Update on the latest in business:
Dow tops 26,000
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are trading higher on Wall Street, with this morning’s initial gains sending the Dow Jones industrial average trading above 26,000 for the first time.
Health care and technology companies posted some of the biggest gains in midday trading. Merck jumped 7 percent and chipmaker Qualcomm gained 3.3 percent.
Energizer Holdings surged 15 percent after the company said it will acquire the battery and lighting assets of Spectrum.
Energizer spends $2 billion to add Rayovac brand
NEW YORK (AP) — Energizer will spend $2 billion in cash to acquire the battery and lighting assets of Spectrum, adding the Rayovac brand to its battery and lighting division.
Spectrum Brands said earlier this month that it would seek a buyer for the assets so that it could better focus on other businesses including hardware and home improvement, global auto care and global pet supplies.
Adding Rayovac will broaden the product portfolio held by Energizer Holdings Inc., which is based in St. Louis. Spectrum Batteries generated $866 million in revenue in 2017. Spectrum is based in Middleton, Wisconsin.
The deal announced Tuesday is expected to close this year.
NESTLE-US CANDY SALE
Nestle selling US candy business for $2.9 billion
NEW YORK (AP) — Swiss food and drink giant Nestle is selling its U.S. candy business to Italy’s Ferrero for about $2.9 billion in cash. Ferrero will take over iconic chocolate brands Butterfinger and Crunch bars, as well as the sugary Nerds, SweeTarts and FunDip.
After a review of its portfolio last summer, Nestle hinted that it might sell its U.S. business, with its eye on higher-growth areas like pet care, coffee and infant nutrition.
In September, Nestle announced that it bought a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee, a high-end coffee company. Other Nestle brands include Purina, Gerber and Stouffer’s.
Nestle, based in Switzerland, says its U.S. candy business accounts for about 3 percent of its U.S. division’s sales.
The deal is expected to close at the end of the first quarter.
Holiday shoppers spent record amount online
NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers spent a record amount online during the holiday season.
That’s according to Adobe Analytics, which reports online shopping during the holiday season reached $108.2 billion, up almost 15 percent from $94.4 billion the year before. The research arm of software maker Adobe says more than a third of online holiday revenue came from purchases made on smartphones or tablets.
Adobe Analytics says people likely spent more due to low unemployment rates and a strong stock market.
Last week, the National Retail Federation said in-store and online holiday spending rose 5.5. percent, the strongest gain since the Great Recession.
Citigroup reports $18.3 billion loss, caused by new tax law
NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup lost $18.3 billion in the fourth quarter as the bank had to take more than $20 billion in accounting write-downs related to the new tax law.
The bank had a loss of $7.15 a share, compared with a profit of $3.57 billion, or $1.14 a share, in the same period a year ago.
Citigroup wrote off $19 billion in deferred tax assets, which are credits Citi could have used toward future years. Because the new tax law lowered corporate tax rates, those credits aren’t worth as much and Citi, like other major U.S. banks, had to write down their value.
The bank also took a $3 billion charge for foreign earnings it will bring back to the U.S.
Excluding those charges, Citi earned $3.7 billion, or $1.28 a share.
GM sees sustained profits through 2018
NEW YORK (AP) — General Motors will take a $7 billion write-down in 2017 tied to the U.S. tax overhaul, but expects strong sales in North America and China to sustain its profit through 2018.
The automaker on Tuesday reaffirmed its 2017 expectations for profit between $6 and $6.50 per share and said it expects similar results in 2018. The company also cited cost cutting and growth in other units, including GM Financial, as factors in maintaining profit.
In 2017, GM sold its Opel/Vauxhall and GM Financial European units and cut business in parts of Africa and India. It also reported strong pickup truck sales in the U.S.
Overall, U.S. auto sales fell 2 percent industrywide in 2017, according to Autodata Corp., ending an unprecedented seven-year expansion. Still, 2017 marked the fourth-best sales year in U.S. history, after 2000, 2015 and 2016, according to Kelley Blue Book.
GE to take $6.2 billion after-tax charge in fourth quarter
BOSTON (AP) — General Electric is taking a $6.2 billion after-tax charge in the fourth quarter tied to its review and reserve testing of GE Capital’s run-off insurance portfolio. GE Capital will also suspend its dividend to GE for the foreseeable future.
GE Capital plans to make statutory reserve contributions of about $15 billion over seven years. It will contribute about $3 billion in 2018′s first quarter and approximately $2 billion annually from 2019 through 2024.
GE said Tuesday the review was mostly related to long-term care policies written by primary insurance companies and reinsured by North American Life & Health.
UnitedHealth 4th-quarter earnings, 2018 guidance soar
MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) — UnitedHealth Group’s earnings more than doubled in the final quarter of 2017, and the nation’s largest insurer hiked its forecast for the new year due in part to a gain from the federal tax overhaul.
UnitedHealth now expects adjusted earnings of $12.30 to $12.60 per share in 2018, up from its initial forecast for $10.55 to $10.85 per share.
FactSet says analysts forecast earnings of $11.44 per share.
UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings climbed to $3.62 billion, as total revenue climbed over 9 percent to $52.06 billion. Adjusted earnings came in at $2.59 per share, excluding the tax overhaul gain.
Analysts expected $2.51 per share on $51.54 billion in revenue for the Minnetonka, Minnesota, company, which is the first big insurer to report results every quarter.
Trump to make final Davos address
GENEVA (AP) — World Economic Forum organizers say U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver a closing address at the Davos conference next week, which will focus on “finding ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests.”
The WEF says international security, the environment and the global economy will be the key topics at the annual meeting of business leaders, civil society advocates, academics, celebrities and others in the Swiss Alpine resort from Jan. 23-26.
Organizers cited a theme of rising competition between countries and divisions within them. Ten heads of state or government from Africa, nine from the Middle East and North Africa, and six from Latin America will join Western leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Davos.
The WEF announced the formal schedule Wednesday.
EU chief urges Britain to change its mind over Brexit
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union chief Donald Tusk is urging Britain to change its mind about leaving the bloc next year and says the EU would welcome the country back.
Tusk said Tuesday that “if the U.K. government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality, with all its negative consequences, in March next year unless there is a change of heart among our British friends.”
Addressing EU lawmakers, Tusk quoted U.K. Brexit envoy David Davis as saying that “if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.”
Tusk said that “we here on the continent haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you.”
UK inflation dips for first time since June
LONDON (AP) — Official figures show consumer price inflation in Britain dipping for the first time since June partly because of a fall in the price of games and toys in the run-up to Christmas.
The Office for National Statistics said Tuesday that the annual inflation rate fell to 3 percent in December from 3.1 percent the previous month.
Inflation in Britain spiked sharply higher after the country voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, a decision that saw the pound tank. That stoked inflation by raising the cost of imported goods such as food and oil.
However, with the impact of the pound’s drop falling out of the annual data, many economists expect a steady decline in inflation this year toward the Bank of England’s target of 2 percent.
Russian government considers boost to social spending
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser says the government is considering a possible boost in social spending.
Andrei Belousov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the government is considering increasing allocations for education, health care and infrastructure. He said Tuesday that the country may cut spending on other areas or raise taxes to free up funds, adding that no final decisions have been made.
Alexei Kudrin, the former finance minister and longtime Putin associate who continues to wield broad influence, tweeted that “consensus is emerging about the need to seriously increase spending on education, health and infrastructure.” He added that the move will have a “long-term positive effect.”
The debate comes as Putin is set to easily win a fourth presidential term in the March 18 election.