Business Highlights


TV makers design for streaming video to stay relevant

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Does anyone just watch TV anymore? The dramatic shift toward online and mobile viewing is driving television set makers to design as much for streaming video as for watching broadcast or cable channels.

Traditional TV is far from dead, but these days viewers care less about watching shows live and even prefer saving certain series to watch all at once in an evening or weekend of binge-watching. Broadcast networks and hundreds of cable channels share viewer attention with thousands of online services, including amateurs creating their own series on YouTube. Already, Netflix has outbid traditional channels for hits such as “House of Cards.” And Dish this week announced it will sell online access to a bundle of channels including live sports network ESPN for just $20 a month. Online video will account for a third of all video viewing in 2020, up from about 10 per cent in 2013, predicts The Diffusion Group, a research firm that specializes in Internet video.


For some Russians, mortgage costs soaring due to ruble slide

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — When they took out a mortgage on a small two-room apartment seven years ago, Oksana Li and her husband hoped to make a new home for themselves and their young son.

Now, like thousands of other Russians, they are seeing that dream unravel as they are unable to make payments — even by working longer hours and a second job.

That’s because they are part of a minority of Russians who took out mortgages denominated in a foreign currency to take advantage of lower interest rates abroad. As Russia’s currency collapsed in recent months, the cost of repaying those mortgages has gone through the roof.

When the Li family took out their mortgage in 2008, their monthly payment was equivalent to 38,000 rubles. By the end of 2014, it was 129,000 rubles.


College Football Playoff wants to be ubiquitous sports brand

NEW YORK (AP) — The Super Bowl did not start as the Super Bowl. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament eventually came to be known as March Madness, and its semifinals as the Final Four. Now, even the most casual sports fans know exactly what they are.

The College Football Playoff is a blank slate and those who created it have tried to steer clear of clutter in the hope of creating the next ubiquitous sports brand.

When the name of college football’s first playoff at the sport’s highest level was unveiled in 2013, it seemed a little too simple to some people.

One tweet aimed at the event’s executive director by sports writer Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle summed up the reaction: “I bet Bill Hancock’s dog is named Dog.”


US factory orders fell 0.7 per cent in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories fell for a fourth straight month in November, with demand in a key category that signals business investment plans down for a third month.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday factory orders dropped 0.7 per cent in November after a similar 0.7 per cent fall in October. The November weakness came from decreases in demand for primary metals, industrial machinery and military aircraft.

A closely watched category that serves as a proxy for business investment spending dropped 0.5 per cent in November, marking the longest stretch of weakness in this category since 2012.

Economists, however, remain optimistic that the drop in orders is a temporary soft patch and a stronger economy with increased consumer spending will trigger a rebound in demand in 2015.


US services firms grew at steady but slower pace last month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services firms expanded at a solid but much slower pace in December compared with the previous month, a sign growth may have cooled at the end of last year.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its services index fell to 56.2 last month, down from 59.3 in November. Yet the drop comes from a very high level: November’s reading was near an eight-year high of 59.6 reached in August. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.

The decline echoes a similar drop in the ISM’s manufacturing index, released last Friday. Both indexes fell from strong readings in November, but are still showing steady levels of expansion. Hiring picked up last year and gas prices have fallen, leaving more Americans with money to spend. That benefits retailers, hotels, restaurants and other service providers.


US home prices coasting upward in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home values rose at a measured pace in November, a sign that demand remains weak as many buyers have been priced out of the market.

Prices increased 5.5 per cent in November compared with 12 months earlier, real estate provider CoreLogic said Tuesday. That was up slightly from October’s year-over-year increase of 5.4 per cent, which was revised downward from a previously reported 6.1 per cent.

The housing market faces an affordability crunch. Many potential buyers were sidelined by double-digit home price gains in 2013, which eclipsed average wage growth of roughly 2 per cent. That affordability gap caused sales to slide in 2014, restraining price growth in recent months.

CoreLogic projects that price growth will remain mild as the U.S. real estate market continues to recover from the lows reached after the Great Recession. Nationwide, home prices remain 12.9 per cent below their April 2006 peak.


Obama taps community banker for Fed board

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has selected the former head of a community bank in Hawaii to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board.

The White House said Tuesday that Obama will nominate Allan R. Landon, the former chief executive of the Bank of Hawaii, to fill one of two vacancies on the seven-member board. The nomination will require Senate confirmation.

The decision comes after a lobbying campaign by community bankers who argued that the Fed, which regulates banks, should have at least one community banker on its board.

The White House said that Landon had compiled a strong record in leading the Bank of Hawaii, one of the largest in the state, through the 2008 financial crisis. Landon served as chairman and chief executive officer of the bank from 2004 to 2010.


If the shoe fits: Coach buying Stuart Weitzman for $530M

NEW YORK (AP) — Coach is expanding its footwear collection.

The luxury handbag and accessories company is buying Stuart Weitzman Holdings LLC from private equity firm Sycamore Partners for about $530 million.

Coach Inc. will also make up to $44 million in contingent payments to Sycamore Partners if certain revenue targets are hit over the three years after the deal closes.

The deal is expected to bolster Coach’s image while creating growth opportunities as it struggles to turn around its brand under new CEO Victor Luis, who took the post in January 2014. For Stuart Weitzman, the deal will expand its business overseas.

It’s a rare acquisition for Coach, which has long grown internally. While analysts praised the deal, some worry that it could be a distraction to its core business, especially when efforts so far to rework the designs haven’t seen much traction.


White House says it will veto bill to approve oil pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto the first piece of legislation introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate, a bill approving the much-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline, in what was expected to be the first of many confrontations over energy and environmental policy.

Hours after supporters of the bipartisan bill, which is sponsored by all 54 Senate Republicans and six Democrats, announced its introduction, the White House said for the first time that President Barack Obama would veto it.

The two main sponsors, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Tuesday morning they had enough votes to overcome a filibuster of the bill but not a presidential veto. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in one of his first acts, moved to put it directly on the Senate calendar. The House is expected to vote and pass a bill approving the $5.4 billion project, which was first proposed in 2008, on Friday.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 130.01 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 17,371.64. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 17.97 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 2,002.61. The Nasdaq composite dropped 59.84 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 4,592.74.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.11 to close at $47.93 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.01 to close at $51.10 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.7 cents to close at $1.354 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.3 cents to close at $1.726 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.6 cents to close at $2.938 per 1,000 cubic feet.