Business Highlights


China assures US no devaluation, pushing reforms forward

BEIJING (AP) — China’s premier told visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Monday that his government is pressing ahead with painful reforms to shrink bloated coal and steel industries and ruled out devaluing China’s currency.

Premier Li Keqiang’s comments were in line with a joint declaration by financial officials from the Group of 20 biggest rich and developing economies who met over the weekend in Shanghai. They pledged to avoid devaluations to boost sagging trade and urged governments to speed up reforms to boost slowing global growth.

Beijing is under pressure to reassure global financial markets it has its economy under control following stock and currency turmoil.


Late selling leaves stocks down for third straight month

NEW YORK (AP) — Late-day selling pushed U.S. stocks to a loss for the day and erased nearly all of the market’s gains for the month.

Nine of the 10 market sectors fell Monday — only utilities managed a slight gain — as investors lost enthusiasm for stocks after two straight weekly gains. Health care stocks fell furthest as Endo International, Mylan and Mallinckrodt all fell sharply.


US pending home sales decline in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in January, as the recent hot streak appears to have been curbed by a shortage of properties for sale and colder weather.

The National Association of Realtors said that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index fell 2.5 per cent to 106 in January. The decline comes after the sales index averaged 108.9 in 2015, its highest level since 2006.

The number of signed contracts decreased in the Northeast, Midwest and West. Prospective sales improved slightly in the South. But a shortage of listings has weighed down the potential for sales increases akin to last year’s increase.


Buffett says US economy weaker than he expected but growing

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett said the U.S. economy appears weaker than he thought it would be as recently as last fall, but that doesn’t change his optimistic long-term view of the country’s prospects.

Buffett appeared on CNBC Monday and addressed a variety of topics after releasing his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend. The more than 90 companies owned by Berkshire give Buffett a complex and detailed view of how the economy is affecting different U.S. sectors.

The economy continues growing slowly, and Buffett is confident the U.S. economy will improve over time.


Valeant shares slide despite CEO’s return after long illness

Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals tanked Monday, amid ongoing turmoil over it delayed financial results and leader’s health.

Even news Sunday that CEO Michael Pearson is returning immediately after nine weeks recovering from pneumonia and unspecified complications failed to buoy Valeant shares.

The shares are trading at a fraction of their high last August, which was just before its practice of buying rights to old drugs and jacking up the prices came under congressional scrutiny. A few months later, its questionable relationship with a drug distributor raised concerns about the accuracy of its financial reporting.


Lumber Liquidators 4Q losses much greater than expected

TOANO, Va. (AP) — Lumber Liquidators swung to a fourth-quarter loss that was far larger than expected as fallout over the safety of some of its products continues to rattle the embattled flooring manufacturer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that people exposed to certain types of Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring were three times more likely to get cancer than the agency had previously predicted.

The company stopped selling the Chinese-made laminate floors in May, a few months after a news show reported the floors contain high levels of formaldehyde.


AARP: Price hikes doubled average drug price over 7 years

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The average cost for a year’s supply of a prescription drug doubled in just seven years to more than $11,000 — about three-quarters of the average annual Social Security benefit.

That’s according to the latest study of price trends for widely-used drugs conducted by AARP, the senior citizens advocacy group. It finds prices for existing drugs, driven entirely by manufacturer price hikes, have been rising more quickly since 2007 and likely will continue to do so.

AARP says its research shows drugmaker price hikes imposed one or more times a year are making prescription medicines increasingly unaffordable for retirees and many other patients.


3 former execs of utility charged in Fukushima disaster

TOKYO (AP) — Three former Japanese utility executives were formally charged Monday with negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, becoming the first officials from the company to face a criminal trial.

The three men, charged with professional negligence, were not taken into custody.

Proving criminal responsibility for failing to prevent the Fukushima meltdowns may be difficult, but many people, including residents of the area affected by the disaster, say they hope any trial will reveal information about the disaster and TEPCO’s role that has not been disclosed by the utility.


Report: Cheap natural gas leads to more plants and pollution

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The nation’s boom in cheap natural gas — often viewed as a clean energy source — is spawning a wave of petrochemical plants that, if built, will emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases, an environmental watchdog group warned in a report Monday.

The Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project said hydraulic fracturing of shale rock formations and other advances, such as horizontal drilling, have made natural gas cheap and plentiful — so plentiful that the United States has begun exporting gas.

The watchdog non-profit is led by Eric Schaeffer, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Enforcement.


Gov’t safety head: Total Takata recall won’t make cars safer

DETROIT (AP) — The nation’s top auto safety regulator says an immediate recall of all Takata air bags wouldn’t provide significant safety benefits and could exceed the government’s legal authority.

A recall of that scope would also strain the network for replacement parts and increase uncertainty for consumers, Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wrote in a letter to a legislator.

Takata’s air bag inflators can explode with too much force, hurling shrapnel at drivers and passengers. At least 10 people have died worldwide and 139 have been hurt.


Subway to ensure ‘Footlongs’ measure up after lawsuit

NEW YORK (AP) — Subway customers can finally rest assured that their “Footlong” sandwiches will be as long as promised.

A judge last week granted final approval to a settlement of a class-action suit filed against Subway after an Australian teenager in 2013 posted an image of his sandwich on Facebook that was only 11 inches.

As part of the settlement, Subway agreed to institute practices for at least four years to ensure its bread is at least 12 inches long.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 123.47 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 16,516.50. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 15.82 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 1,932.23. The Nasdaq composite index fell 32.52 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,557.95.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 97 cents, or 3 per cent, to $33.75 a barrel in New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, gained 87 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $35.97 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.05 a gallon and heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.08 a gallon.