Update on the latest in business:
Stocks open higher on Wall Street
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are climbing again as markets continue to claw back from a sharp tumble last month.
As of today, the benchmark S&P 500 index has regained more than half its 10.2 percent loss since setting its record a month ago.
Treasury yields, which have been at the center of worries for stock investors, eased back from the four-year highs they set last week.
At 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time, the S&P 500 index rose 20 points, to 2,767.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 284 points, to 25,594.
And the Nasdaq composite increased 55 points, to 7,392.
NEW HOME SALES
US new-home sales drop 7.8 percent in January to 593,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new U.S. homes fell in January for the second straight month, failing to rebound from a weather-related drop in December.
The Commerce Department says last month’s sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000, lowest since August and down 7.8 percent from a revised 643,000 in December.
Economists had expected new home sales to bounce back after tumbling in December as harsh winter weather chilled demand.
Sales skidded 33.3 percent in the Northeast in January from December and 14.2 percent in the South. But they rose 15.4 percent in the Midwest and 1 percent in the West.
The median price of a new home dropped to $323,000, down 4.1 percent from $336,700 in December.
SUPREME COURT-UNION FEES
Organized labor case goes in front of Supreme Court
WASHINGTON (AP) —The Supreme Court is divided in a major organized labor case over “fair share” fees that nonmembers pay to help cover the costs of contract negotiations.
Justice Neil Gorsuch said nothing during arguments today to indicate how he might vote on an issue that split the other justices 4 to 4 when it came up two years ago.
The issue is whether it is unconstitutional to require nonmembers to contribute to public sector unions they choose not to join.
Illinois government worker Mark Janus says he has a free-speech right not to pay the union that represents all employees, not just its members, in collective bargaining.
Labor leaders fear their members will abandon unions if they can get all the benefits of representation without paying for it.
Another company cuts ties with NRA
UNDATED (AP) — Hearing aid maker Starkey Hearing Technologies is joining other companies that have cut ties with the National Rifle Association after the latest school massacre.
The Eden Prairie, Minnesota, company announced the decision over the weekend, saying it would not renew its discount program offered to NRA members.
U.S. corporations that had partnered with the NRA for years began to distance themselves from the organization after 17 people, mostly students, were shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Nearly 20 companies, including Metlife, Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Best Western, Wyndham, United Airlines, and Delta, have ended NRA partnerships since the shooting.
The NRA has pushed back aggressively, calling the departure of its corporate partners a “shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”
Trump Organization says didn’t keep some hotel profits
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump Organization says it has donated hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but it won’t say how much.
UPS seeks $2.14 billion from EU over blocked TNT merger
BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. delivery giant UPS has launched court action against the European Union’s anti-trust regulator for blocking a merger with Dutch firm TNT and is asking for $2.14 billion in compensation.
The EU’s official journal notes that UPS also wants the regulator, the EU’s executive Commission, to pay interest and court costs for losses suffered over the January 2013 decision.
The Commission decided the planned merger would restrict express deliveries of small packages in Europe by reducing the number of players in the market, and so drive up prices.
But the EU’s General Court annulled the Commission’s decision last March.
European Central Bank chief: Economy still needs stimulus
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the eurozone economy still needs abundant stimulus to raise inflation to more normal levels even in the midst of a strengthening recovery.
Draghi says that “patience and persistence” are still needed in monetary policy.
He told members of the European Parliament today that “the evolution of inflation remains crucially conditional on an ample degree of monetary stimulus.”
The ECB has reduced its bond purchase stimulus from 60 billion euros ($74 billion) a month to 30 million euros a month at the start of this year. The bank has said the purchases will continue at least through September and longer if necessary. The purchases pump newly printed money into the economy in hopes of raising inflation from the current annual 1.3 percent.
GE reshapes board after retroactively cutting profits
BOSTON (AP) — Days after saying that it would retroactively cut the profits reported over the past two years, General Electric Co. is reshaping its board of directors.
One person joining the board chaired the organization that sets accounting standards in the United States.
GE said Friday that it must cut its 2016 per-share earnings by 13 cents, and by 16 cents for 2017. It’s adopting new accounting standards for 2018.
The Securities and Exchange Commission investigating the Boston company over long-term service contracts and federal regulators are reviewing a $15 billion miscalculation that GE made within an insurance unit. GE disclosed last month that it would take a $6.2 billion charge in its fourth quarter after a subsidiary, North American Life & Health, underestimated how much it would cost to pay for the care of people who lived longer than projected.
Spectrum Brands combining with HRG in $10B deal
NEW YORK (AP) — Consumer products company Spectrum Brands is combining with its biggest shareholder, HRG Group Inc., in a deal valued at $10 billion.
Holding company HRG, based in New York, owns about 59 percent of Spectrum, according to FactSet.
Once the transaction is complete, Spectrum Brands shareholders will receive one newly issued share of the combined company for each share of Spectrum that they owned before the combination. Spectrum, whose brands include Rayovac and George Foreman, will become an independent public company with no controlling shareholder.
The combined company will be called Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. and trade under the ticker “SPB.” It will remain headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin.
The deal is expected to close by the second quarter’s end.
HRG’s stock rose more than 5 percent in morning trading, while Spectrum’s shares gained 2 percent.
Buffett hopes for big health care savings
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett says he hopes the new health care initiative his company has started with Amazon and JP Morgan Chase will deliver significant cost savings.
Buffett didn’t discuss many details of the three companies’ health care plans during an appearance on CNBC today because the initiative was just announced last month.
But Buffett said the goal is much bigger than simply shaving 3 percent off health costs through negotiating power.
Buffett says he hopes the effort will be able to find a way to deliver better care at somewhat lower costs. He says the steady increase in health care costs has been a drain on American business.
Weinstein Co. expected to file bankruptcy after talks fail
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Weinstein Co.’s board of directors says the company is expected to file for bankruptcy protection after last-ditch talks to sell its assets collapsed.
Now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein co-founded the company in 2005. He was fired last October after being accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women. Weinstein Co. has been searching for a financial savior ever since. Weinstein has denied all allegations.
The Los Angeles Times reports the board said Sunday night it has no choice but to pursue bankruptcy.
The decision came after the board was unable to revive a deal to sell the struggling studio for about $500 million to an investor group.
As part of the pact, the bidders had promised to raise at least $40 million for a fund to compensate Weinstein’s accusers.
DowDuPont, soon to be 3 cos, reveals names
WASHINGTON (AP) — DowDuPont is announcing the names of the three businesses it will become when it breaks itself into three, eight months after the Justice Department approved a $62 billion merger between the chemical giants Dow and DuPont.
The company says its agriculture division will be called Corteva Agriscience, based in Wilmington, Delaware. The division had more than $14 billion in revenue last year.
The second company, focused on materials science, will be based in Midland, Michigan and will keep the Dow name and red diamond logo.
The third spinoff, which produces and sells specialty products, will be called DuPont. Its headquarters will also be Wilmington, Delaware.
The merger between Dow and Dupont, after being held up by regulators in the U.S. and abroad, was approved on June 15.