Business Highlights


Apple: Congress, not courts, must decide

WASHINGTON (AP) — Apple Inc. will tell a federal judge this week in legal papers that its fight with the FBI over accessing a locked and encrypted iPhone should be kicked to Congress, rather than decided by courts, The Associated Press has learned.

Apple will also argue that the Obama administration’s request to help it hack into an iPhone in the federal investigation of the San Bernardino attack is improper under an 18th century law, which has been used to compel companies to provide assistance to law enforcement.


Facebook’s ‘like’ button gets ‘angry’ and ‘sad’ as friends

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook’s “like” button isn’t going away, but it’s about to get some company.

Facebook has been testing alternatives to “like” in about a half-dozen countries, including Ireland, Spain and Japan. On Wednesday, Facebook started making “haha,” ”angry” and three other responses available in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

You have to hold that button or mouse over the “like” link for a second or two for the alternatives to pop up.


Stocks erase an early loss and manage modest gains

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market reversed steep declines and ended slightly higher on Wednesday, thanks in part to a pickup in the price of crude oil.

Indexes continue to be weighed down by bank stocks, which remain under pressure due to economic unease and worries about the amount of loans on their books to struggling oil and gas companies.

Stocks had been dramatically lower earlier in the day, but as oil prices recovered through the day, so did energy stocks and the broader market.


US new-home sales tumble in January, big decline in West

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans stepped back from buying new homes in January, as purchases plunged sharply in Western states where prices are typically higher.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new-home sales fell 9.2 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 494,000. Most of the decline stemmed for a 32.1 drop in sales in the West.

The pace of buying new homes last month slipped below last year’s sales total of 501,000, a possible sign of mounting price pressures. But new-home sales also tend to be a volatile government report with revisions and large swings on a monthly basis.


Target’s 4Q profits miss estimates on heavy discounting

NEW YORK (AP) — Target’s heavy discounting during the crucial holiday season squeezed fourth-quarter profits. But its trendy assortments and spiffed up presentations induced shoppers to spend more.

The company also offered an upbeat outlook, sending shares 4 per cent higher.

The results, released Wednesday, show Target has made solid progress in reinvigorating its business and winning back shoppers. It initiated an aggressive plan to regain its cheap chic status in 2014 under new CEO Brian Cornell after a series of headline grabbing setbacks, including a major debit and credit card breach that hurt sales and profits for months.


Lowe’s revenue jumps in 4Q as housing market warms

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Lowe’s revenue for the fourth quarter beat most expectations and its profit outlook for the year did too amid a housing recovery that is sending more do-it-yourselfers through its doors.

Unseasonably warm weather also meant that home owners tackled projects outside during what is usually a slower quarter for the industry.


IMF seeks contingency plans for vulnerable global economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that the global economy is “highly vulnerable” to adverse shocks and urged the United States and other major governments to prepare contingency plans that could be rolled out quickly to boost growth.

The IMF report said a fragile global recovery has weakened further in the face of increasing financial market turbulence, falling oil prices and diminished growth prospects in China and other emerging market countries.


UPS invests in same-day delivery company Deliv

NEW YORK (AP) — UPS, looking for ways to get goods to shoppers faster, is investing in same-day delivery company Deliv.

Deliv, founded nearly four years ago, works with Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and other retailers to deliver online orders within the same day. Shoppers select same-day delivery when they’re about to buy something from the retailer’s website and Deliv’s workers get it there. Retailers pay Deliv for its service and the stores usually charge customers.


Study: Lexus, Porsche and Buick are most dependable

DETROIT (AP) — Lexus, Porsche and Buick are the most dependable vehicle brands based on the number of problems reported by owners, according to a study released Wednesday by the consulting firm J.D. Power.

Toyota and GMC round out the top five most dependable brands. Dodge, Ford, Smart, Land Rover and Jeep are the least dependable, with the most problems reported per vehicle.

The study, now in its 27th year, questioned 33,560 owners of 2013 model-year vehicles about issues they have had in the last 12 months.


Uber launches motorcycle ride-hailing service in Bangkok

BANGKOK (AP) — Ride-hailing service Uber is placing a bet on motorcycles in Thailand’s capital.

Uber announced Wednesday the launch of its UberMOTO service in Bangkok as a pilot project for cities in developing countries.

The new service is not original. Motorcycle taxis are a long-standing tradition in many Southeast Asian cities, and became especially popular after the economic boom of the 1980s brought an onslaught of new cars jamming city streets.


Beijing overtakes NYC as ‘Billionaire Capital of the World’

BEIJING (AP) — Move over, New York City: Beijing is the new “Billionaire Capital of the World.”

The Chinese capital has overtaken the Big Apple as home to the most billionaires — 100 to 95 — according to Hurun, a Shanghai firm that publishes a monthly magazine and releases yearly rankings and research about the world’s richest people and their spending habits.

The study, which comes months after reports suggested China now has more billionaires than the United States, highlights how China’s elite are continuing to accrue vast wealth despite a wobbling stock market and cooling economy.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 53.21 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 16,484.99. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 8.53 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 1,929.80. The Nasdaq composite index rose 39.02 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 4,542.61.

Crude oil closed up 28 cents, or 1 per cent, to $32.15 a barrel. Brent crude oil, which is used to price oil internationally, rose $1.14, or 3.4 per cent, to $34.10 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, heating oil rose 3.7 cents, or 3.6 per cent, to $1.059 a gallon, wholesale gasoline futures rose 4.4 cents, or 4.6 per cent, to $1.01 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.4 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $1.778 per thousand cubic feet.