Fed leaves rates unchanged but signals further hikes ahead
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has left interest rates unchanged while signaling that it expects a resilient U.S. economy and solid job market to justify further rate hikes later this year. A statement the Fed issued Wednesday after its latest policy meeting noted that the economy slowed sharply during the January-March quarter but that it expects that slump to be “transitory.” The Fed’s pause in raising rates comes after it modestly lifted its benchmark short-term rate in December and March. Most economists expect it to do so again when it next meets in mid-June.
Puerto Rico announces huge, historic debt restructuring
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday announced a historic restructuring of a portion of the U.S. territory’s $73 billion debt through courts after negotiations with bondholders failed. The announcement marks the biggest bankruptcy-type process ever for the U.S. municipal bond market. Gov. Ricardo Rossello said that a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances agreed with his request late Tuesday to put certain debts before a court.
New deals for drugs: No heart attack or your money back
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Warranties and money-back guarantees, long used to entice buyers of products like hand tools and kitchen gadgets, are now being used to sell something more crucial: pricey new-generation drugs for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Deals being negotiated between drugmakers and the insurers who buy medicines now sometimes include extra rebates — or even full refunds — if drugs don’t help patients as expected. It’s part of an effort driven by insurers and government health programs to align the cost of care with the quality of care, and slow the relentless growth of prescription drug costs.
Facebook to hire 3,000 to review videos of crime and suicide
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook plans to hire 3,000 more people to review videos and other posts after getting criticized for not responding quickly enough to murders shown on its service. The hires over the next year will be on top of the 4,500 people Facebook already has to identify crime and other questionable content for removal. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote Wednesday that the company is “working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner — whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down.” Videos and posts that glorify violence are against Facebook’s rules, but Facebook has been criticized for being slow in responding to such content, including videos of a murder in Cleveland and the killing of a baby in Thailand that was live-streamed. The Thailand video was up for 24 hours before it was removed.
Small business lending: Is glass half-full or half-empty?
NEW YORK (AP) — Trying to size up the state of small business lending can prompt the question: Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Banks and government data point to a recovery in small business loans since the recession, with loan figures nearly back to their 2008 levels. But many company owners say while they’re more upbeat about the economy, they’re not planning to ask banks for financing. Some have enough on hand. That’s what nearly half of the companies queried said in a survey released in March by the Federal Reserve’s regional banks. But 27 percent said they didn’t want to take on debt. Some are skittish about borrowing after getting stung by the recession. Interest rates that have been rising, and making some owners think about higher repayment costs, could also be a part of it. And 17 percent didn’t apply for financing because they expected to be rejected.
US company turned blind eye to wild behavior on Iraq base
WASHINGTON (AP) — The two American investigators felt a sense of foreboding that Sunday as they headed to an emergency meeting with their boss on the Iraqi air base. But they didn’t expect to be surrounded by armed guards, disarmed, detained against their will — and fired without explanation. It was March 12 — less than two months ago. Robert Cole and Kristie King were in Iraq working as investigators for Sallyport Global, a U.S. company that was paid nearly $700 million in federal contracts to secure Balad Air Base, home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets as part of the U.S.-led coalition to annihilate the Islamic State. Cole and King had spent more than a year together in Iraq investigating all manner of misconduct at Balad and beyond.
Survey: US businesses added solid 177,000 jobs in April
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added 177,000 jobs last month, a private survey found, a solid gain that suggests the economy is still expanding despite recent signs of slower growth. April’s hiring is down from a revised 255,000 in the previous month, ADP said Wednesday. The figure is the lowest in six months and comes after three strong gains in ADP’s data. Yet the ADP figure covers only businesses and doesn’t include government payrolls. It often diverges from official data. Last month, the government said employers added only 98,000 jobs, far below the robust hiring in ADP’s report.
US services firms grow faster in April
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services companies expanded at a faster pace in April, good news for the overall American economy. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its services index rose last month to 57.5 from 55.2 in March. Anything above 50 signals the services sector is growing — something it’s done for 88 straight months. Sixteen services industries reported growth last month, led by wholesalers and utilities. Only one industry grouping — covering agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting — contracted in April.
Chinese insurer fights accusation of misconduct
BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese insurer that bought New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel is fighting an accusation by China’s leading business magazine that it lied about its finances. The report by Caixin follows a series of foreign acquisitions by Anbang Insurance Group that raised questions in the Chinese business press about how it was paying for its multibillion-dollar buying spree. This year, Anbang discussed investing in a Fifth Avenue skyscraper owned by the family of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, but the talks ended with no deal.
Trump administration taps lawyer as acting comptroller
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday named a banking lawyer to be the interim head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as part of the administration’s efforts to overhaul bank regulation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Keith Noreika, a partner at the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, will become acting comptroller on Friday. He succeeds Thomas Curry, then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, who has been comptroller since 2012. Curry’s five-year term ended last month, but he had been serving until a replacement was named.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 3.04 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,388.13. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.01 points, or 0.04 percent, to 20,957.90. The Nasdaq composite fell 22.82 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,072.55.
U.S. benchmark crude added 16 cents to $47.82 a barrel in New York. On Tuesday U.S. crude oil closed at its lowest price since mid-November. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 33 cents to $50.79 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.53 a gallon. Heating oil stayed at $1.47 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3 cents to $3.23 per 1,000 cubic feet.