Business Highlights


Employers step in to prevent worker burnout

LONDON (AP) — Volkswagen turns off some employees’ email 30 minutes after their shifts end. Goldman Sachs is urging junior staff to take weekends off. BMW is planning new rules that will keep workers from being contacted after hours.

This surge in corporate beneficence isn’t an indication that employers are becoming kinder and gentler: It’s about the bottom line. After years in which the ease of instant communication via email and smartphones allowed bosses to place greater and greater demands on white-collar workers, some companies are beginning to set limits, recognizing that successful employees must be able to escape from work.


Americans turn to mobile devices for Cyber Monday

NEW YORK (AP) — Power up and shop.

Millions of Americans logged on to e-commerce sites Monday to take advantage of deals ranging from free shipping to hundreds of dollars off electronics and half-price clothing on what was expected to be the busiest Internet shopping day of the year. And many of those purchases were made using mobile devices.

The spending surge associated with Cyber Monday came after a disappointing Thanksgiving holiday weekend in stores. It also showed that shoppers are increasingly comfortable buying on tablets and smartphones.


Judge: Detroit can use bankruptcy to confront debt

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Detroit can use bankruptcy to cut employee pensions and relieve itself of other crushing debts, handing a defeat to the city’s unions and retirees and shifting the case into a delicate new phase.

Judge Steven Rhodes, who wondered aloud why the bankruptcy had not happened years ago, said pensions can be altered just like any contract because the Michigan Constitution does not offer bulletproof protection for employee benefits. But he signalled a desire for a measured approach and warned city officials that they must be prepared to defend any deep reductions.

The ruling came more than four months after Detroit filed for Chapter 9 protection.


Holiday weekend gives a boost to auto sales

DETROIT (AP) — Americans proved last month that they’re head over heels about small sport utility vehicles. They also wanted to buy more than just video game consoles and big-screen TVs on Black Friday.

November auto sales rose 9 per cent above a year ago, with a solid piece of the gains coming over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Sales ran at an annual pace of 16.4 million cars and trucks last month, the best in almost seven years.

The numbers gave further evidence that the small SUV is replacing the car as the vehicle of choice for families and aging baby boomers.


US home prices rise just 0.2 per cent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of U.S. home prices rose only modestly in October, adding to signs that prices have stabilized after experiencing big gains earlier this year

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices increased 0.2 per cent in October from September. That’s up from a 0.1 per cent gain in September. But it is down sharply from a 0.9 per cent increase in August.

One reason for the slowdown is that the figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal patterns. Prices usually decline in the fall and winter, when sales slow.


Nonbanks servicing student loans come under agency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal consumer finance watchdog is expanding its oversight to Sallie Mae and other companies that collect student loan payments.

A rule issued Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau extends the agency’s supervision to nonbank companies that manage large volumes of student loans on behalf of lenders.

The CFPB already oversees banks that service student loans, but it says most student loans are serviced by nonbank companies. It says the scrutiny is needed to ensure servicers comply with consumer laws at a time when more people are falling behind on their student loan payments.


NY to free ex-Tyco executive Kozlowski on parole

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York state parole board agreed Tuesday to release former Tyco chief executive Dennis Kozlowski on parole after more than eight years in prison for his conviction in a $134 million corporate fraud case.

His tentative release date is Jan. 17, though Kozlowski has been in the state’s work-release program with a clerical job and, for months, only reporting back twice weekly to minimum-security Lincoln Correctional Facility in Harlem.

He follows the security systems company’s former chief financial officer, Mark Swartz, who was released by a parole board in October.


J.C. Penney says key sales measure up in November

PLANO, Texas (AP) — J. C. Penney Co. says a key sales measure jumped 10.1 per cent in November, helped by a strong start to the holiday shopping season.

The Plano, Texas-based company’s stock rose 5 per cent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

J.C. Penney said revenue from stores open for at least a year improved because of its merchandise selection and promotions despite a competitive retail environment. The figure is a closely watched indicator of financial performance because it strips away the impact of recently opened or closed stores.


Potash Corp. to cut more than 1,000 jobs

TORONTO (AP) — Potash Corp. is cutting more than 1,000 jobs, about 18 per cent of its workforce, because of slumping demand for potash and phosphate, two key fertilizer ingredients.

The company said Tuesday it will cut 440 jobs in its home Canadian province of Saskatchewan, 130 in New Brunswick, 350 in Florida, 85 in North Carolina, and 40 in other U.S. regions and Trinidad.

The company controls more than 25 per cent of the world’s supply of potash, which helps farmers boost crop production.


Chick-fil-A working to remove dyes, corn syrup

NEW YORK (AP) — Chick-fil-A says it’s removing high-fructose corn syrup from its white buns and artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings as part of a push to improve its ingredients.

The fast-food chicken chain says the reformulated buns are being tested in about 200 Georgia locations, while the sauces and dressings will be tested starting early next year. It says it also removed a yellow dye from its chicken soup and that the new recipe should be in all restaurants by the end of this month.

It’s also testing a new peanut oil, with hopes of a rollout early next year.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 94.15 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 15,914.62. The S&P 500 index fell 5.75 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,795.15 and the Nasdaq composite fell 8.06 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,037.20.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery rose $2.22, or 2.4 per cent, to close at $96.04 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $1.17 at $112.62 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline added 5 cents to $2.72 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to $3.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.