Business Highlights


US consumers should feel muted impact from rising oil price

DALLAS (AP) — OPEC’s decision to cut production gave an immediate boost to oil prices, but the impact on consumers and the U.S. economy is likely to be more modest and gradual.

The cartel agreed Wednesday to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day, reversing a strategy that produced lower oil prices and pain for U.S. drillers but saved money for consumers. Even if OPEC members carry through on their promises, global oil production would only fall by about 1 per cent.


Starbucks says Schultz to step down as CEO, become chairman

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks says CEO Howard Schultz, who transformed the chain into a global coffee brand, is stepping down from that role at the chain that he joined more than 30 years ago.

The Seattle-based company announced Thursday that Kevin Johnson, who was named president and chief operating officer last year, will become chief executive as of April 3.

Schultz, currently chairman and CEO, will become executive chairman to focus on innovation and social impact activities, among other things.


Oil and banks take Dow to new highs, but tech companies dive

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies plunged Thursday, and high-dividend stocks also took hefty losses as bond yields rose to their highest level in more than a year. But more big gains for blue chip banking and oil stocks pulled the Dow Jones industrial average to a record high.

Big names like Facebook and Oracle fell as technology companies took their biggest losses in two months. Rising bond yields pushed income-seeking investors away from real estate and utility companies. Health care stocks also slumped.


Requests for US jobless aid rose last week, but still low

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. But claims are still at low levels that point to greater job security.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for jobless aid rose by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000. The less-volatile four-week average ticked up 500 to 251,500. The overall number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.08 million, down more than 5 per cent from a year earlier.

Weekly claims are at historically low levels that suggest a stable environment for jobseekers.


Wells Fargo splits chairman, CEO roles after sales scandal

NEW YORK (AP) — Wells Fargo said it will split the jobs of chairman and CEO and will make other major changes to the composition of its board of directors in an effort to make the bank more accountable following a scandal over its sales practices.

The bank said Thursday it was amending its corporate bylaws to require that separate people fill the job of chairman and the job of CEO. The chairman and vice chairman will have to be independent directors who don’t own shares in the company, the bank said.


Black Friday deals lift US auto sales in November

DETROIT (AP) — Black Friday deals and postelection confidence helped pull November U.S. auto sales out of their recent slump — and increased the chances that 2016 could set a record for new vehicle sales.

Total U.S. sales rose 4 per cent for the month to 1.38 million units. That makes it the highest November on record, beating the previous record of 1.32 million set in 2001, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay said November sales were so good that the industry may even break last year’s sales record of 17.47 million.


Feds to appeal ruling that blocks expansion of overtime pay

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Obama administration says it will challenge a federal court’s decision to block implementation of a regulation that would make an estimated 4 million more higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay.

The U.S. Labor Department filed a notice of appeal Thursday, the same day the administration’s rule had been set to take effect nationwide.

Twenty-one states sued to block the rule, arguing it would unduly burden the public and private sectors.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction suspending it to allow for further scrutiny.


Police make 5 arrests in ‘unprecedented’ cybercrime takedown

PARIS (AP) — U.S. and European officials say they’ve knocked out a cybercrime group accused of inflicting hundreds of millions of dollars in losses worldwide, putting five key suspects in custody.

The European Union police agency said Thursday the sweep was “unprecedented in its scale” and resulted in the seizure of 39 servers and hundreds of thousands of internet domains used by the Avalanche network, a major player in the market for cybercrime services.

Unlike some past seizures — which grabbed crooks’ infrastructure while leaving the masterminds free to reorganize their networks — officials say they’re confident they’ve struck a fatal blow this time.


Kroger digs in with food prices tumbling

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kroger lowered its profit expectations for the year as it fights with other grocers for more of the customers’ dollar even as food prices fall.

The nation’s largest grocery chain has historically had leverage in the industry with suppliers because of its size, but now it’s competing with companies like Wal-Mart and Target as well.

And even some of the largest retailers in the world are unable to lure more customers given the trend in food prices.


Blame wages and turtle doves: ’12 Days’ now costs $34,363

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Even “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are feeling the slow economic recovery.

The price of nine of the other 12 gifts listed in the carol stayed the same price or became cheaper, including a partridge in a pear tree, according to the 33rd annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index released Thursday. As a result, the overall cost of the gifts listed in the song increased 0.7 per cent from last year to $34,363.

PNC Financial Services Group releases the price index each year as a whimsical way of tracking inflation.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 68.35 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 19,191.93. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 7.73 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 2,191.08. The Nasdaq composite tumbled 72.57 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 5,251.11.

Benchmark U.S. crude picked up $1.62, or 3.3 per cent, to close at $51.06 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, added $2.10, or 4.1 per cent, to $53.94 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 6 cent to $1.55 a gallon. Heating oil added 7 cents to $1.65. Natural gas gained 15 cents to $3.51 per 1,000 cubic feet.