Business Highlights


Holiday shopping spree not for everyone

NEW YORK (AP) — Many Americans are watching the annual holiday spending ritual from the sidelines this year.

Money is still tight for some. Others are fed up with commercialism of the holidays. Still others are waiting for bigger bargains.

Despite an improving economy, most workers are not seeing meaningful wage increases. And those who can splurge say the brash commercialism around the holidays, such as many more stores opening for business on Thanksgiving, is a turnoff. But perhaps the biggest factor is that shoppers are less motivated than ever by holiday sales.

Since the Great Recession, retailers have been dangling more discounts throughout the year, so Americans have learned to hold out for even deeper holiday savings on clothes, electronics and more. To stay competitive and boost sales, retailers are slashing prices further during their busiest season of the year, which is cutting into their own profit margins.


Exxon: Rising living standards propel energy needs

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil says the drive for higher living standards around the world will keep demand for electricity and transportation fuels growing even as economies get more efficient and governments put a price on pollution.

The company’s annual long-term energy outlook, released Thursday, predicts world energy demand will grow 35 per cent by 2040 as electricity and modern fuels are brought to some of the billions of people in the developing world who currently live without power or burn wood or other biomass for cooking and heating. Those growing needs will be somewhat offset by a slow decline in consumption in the far more energy-hungry economies of the developed world.


Labour group sees progress at major Apple supplier

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A labour group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products says once-oppressive working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime that employees work.

The audit released Thursday by the Fair Labor Association represents the final assessment in a process that started last year at plants run in China by Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn.

Reports depicting the Foxconn plants as inhumane sweatshops prompted Apple Inc. to hold its foreign contractors to higher standards. The Cupertino, Calif., company joined the Fair Labor Association last year as part of a commitment to improve the situation.

The report concluded Foxconn factories in Longhua, Chengdu and Guanlan had reached virtually all the goals set out in a plan adopted last year.


Consumers’ big purchases lift hopes for US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans ramped up spending at retail businesses in November, providing a boost to the economy just in time for the holidays.

But traditional retail stores didn’t benefit as much from the latest burst of spending. Consumers bought more cars, electronics, furniture and other big-ticket items. They also did more shopping online. Those trends reflect changes in consumers’ shopping habits and in the broader economy.

Total retail sales rose 0.7 per cent in November, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It was the biggest gain in five months. And spending at retail businesses rose 0.6 per cent in October, higher than previously estimated.


Ford plans 23 new cars, 11,000 new jobs in 2014

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. says it will hire more than 11,000 people in the U.S. and Asia next year to support an aggressive rollout of new vehicles.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said the company plans to hire 5,000 workers in the U.S. — including 3,300 white-collar staff like engineers — and 6,000 workers in Asia. Many of those hires will work at two new plants that are opening in China. This will be the most people Ford has hired in one year since 2000.

2014 will also be its busiest product year in Ford’s 111-year history, with 23 new vehicles being introduced around the world. Of those, 16 will be sold in the U.S., including a new Mustang sports car, Transit Connect van and Lincoln MKC small utility.


As IPO market booms, Hilton shares jump in debut

It’s a suite day for Hilton investors.

Its shares gained 7.5 per cent to close at $21.50 Thursday after the hotelier raised $2.35 billion in the largest hotel IPO ever.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is the world’s largest hotel group with 665,667 rooms across 90 countries and territories. It operates luxury brands such as the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts but has built much of its recent growth on franchise deals.

Investor demand for IPOs has been strong recently with 218 IPOs in the U.S. this year, the most since 2000, according to research and investment firm Renaissance Capital. And Hilton’s offering trumped the $2.1 billion generated by Twitter’s IPO last month, as well as proceeds from offerings by its competitors.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 104.10 points, or 0.66 per cent, to close at 15,739.43. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 6.72 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 1,775.50. The Nasdaq composite dropped 5.41 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 3,998.40.

Benchmark U.S. oil for January delivery rose 6 cents to close $97.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.63 a gallon. Heating oil lost 4 cents to $2.98 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $4.41 per 1,000 cubic feet. In other markets, Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 74 cents at $108.96 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.