1.2 percent, to 25,200.37. The Nasdaq composite climbed 112.81 points, or 1.6 percent, to 7,256.43. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 15.10 points, or 1 percent, to 1,537.20.

U.S. crude oil rose 74 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $61.34 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 3 cents to $64.33 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 2 cents to $1.74 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 1 cent to $2.58 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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