Business Highlights

January 31, 2018


Fed leaves key rate unchanged at Yellen’s final meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged but signaled that it expects to resume raising rates gradually to reflect a healthy job market and economy. At Janet Yellen’s final meeting as chair Wednesday, the Fed kept its key short-term rate in a still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. It said in a statement that it expects inflation to finally pick up this year and to stabilize around the Fed’s target level of 2 percent. In its previous statement, the Fed had predicted that inflation would remain below its target rate.


Health care just the latest industry Amazon seeks to upend

NEW YORK (AP) — When Amazon sets its sights on a new industry, Corporate America shudders. The latest example came Tuesday, when the online retailing giant said it was working with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to create a health care company to offer an “affordable” option to their employees. Stocks of health insurers tumbled, erasing billions of dollars in shareholder value. One expert says Amazon is feared because it grows businesses quickly and takes market share fast.


Judging by algorithm: Using risk factors to score defendants

CLEVELAND (AP) — Instead of holding criminal defendants on cash bail, courts around the United States are increasingly using algorithmic risk-assessment tools to help judges decide if a defendant should be jailed or go free while awaiting trial. A model now used by New Jersey and other state and regional courts is the Public Safety Assessment, developed by the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It uses nine risk factors to evaluate a defendant, including age and past criminal convictions.


No penalty: Small businesses let sports fans enjoy big games

NEW YORK (AP) — Many business owners are cutting staffers a little slack as fans find it hard to resist chatting about the Super Bowl. The Olympics, the NCAA basketball tournament and other events that are coming up as well. Some owners realize that trying to stop staffers from talking about or watching big events is demoralizing. So as long as staffers get work done, bosses are saying OK — and some say they plan to join the fun.


Court rejects lawsuit against Twitter over IS attack

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that sought to hold Twitter liable for the deaths of two U.S. contractors in Jordan in an attack for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday the suit failed to establish that Twitter accounts used by IS directly caused the men’s deaths. Lloyd Fields and James Creach were shot and killed in Jordan in 2015 by a Jordanian police captain while training law enforcement officers.


Boeing profit tops expectations; gives strong 2018 outlook

DALLAS (AP) — Boeing’s 4Q profit easily topped Wall Street’s expectations, bolstered by strong deliveries and recent tax reform legislation. The aircraft company also on Wednesday provided a better-than-expected 2018 forecast.


Apple to respond to US probes into slowdown of old iPhones

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple is cooperating with U.S. government inquiries into its secret slowdown of older iPhones, further complicating its efforts to move past an issue that irked many customers whose devices bogged down. The company acknowledged the probes after media reports that both the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating how investors have been affected by Apple’s handling of the situation. Apple has already apologized to customers.


US appeals court gives victory to consumer finance agency

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has handed a victory to the government’s beleaguered consumer finance watchdog agency, ruling that its director’s power isn’t excessive and the president shouldn’t have freer rein to fire that person. The decision came Wednesday in the politically charged case involving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a keen target of conservative Republicans. The nine-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, with three judges dissenting, overturned a 2016 ruling by a smaller panel that would have made it easier for President Donald Trump to fire then-CFPB director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee.


After a stumble, US stocks finish slightly higher

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks overcame a brief stumble to close slightly higher Wednesday, snapping a two-day losing streak. The dip came after the Federal Reserve released its latest statement on interest rate policy and the economy, in which the central bank signaled that it expects inflation to pick up this year. The Fed, as expected, held off on raising interest rates. Stocks bounced back in the last hour of trading, with gains by technology companies outweighing losses in health care and other sectors.


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,823.81. The Dow Jones industrial average added 72.50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 26,149.39. The Nasdaq composite climbed 9 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,411.48. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 7.83 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,574.98.

Oil prices reversed an early slide. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 23 cents to settle at $64.73 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 3 cents to $69.05 a barrel in London. In other futures trading, wholesale gasoline added 1 cent to $1.91 a gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $2.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 20 cents, or 6.3 percent, to $3 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Update hourly