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Business Highlights


How’s the US economy doing? Shutdown makes it harder to say

WASHINGTON (AP) — Government data on home construction and retail sales won’t be released next week because staffers who compile those reports have been furloughed. The retail sales report provides a snapshot of consumer spending, which fuels more than two-thirds of the economy. With Macy’s and Kohl’s having said their holiday sales were weaker than expected, a broader gauge of retail spending would have provided important clarity.


US stocks drift in a quiet close to another winning week

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes nestled a hair lower on Friday after the falling price of oil weighed on energy companies. The S&P 500 nevertheless closed out its third straight winning week following a brutal stretch in December. Oil fell for the first time in two weeks, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note sank to its first loss in more than a week. Gradual moves for markets in recent days have offered a respite following the tumultuous trading that rocked investors in late 2018.


GM raises 2018 forecast, predicts stronger 2019 earnings

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors strengthened its pretax profit estimate for 2018 and predicted even stronger performance for 2019 as it executives made a presentation to investor on Friday. The rosy forecast comes despite declining sales for the company in the U.S. and slowing sales in China. The company predicts that its 2018 pretax profits will be higher than the $5.80 to $6.20 range it forecast in the third quarter. For 2019, it expects that to increase to $6.50 to $7.


Cheaper gas sends US consumer prices down 0.1 pct

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices slipped 0.1 per cent last month, pulled down by sharply lower gas prices, cheaper air fares, used cars, and mobile phone plans. The Labor Department said the consumer price index rose just 1.9 per cent in December from a year earlier, the first time it has fallen below 2 per cent since August 2017.


US aviation system is starting to show strains from shutdown

MIAMI (AP) — The partial government shutdown is starting to strain the national aviation system, with unpaid security screeners staying home, air-traffic controllers suing the government and safety inspectors off the job. Miami International Airport will close one of its concourses most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make sure TSA can adequately staff the remaining security checkpoints. The national air traffic controllers union sued the government, claiming its members are illegally being denied pay.


Privacy, please: Latest gadgets want greater peek into lives

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The latest gadgets want even more access to your lives. The CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that can livestream the living room, a bathroom mirror that captures your face to offer beauty tips and a gizmo that tracks the heartbeat of an unborn child. Privacy experts say people have to weigh whether the gadgets are useful enough to give up some privacy. Things can go wrong, such as hackers breaking in and accessing sensitive data from company servers.


Fed officials feared adverse market reaction in 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials were worried about an adverse market reaction when they made their first tentative moves in 2013 to pull back on the massive support they had been providing to help the economy recover from the Great Recession. Transcripts of their discussions released Friday show that then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues devoted considerable time debating the wording of the statement.


Federal work at Superfund sites suspended during shutdown

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — As President Donald Trump and Congress battle over Trump’s demand for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the 3-week-old partial government shutdown has stopped federal work on Superfund sites except for cases in which the administration deems there’s “an imminent threat” to human life or property. The freezing of federal work has deepened mistrust and doubts among some people living in and around the nation’s most toxic sites. Residents say the shutdown is “just adding more fuel to the fire.”


Mnuchin: Next round of trade talks this month

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the next round of trade negotiations with China will likely occur later this month in Washington. Mnuchin told reporters that Vice Premier Liu He was expected to lead a delegation to Washington “later in the month.”


The S&P 500 edged down by 0.38 of a point, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 2,596.26. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 5.97 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 23,995.95. The Nasdaq composite lost 14.59, or 0.2 per cent, to 6,971.48, and the Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks ticked up by 1.95, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,447.38.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 1.9 per cent to settle at $51.59 per barrel, and Brent crude, the international standard, sank 1.9 per cent to $60.48 a barrel. Natural gas gained 4.4 per cent to $3.10 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil lost 1.4 per cent to $1.88 per gallon, and wholesale gasoline slipped 2.1 per cent to $1.40 per gallon.

The Associated Press

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