Business Highlights


Companies lose billions buying back their own stock

NEW YORK (AP) — If you think your stocks are doing poorly, check out the performance of some of the most sophisticated investors, the ones with more knowledge about what’s going on inside businesses than anyone else: companies that buy their own shares.

The companies losing money on these bets are down a collective $126 billion over the past three years, a decline of 15 per cent.

And it’s not just a few big corporate losers accounting for all the pain. The group includes 229 companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index, nearly half of the companies in the study prepared by FactSet for The Associated Press.


Obama unveils record $4.1 trillion election-year budget

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday unveiled a record $4.1 trillion, election-year budget that finances Democratic priorities like education, health care and climate change with new taxes on crude oil, the wealthy and big banks.

Obama called the budget — his eighth and final one — “a roadmap to a future that embodies America’s values and aspirations: a future of opportunity and security for all of our families; a rising standard of living; and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids.”


Sports costs at ESPN weigh down Disney’s Force-ful quarter

LOS ANGELES (AP) — ESPN, the sports network that drives Disney’s profit engine, has hit a soft patch. Subscribers have fallen and it’s coming off a round of layoffs.

The network’s troubles are a bellwether for one of TV’s biggest challenges: the ever-increasing cost of sports rights and whether consumers want to keep footing the bill.

The conundrum was reflected in Disney’s quarterly earnings Tuesday. Even though “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” helped Disney’s earnings soar 32 per cent to a record $2.9 billion, its television profits slumped by 6 per cent, in part due to increases in the cost of sports-broadcast rights.


US stocks end a bumpy day slightly lower

U.S. stocks extended their three-day losing streak Tuesday, closing slightly lower after spending most of the day wavering between gains and losses.

Energy companies led the decline as the price of U.S. crude oil sank nearly 6 per cent. It’s now at about $28 a barrel. The market’s bumpy ride followed a slide in European stock indexes and steep losses in Japan, reflecting mounting investor anxiety that the global economy is slowing.

Stock markets have endured a torrid start to the year.


Energy agency says gasoline will average under $2 in 2016

For the first time since 2004, U.S. drivers are expected to pay an average of less than $2 a gallon for gasoline, the government said Tuesday.

They can thank the huge glut of oil around the globe.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its monthly short-term energy outlook that regular gasoline will average $1.98 a gallon nationwide in 2016. The last time oil averaged less than $2 for a full year was 2004, which was also the last time gasoline at stations in some states fell below $1 a gallon.


Global volume up for Coke, though Diet Coke fizzles

ATLANTA (AP) — Coca-Cola’s global soda volume rose in the fourth quarter, even as Diet Coke continued to suffer declines.

The world’s largest beverage maker said Tuesday that worldwide unit case volume for soda, which reflects average daily sales, rose 2 per cent in the final three months of last year.

Coke executives have said Diet Coke’s decline has been largely a U.S. issue. That trend continued in the quarter, with the company registering a 5 per cent drop in Diet Coke sales volume for the region while regular Coke was flat.


Red Lobster enjoys sales surge after mention in Beyonce song

NEW YORK (AP) — Red Lobster says it’s feeling the “Beyonce Bounce.”

The seafood chain known for its cheddar biscuits says sales surged 33 per cent on Sunday, compared with last year’s Super Bowl Sunday. The increase came after the release of “Formation,” in which Beyonce says she took a man to Red Lobster after sex.

Other factors also likely helped. Red Lobster notes this year’s winter wasn’t as harsh, meaning people were likely more willing to head out to restaurants. And the chain is running a “Lobsterfest” promotion that it didn’t last year.


Alpha says lenders offer $500M for coal producer’s assets

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Alpha Natural Resources said it has received a $500 million offer from existing lenders for the potential sale of the bankrupt coal producer’s core assets.

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha announced the offer in a filing Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia. The filing said the unspecified lenders have agreed to serve as the lead bidder. The offer would set the floor for an auction process that lets competitors make higher bids.

Alpha filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. Since the filing, the company has announced plans to lay off hundreds of workers in central Appalachia, citing tough market conditions.


Deutsche Bank shares hit as markets fret over European banks

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The CEO of Deutsche Bank reassured employees and markets that the company’s finances were “rock-solid” as Europe’s banks took another a beating in the stock market Tuesday.

Shares in Germany’s biggest lender are down 23 per cent since it reported a 6.8 billion euro ($7.5 billion) loss for 2015.

The bank’s sagging shares reflect converging factors that are undermining bank shares across in Europe. Banks in the 19 countries that use the euro have some 1.9 trillion euros in loans that aren’t being paid back on time.


Nation’s second-largest food-service firm files to go public

The nation’s second-largest food-service distributor has filed papers for an initial stock offering.

U.S. Foods Holding Corp., based in Rosemont, Illinois, said Tuesday it plans to raise $100 million in the IPO, although the amount was listed to calculate fees and will likely be revised.

In its filing, U.S. Foods said it has about 25,000 workers and annual sales of $23 billion. It reported a net loss of $73 million last year.

The filing comes several months after a judge blocked plans by larger rival Sysco Corp. to acquire U.S. Foods for $3.5 billion.


NASCAR allows franchise system to give team owners value

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR announced a dramatic overhaul of its business model Tuesday, shifting to a franchise-like system that is intended to provide actual value and financial stability to team owners after decades of heavy reliance on sponsors.

The change gets away from the independent contractor model that had been used since NASCAR’s 1948 inception. A car owner was responsible for all the financial obligations to race each week, depending on sponsorship to help foot the bills. When a sponsor pulled its funding, a car owner could go broke and be left with nothing but racing equipment.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.67 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 16,014.38. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1.23 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,852.21. The Nasdaq composite index slid 14.99 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,268.76.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped $1.75, or 6 per cent, to close at $27.94 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell $2.56, or 8 per cent, to close at $30.32 a barrel in London. In other energy trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 6 cents, or 6 per cent, to 90 cents a gallon, and home heating oil fell 7 cents to 97 cents a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents, or 2 per cent, to $2.10 per 1,000 cubic feet.