Business Highlights


Eurozone economy grew a paltry 0.3 per cent in Q4

BRUSSELS (AP) — The 19-country eurozone grew by a paltry quarterly rate of 0.3 per cent in the final three months of 2015 despite tail winds such as cheap energy, an export-boosting drop in the currency and monetary stimulus.

The growth reported Friday by the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, was in line with market expectations after earlier reports showed Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, grew at the same rate and France, the region’s number 2, expanded by 0.2 per cent.

Over the whole of 2015, the eurozone grew 1.5 per cent. Though that’s the highest level since 2011, growth remains way below levels that would markedly reduce the bloc’s unemployment rate, which is still above 10 per cent.


Facebook nude-painting case can face trial in France

PARIS (AP) — If you post a 19th-century nude painting on Facebook, is it art or impermissible nudity? That question is now cleared for trial in France, after an appeals court there ruled that an aggrieved user can sue the social network over the issue.

Five years ago, Facebook suspended the account of Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, without prior notice. That was the day he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting “The Origin of the World,” which depicts female genitalia.

Durand-Baissas wants his account reactivated and is asking for 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages. He said he’s “glad” he has been given the chance to get some sort of explanation from the powerful social network.


US retail sales rise as consumers shrug off stock price drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales rose modestly in January, evidence that Americans kept shopping despite sharp drops in stock prices.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2 per cent last month, the same as in December. Excluding the effect of falling gas prices, sales rose 0.4 per cent.

Sales in December were revised higher from an initial estimate of a 0.1 per cent drop.


US business stockpiles rise in December, but sales fall

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles slightly in December, as sales dropped sharply. This combination has stoked anxieties about weakening economic growth, as sales over the entire year dropped for the first time since the Great Recession.

The Commerce Department said Friday that December business inventories rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1 per cent, after having slipped 0.1 per cent in November. Both manufacturers and retailers — which were responding to holiday shopping — increased their stockpiles.

But sales fell 0.6 per cent in December, with a stiff 1.4 per cent drop in manufacturer revenues accounting for much of the drop. Retail sales were nearly unchanged.


Coke suspends bottling at plant at centre of water dispute

NEW DELHI (AP) — Coca-Cola suspended bottling at three plants in India, including one in the parched northwest where farmers have been protesting the company’s use of dwindling groundwater reserves.

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, which is a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co. based in Atlanta, said it was reorganizing operations across its 24 franchise bottling plants in India according to market demand and factory upgrades.

The company’s action, however, follows more than a decade of agitation by farmers in the state of Rajasthan, where groundwater levels have been plummeting.


Documents show Volkswagen resisted Takata air bag recall

DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen resisted U.S. government efforts to recall more cars and trucks to fix potentially deadly Takata air bags, telling safety regulators that a recall isn’t necessary.

But the German automaker eventually agreed to the recall, according to documents posted Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. VW already is in hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency for cheating on U.S. pollution tests.

Volkswagen is recalling a total of 850,000 Audi and VW vehicles in the U.S. due to Takata problems. But in a letter to the safety agency, VW said most VW and Audi vehicles have air bag inflators made at Takata’s factory in Freiberg, Germany. Those have not failed like inflators made in the U.S. and Mexico.


Visa discloses stake in Dorsey’s company, Square

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares in the mobile payment services company Square rose sharply Friday after Visa disclosed the details of its ownership stake in the company.

While Visa’s stake amounts to about 1 per cent of the company, and the stake was established at least 5 years ago, investors interpreted the announcement as a major endorsement of Square by Visa, the world’s largest payment processing company.

According to a regulatory filing, Visa owns 4.2 million of Square’s Class B shares. While Class B shares are not traded publicly they could be converted to 3.5 million Class A shares, which would leave the Visa with 10 per cent of that class of shares. That conversion would amount to just 1 per cent of Square’s total outstanding shares.


Kroger to offer anti-overdose drug without prescription

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. said Friday it will make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky, a region hard-hit by deadly heroin.

Kroger said more than 200 of its pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days.

Ohio fire crews and other first responders use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 per cent in 2014, one of the nation’s sharpest increases. Those on the front lines of the battle against heroin’s spread have increasingly supported allowing and educating families and friends of addicts to administer naloxone in emergencies.


Ohio company sells classic Etch A Sketch to Toronto toy firm

BRYAN, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio company that has produced or owned the Etch A Sketch for more than five decades has sold the classic toy to a Toronto-based toy firm.

Bryan-based Ohio Art Co. made the surprise move to sell the Etch A Sketch and its spinoff, the Doodle Sketch, to Spin Master Corp. for an undisclosed price. Ohio Art announced the sale Thursday.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 313.66 points, or 2 per cent, to 15,973.84. The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 35.70 points, or 2 per cent, to 1,864.78. The Nasdaq composite added 70.67 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 4,337.51.

Benchmark U.S. crude climbed $3.23, or 12.3 per cent, to close at $29.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, gained $3.30, or 11 per cent, to $33.36 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline jumped 10 cents, or 10.8 per cent, to close at $1.04 a gallon, while home heating oil climbed 9 cents, or 9.2 per cent, to close at $1.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to $1.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.