Business Highlights


As desire to acquire mounts, so does risk of losses

NEW YORK (AP) — Goodwill — mankind needs more of it, but there may be far too much in the financial world.

Goodwill is the accounting term for the premium that companies pay when they buy each other, over the value of the actual assets being purchased. Thanks to a wave in corporate deals over the past few years, the amount of goodwill sitting on balance sheets of companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index has ballooned to $2.5 trillion. That’s 50 per cent more than at the end of the last deal boom in 2007, according to FactSet.

If history repeats, many of the deals won’t work out as planned and much of the goodwill will turn into losses.


Tesla crash could hurt sentiment on driverless cars

DETROIT (AP) — It was the crash the auto industry knew was coming but still feared.

The death of a driver who was using Tesla Motors’ semi-autonomous mode could add to the public’s apprehension of driverless cars even before they reach the road in big numbers. Most major automakers and technology companies, including Google and Uber, are working on fully autonomous cars, and have worried that a highly publicized crash could hurt those efforts.

According Tesla, the accident occurred when cameras on its Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes. The driver didn’t take control and activate the brakes either.


US income gap widened last year as top 1 per cent gained most

WASHINGTON (AP) — Financial inequality became even wider in the United States last year, with average income for the top 1 per cent of households surging 7.7 per cent to $1.36 million.

Income for the richest sliver rose twice as fast as it did for the remaining 99 per cent of households, according to an updated analysis of tax data by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Still, the incomes of households outside the top 1 per cent appear finally to be recovering from the Great Recession. After accounting for inflation, their average income rose 3.9 per cent last year to $48,768 — the strongest annual gain since 1998.


Puerto Rico enters new financial era after historic default

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico entered a new financial era Friday following a historic default as it prepares for the implementation of a federal oversight board that will have control over the island’s dire finances and provide room to ease a crushing debt burden.

The government paid roughly half of $2 billion in due debt, but said it did not have the money to pay $779 million worth of general obligation bonds that are given top priority by the island’s constitution. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order Thursday declaring a moratorium on a portion of that debt.


US stock indexes end strong week with tiny gains

U.S. stock indexes marked their fourth consecutive gain Friday, an upbeat finish for a week that got off to a turbulent start as investors fretted about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

It ended the week up 3 per cent, its biggest weekly gain since November. The main stock indexes in Europe posted even bigger gains this week, with British stocks recouping all their losses along the way.

At the same time, demand for U.S. Treasurys surged this week, driving bond prices sharply higher. That pulled down the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 1.44 per cent Friday, close to its record low. Investors also bid up the price of gold, another traditional safe-haven.


General Mills expands flour recall after outbreak of E. coli

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — General Mills is expanding its recall of certain types of flour in response to an ongoing outbreak of illnesses related to a strain of E. coli bacteria.

The Minneapolis-based company on June 1 voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of its Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Wondra flour that federal health officials say was the likely source of dozens of illnesses in 20 states. The flour is largely produced at the company’s Kansas City, Missouri, plant.

The company’s announcement Friday expands the recall to include flour made earlier in the fall that might still be in consumers’ pantries.


Uncertainty looms as Vermont becomes 1st state to label GMOs

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined other Vermont leaders Friday to celebrate the state’s newly implemented law requiring labels on genetically modified food and blast proposed federal legislation that could pre-empt the state requirement.

Vermont became the first state Friday to require the labeling of food containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.

Vermont Sen. Sanders sharply criticized the compromise bill in Congress that called for less stringent regulations, and said the bill has several shortcomings. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.


Traffic deaths surged in 2015 as driving hit new record

WASHINGTON (AP) — Traffic deaths surged last year as drivers racked up more miles behind the wheel than ever before, a result of an improved economy and lower gas prices, according to preliminary government data released Friday.

Fatalities rose 7.7 per cent to 35,200 in 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. That overall rate was significantly outpaced by non-motorist traffic deaths: Bicycle fatalities were up 13 per cent; pedestrian deaths rose 10 per cent, and motorcyclist deaths rose by 9 per cent.

Last year was the deadliest driving year since 2008, when 37,423 people were killed. It was also the year in which American drove 3.1 trillion miles, more than ever before.


6 Williams Cos. board members quit after failing to dump CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly half of the board members of Williams Cos. quit this week after they unsuccessfully tried to force out the energy company’s CEO.

In a letter made public Friday, former board member Eric Mandelblatt says he and five others quit Thursday after the remaining board members were unwilling to push out CEO Alan Armstrong. Mandelblatt said Armstrong is “incapable” of increasing shareholder value and “lacks the necessary judgment and character” needed to lead the company after a failed $33 billion takeover bid from rival Energy Transfer Equity.


The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 19.38 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,949.37. The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 4.09 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,102.95. The Nasdaq composite added 19.89 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,862.57.

U.S. crude rose 66 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to close at $48.99 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 53 cents to $50.35 a barrel in London. Natural gas rose 6 cents, or 2.2 per cent, to $2.9870 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.50 a gallon, while heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.51 a gallon.