Business Highlights


Trying to right itself, Chipotle hit by criminal investigation

NEW YORK (AP) — Chipotle reported a sales plunge of 30 per cent for December after a series of food scares at its restaurants and disclosed that a federal criminal investigation tied to the sickening of customers has begun.

The company said in a regulatory filing that it was asked to produce a broad range of documents tied to a norovirus outbreak this summer at its restaurant in Simi Valley, California, but declined to provide further details.

It said the investigation does not involve a more recent E. coli outbreak tied to its restaurants that sickened people in nine states, or a separate norovirus outbreak in Boston.


Apple stock slumps amid iPhone sales worries

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple fans keep buying iPhones, but Wall Street keeps worrying the company won’t be able to match last year’s blistering sales pace.

Shares in the world’s most valuable company have fallen more than 15 per cent over the last month, amid a drumbeat of news reports that some Asian parts suppliers are expecting Apple to trim orders for its signature smartphone this winter. Those fears were compounded Wednesday when the Wall Street Journal said one of Apple’s most important contractors is sending some workers home on “early holiday” before the Chinese New Year in February.

Even an upbeat report from Apple announcing that its online App Store set a sales record last week failed to boost the stock.


Netflix expands into 130 more countries in surprise move

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix has already crossed off the biggest item on its New Year’s list of resolutions. The Internet video service debuted in 130 countries Wednesday in a surprise move likely to reel in millions of new subscribers.

CEO Reed Hastings revealed the scope of Netflix’s expansion at the end of a presentation in Las Vegas at CES, one of the technology industry’s marquee events.

The news caught almost everyone off guard because Netflix had previously set a goal of being available in most of the world by the end of this year. It looked like the Los Gatos, California, company had plenty of work ahead it because it ended December in 60 countries.


China announces plan to limit large share sales

BEIJING (AP) — China plans to restrict stock sales by large shareholders once a ban imposed in July to stop a slide in prices is lifted this week.

Stockholders who own more than 5 per cent of a company will be required to sell shares through private transactions to “avoid shocks to the market,” the China Securities Regulatory Commission said on its microblog.

Regulators are winding down emergency measures imposed after China’s main market index plunged more than 30 per cent in June.


Fed minutes: Some saw December rate hike as ‘close call’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite the Federal Reserve’s unanimous vote to raise a key interest rate last month, some policymakers viewed their decision as a “close call” because of stubbornly low inflation.

Going forward, officials believed economic conditions would likely justify “only gradual increases” in its benchmark rate, minutes of the Fed’s December meeting released Wednesday showed.

The Fed boosted the rate by a quarter point to a new range of 0.25 per cent to 0.5 per cent in December. It had been at a record low near zero for the past seven years.


World Bank downgrades global economic forecast for 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank has cut its forecast for global growth this year given weakness in the developing world.

The aid agency said Wednesday that it expects the world economy to expand 2.9 per cent in 2016, down from the forecast of 3.3 per cent it made in June. The global economy grew 2.4 per cent in 2015.

Several big developing economies — including Brazil and China — are slowing or shrinking. Their troubles have disproportionately hurt their smaller trading partners, which have also been squeezed by depressed commodity prices.


Survey: US businesses add 257,000 jobs, most in a year

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses stepped up hiring last month, led by solid gains in construction and retail, a private survey found.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 257,000 jobs in December, the most in a year. Construction companies added 24,000 jobs, while retailers and shipping firms added 38,000.

The figures suggest that employers are still hiring at a healthy pace, even as overseas economic weakness and the strong dollar have hit U.S. manufacturing.


Monsanto eliminating 1,000 more jobs to cut costs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Monsanto said Wednesday it will eliminate another 1,000 jobs as it expands a cost-cutting plan designed to deal with falling sales of biotech-corn seeds and other financial headwinds.

The additional layoffs will bring the agriculture giant’s total planned cuts to 3,600 jobs over the next two years, or about 16 per cent of its global workforce. The St. Louis-based company says the restructuring will cost between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion to implement. By the end of fiscal 2018, the company expects the changes to generate annual savings of $500 million.


Macy’s to cut up to 4,800 jobs after weak holiday sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s is cutting up to 4,800 jobs after disappointing holiday sales.

The Cincinnati-based department store chain says sales fell 5.2 per cent in November and December at existing stores. Warm weather and lower spending by international tourists hurt sales.

The company also listed Wednesday which 40 stores it would close. It had announced it was closing stores in September.


Valeant names Howard Schiller as interim CEO

Valeant Pharmaceuticals has named former finance chief Howard Schiller as interim CEO while the troubled drug company’s chairman and chief executive remains hospitalized with severe pneumonia.

Valeant said Tuesday that J. Michael Pearson is still on medical leave, and it did not know when he would return. Schiller will become interim CEO immediately and Robert Ingram, the company’s lead independent director, will serve as interim board chairman.


VW exec sees US fixes soon in emissions test cheating

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The top executive of the Volkswagen brand worldwide says he’s optimistic that U.S. environmental regulators will approve fixes within the coming weeks or months for diesel engines that cheat on emissions tests.

Brand CEO Herbert Diess said Tuesday night at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas that the company is having constructive discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

But the EPA didn’t sound as optimistic, issuing a statement Wednesday saying that talks with VW so far “have not produced an acceptable way forward.”


The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 252.15 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 16,906.51. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 26.45 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 1,990.26. The Nasdaq composite slid 55.67 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4,835.76.

U.S. benchmark crude sank $2, or 5.6 per cent, to close at $33.97 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell $2.19, or 6 per cent, to close at $34.23 a barrel in London. The price of wholesale gasoline sank 9.5 cents, or 7.6 per cent, to $1.162 a gallon. Heating oil sank 4.5 cents, or 4 per cent, to $1.081 a gallon. Natural gas declined 5.6 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $2.267 per 1,000 cubic feet.