Business Highlights


Calif. AG leads criminal probe of Wells Fargo bank

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s attorney general is conducting a criminal investigation into whether employees at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo bank committed false impersonation and identity theft in the sales practices scandal that rocked the bank and cost its CEO his job, documents released Wednesday show.

A search warrant and supporting affidavit released by the state Department of Justice show that agents sought evidence related to allegations that bank employees created up to 2 million bank and credit card accounts without customers’ approval in order to meet sales goals.


AP Interview: IMF says low oil prices still hurting Mideast

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Oil-producing Mideast countries are coping with low global oil prices though more government reforms are needed, the International Monetary Fund’s chief for the Mideast said as the organization issued a new report Wednesday showing weak economic growth in the region.

Masood Ahmed also told The Associated Press that Iran’s economy beat expectations by growing by 4.5 per cent this year and could keep up that pace if it can modernize its industries and allow in more foreign investment after its nuclear deal with world powers.


US home construction fell 9 per cent in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homebuilders pulled back on construction for a second straight month in September, with a plunge in apartments offsetting gains in single-family homes. Building activity was weak in all parts of the country except the Midwest.

Construction tumbled 9 per cent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the slowest pace in 18 months. Construction had fallen 5.6 per cent in August.

The weakness last month reflected a 38 per cent drop in construction of apartments, which overshadowed an 8.1 per cent rise in single-family construction.


US economy grows a bit faster in September, Fed says

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. economic growth accelerated slightly as summer ended and fall began, supported by modest hiring, an uptick in consumer spending, and steady homebuilding, according to the Federal Reserve.

The Fed’s “Beige Book” survey of economic conditions in its 12 regional bank districts, released Wednesday, found that growth was modest or moderate in eight districts, slight in three, and flat in the New York district. That’s an improvement from its September survey, which found that growth weakened in two districts and was unchanged in two.

The mild improvement could encourage Fed policymakers to lift short-term interest rates by their December meeting.


Morgan Stanley’s earnings jump, helped by trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Morgan Stanley’s earnings soared 62 per cent in the third quarter, thanks to big gains in bond trading.

The New York-based investment bank said Wednesday it earned $1.52 billion after payments to preferred shareholders, up from $939 million in the same period a year earlier. Earnings per share, excluding an accounting adjustment, were 81 cents versus 34 cents a year earlier.

The results beat forecasts. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected the bank to earn 63 cents per share.


American Express profit falls 10 per cent, but tops estimates

NEW YORK (AP) — American Express said its third-quarter profits fell by 10 per cent from a year earlier, as the company absorbs the loss of its lucrative deal with Costco.

However, the results handedly beat analysts’ expectations and the company raised its full-year profit guidance.

The credit card giant said Wednesday that it earned $1.14 billion in the quarter ending September 30, or $1.20 per share, down from $1.27 billion, or $1.24 per share, in the same period a year earlier. Analysts had been expecting AmEx to earn 97 cents per share, according to FactSet.


US stock indexes notch modest gains as oil prices rise

Oil and gas exploration companies led U.S. stocks modestly higher Wednesday, giving the market its second gain in two days.

Energy stocks, already the best-performing category this year, got a boost from U.S. crude oil prices, which climbed to $51.60 a barrel, the highest level in 15 months. Companies that make consumer products were the biggest laggards.

Investors brushed off new data showing residential construction slowed last month. Instead, the focus remained on the latest crop of companies reporting quarterly results.


Regulators looking to strengthen banks’ cyber defences

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are looking to set up new standards for big banks’ planning and testing for possible cyberattacks. The aim is to bolster the banking industry’s defences amid concern over periodic security breaches at U.S. banks.

The move announced Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a Treasury Department banking agency is designed to get banks’ senior executives and directors to pay closer attention to cybersecurity, agency officials said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said that cybercrime is a “very significant threat.”


Starbucks plans to double stores in China in 5 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks is pushing ahead with its expansion into mainland China, saying Wednesday it’s on track to have 5,000 stores by 2021, more than doubling the number of its coffee shops in the country.

The Seattle-based coffee chain is looking to China to fuel its growth. It’s grown rapidly since opening its first Chinese store in 1999. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said China could one day surpass the U.S. as the chain’s largest market. There are about 13,000 Starbucks stores in the United States.


Delta unveils employee uniforms designed by Zac Posen

ATLANTA (AP) — Some Delta Air Lines employees are using a less familiar runway to show off new uniforms created by fashion designer Zac Posen.

Employee models took to a fashion runway to debut the clothing Wednesday on Facebook.

Delta says the uniforms will be worn by more than 60,000 of its employees, from technicians to flight attendants. The company says the uniforms “elevate the look and brand of Delta employees.”


T-Mobile fined $48M over slowing ‘unlimited’ data plans

NEW YORK (AP) — T-Mobile will pay $48 million for not clearly telling customers how “unlimited” data plans weren’t really, well, unlimited.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that T-Mobile had a policy to slow down the speeds of customers who were the heaviest data users. But the agency said the company didn’t let customers know what the data-use threshold was for triggering the lower speed.

The carrier now says in small print on its website that slower speeds may result for customers using more than 26 gigabytes a month if the network is congested.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.68 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,202.62. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 4.69 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,144.29. The Nasdaq composite added 2.58 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,246.41.

U.S. benchmark crude oil gained $1.31, or 2.6 per cent, to close at $51.60 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, added 99 cents, or 1.9 per cent, to close at $52.67 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.59 a gallon. Natural gas fell 9 cents to $3.17 per 1,000 cubic feet.