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Business Highlights

August 17, 2015 - 2:55 PM


More millennials stuck renting for years before buying home

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home ownership, that celebrated hallmark of the American dream, is increasingly on hold for younger Americans.

Short of cash, burdened by student debt and unsettled in their careers, young adults are biding time in apartments for longer periods and buying their first homes later in life.

The typical first-timer now rents for six years before buying, up from 2.6 years in the early 1970s, according to a new analysis by the real estate data firm Zillow. The median first-time buyer is age 33 — in the upper range of the millennial generation, which roughly spans ages 18 to 34. A generation ago, the median first-timer was about three years younger.


Amazon's data-driven approach becoming more common

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon isn't the only company that is using data on employees to improve productivity.

A New York Times article over the weekend portrayed Amazon's work culture as "bruising" and "Darwinian" in part because of the way it uses data to manage its staff. The article depicted a work culture where staffers are under constant pressure to deliver strong results on a wide variety of detailed metrics the company monitors in real time — such as what gets abandoned in peoples shopping cards and what videos people stream — and encouraged to report praise or criticism about colleagues to management to add to more data about workers performance. The story led to an outcry on social media.

Experts say the kind of data-driven staff management Amazon uses is set to become more common as technology continues to transform the American workplace.


Imperfect test fuels alternative treatments for Lyme disease

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lyme disease conjures memories of checking for ticks at camp and fretting over bug bites after hikes in the woods. But far from a summertime nuisance, Lyme is a potentially debilitating disease — and the subject of a vigorous debate in modern medicine.

Doctors not only debate how to treat the disease, which starts with fever and rash but can develop into long-term problems such as fatigue, arthritis and concentration problems. After decades, they still argue over the standard blood test for Lyme, which is subject to severe limitations. The conflict has given rise to a cottage industry of alternative Lyme physicians, laboratories, medical guidelines, patient groups and even research centres at universities.


Manufacturing in New York shrinks by most since 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — Manufacturing activity in New York state contracted in August at the fastest pace since the Great Recession, pulled down by sharp declines in new orders and shipments.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Monday that its Empire State manufacturing index plunged to minus 14.9 from a positive reading of 3.9 in July. That is the lowest level since April 2009. Any reading below zero indicates contraction.


US homebuilder sentiment improves in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders grew slightly more optimistic about the housing market in August, putting their confidence at levels last seen a decade ago during the debt-fueled housing boom.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose this month to 61, the highest level since November 2005. The reading was 60 in both June and July. Any reading above 50 indicates more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.


IRS: Computer breach bigger than first thought; 334K victims

WASHINGTON (AP) — A computer breach at the IRS in which thieves stole tax information from thousands of taxpayers is much bigger than the agency originally disclosed.

An additional 220,000 potential victims had information stolen from an IRS website as part of a sophisticated scheme to use stolen identities to claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Monday. The revelation more than doubles the total number of potential victims, to 334,000.


2 Citigroup affiliates paying $179.5M to resolve SEC case

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Citigroup Inc. affiliates have agreed to pay $179.5 million to resolve federal regulators' charges of misleading investors in hedge funds that later collapsed.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday the settlement with Citigroup Alternative Investments, a subsidiary of the bank, and Citigroup Global Markets, an affiliated company. The amount they are paying, $139.9 million plus $39.6 million in interest, will be returned to investors in two hedge funds managed by the firms.


Foreign companies around Tianjin blast suspend operations

SHANGHAI (AP) — Foreign companies have suspended operations around the Tianjin port as officials scramble to contain the toxic fallout of last week's deadly chemical explosions, which dealt a blow to northern China's emerging economic hub.

Toyota said over half its China production capacity would be offline at least through Wednesday. The company has operations near the blast evacuation zone and said Monday that it had suspended three production lines, which can produce 530,000 vehicles a year.


Feds allow Shell to drill for oil in Arctic Ocean off Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The federal government on Monday gave Royal Dutch Shell the final permit it needs to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska's northwest coast for the first time in more than two decades.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced that it approved the permit to drill below the ocean floor after the oil giant brought in a required piece of equipment to stop a possible well blowout.


Target promotes CFO to new role

NEW YORK (AP) — Target is making more executive changes, promoting its Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan to the newly created role of chief operating officer.

Mulligan, who will also be executive vice-president, assumes oversight of stores, supply chain and properties as the retailer continues to reshape its management team. Cathy Smith, a seasoned retail executive, was named to replace Mulligan as CFO.


FDA: scope manufacturer waited years to report problems

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have uncovered new violations by the manufacturer of medical scopes recently linked to outbreaks of deadly "superbug" bacteria at U.S. hospitals.

Olympus Corp. failed to alert regulators to a cluster of 16 infections in patients who underwent procedures with the company's scope in 2012, according to a warning letter posted online Monday by the Food and Drug Administration. Olympus did not report the problems to the FDA until 2015, when the company was already under scrutiny for a more recent series of outbreaks.


QVC owner Liberty buying Zulily in about $2.3 billion deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Zulily, which offers flash sales of products like toys and children's clothing geared to young moms, now has a parent.

Liberty Interactive Corp. which owns home shopping network QVC, announced Monday that it's buying Zulily in a cash-and-stock deal valued at approximately $2.32 billion. The deal will create a company with combined revenue of more than $10 billion and 230 million products shipped globally to 19 million customers in 85 countries.


US Steel idling Alabama mill; about 1,100 jobs affected

FAIRFIELD, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Steel Corp. said Monday that it will close its Fairfield Works mill, one of the largest remaining pieces from Birmingham's years as a Southern steel-making giant.

The decision will affect about 1,100 workers at the roughly century-old plant, company spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said. It was unclear whether employees might be able to move to other jobs within the Pittsburgh-based company.

An adjoining plant that employs about 700 people will continue making steel pipe, the company said, and construction of an electric arc furnace will continue on the property. An associated galvanizing operation will keep operating in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. Steel said.


Traffic deaths up sharply in first 6 months of this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Traffic deaths were up 14 per cent nationally in the first six months of this year and injuries were up by a third, according to data gathered by the National Safety Council.

An improved economy and low gas prices have encouraged Americans to put a record number of miles on the road, said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president of the council. But, she said, that's not the whole explanation for the increase in deaths and injuries.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 67.78 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,545.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 10.90 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 2,102.44. The Nasdaq composite gained 43.46 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 5,091.70.

U.S. crude for delivery in September fell 63 cents to close at $41.87 on the last day of trading for the contract. Brent crude for October delivery, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 45 cents to close at $48.74 in London. The September contract for Brent expired Friday at $49.03. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.3 cents to close at $1.654 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.3 cents to close at $1.555 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7.3 cents to close at $2.728 per 1,000 cubic feet.

News from © The Associated Press, 2015
The Associated Press

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