Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks climb

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology and industrials companies are helping to drive U.S. stocks broadly higher in midday trading on Wall Street.

The market is coming off a two-day losing streak.

Investors were relieved to see bond yields pull back from the four-year high of 2.95 percent on Wednesday, which helped knock stock prices lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.91 percent.

Chesapeake Energy jumped 25 percent, the most in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, after reporting earnings that were higher than analysts were expecting.

MORTGAGE RATES

Long-term mortgage rates climb to 4.40 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates has crept higher this week.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.40 percent this week, a slight gain from 4.38 percent last week. The average is the highest since April 2014 and the seventh straight weekly increase.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans rose to 3.85 percent from 3.84 percent last week.

Mortgage rates closely track the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes, which have climbed since the start of the year. Interest costs are rising in response to greater government debt levels and expectations of higher inflation.

AUTOS-TOP PICKS

Toyota, Genesis among Consumer Reports’ top auto picks

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota has four of the 10 vehicles on Consumer Reports’ annual top picks, the most of any brand.

The Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry are the magazine’s choice for best small and midsize cars. The Toyota Sienna led the minivan category and the Toyota Highlander is the best midsize SUV.

Genesis, Audi, BMW, Lexus and Porsche were the top-performing brands in the survey.

The rankings are based on driving tests as well as reliability and satisfaction scores from Consumer Reports’ subscribers. Top picks also must have standard automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems.

Consumer Reports’ rankings are closely watched by the industry since many buyers make decisions based on its advice.

FORD-EXECUTIVE CHANGES

Ford names Lincoln chief to replace ousted N. American head

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. is naming a replacement for the president for North America who was ousted this week over allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Kumar Galhotra (gl-HAHT’-ruh) will replace Raj Nair will take over on March 1. The company said Thursday in a printed release that he’ll lead all aspects of the North American business, which is Ford’s primary source of profits.

Galhotra has been with Ford for 29 years in a number of senior engineering and product strategy positions. He has led the Lincoln brand since 2014.

Ford announced Wednesday that Nair was leaving the company immediately. The company would not detail the inappropriate behavior. Nair expressed regret in a Ford statement and declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.

GERMANY-DIESEL BAN

German court defers decision on diesel ban

BERLIN (AP) — A German court has deferred ruling on whether authorities can ban diesel cars from cities to lower air pollution, a move that could have drastic consequences for the country’s powerful auto industry.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig began hearing the case Thursday and had been expected to issue a verdict within hours.

But judges said the process had taken longer than expected and set a date of Feb. 27 for a ruling.

The court is hearing an appeal by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective and should be seriously considered as a means of protecting public health.

NETHERLANDS-TOBACCO

Dutch prosecutors reject calls for criminal tobacco case

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch prosecutors said Thursday they will not open a criminal investigation into four major tobacco companies on charges including attempted murder or manslaughter, saying such a case would be unlikely to lead to a conviction.

An Amsterdam lawyer filed a criminal complaint in 2016 seeking a prosecution. Hospitals, doctors and other groups have since joined the call.

But prosecutors said in a written statement that they see no prospect within current laws of a successful case against tobacco companies. The statement said that “smoking is deadly and the design of cigarettes contributes to that” but tobacco producers are not violating laws or rules.

NUCLEAR REACTORS-SOUTH CAROLINA

Utility to pay millions to preserve abandoned reactor site

(Information in the following story is from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s state-owned utility says it will pay millions per year to preserve equipment and parts at an abandoned nuclear reactor site.

Local news media report Santee Cooper’s acting board chairman told Gov. Henry McMaster in a letter Wednesday that it expects to pay about $16 million annually to ensure the unfinished reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station aren’t ruined and about $3 million per year for storage warehouses.

Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. abandoned the project last summer following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper are expected to sell some equipment to Southern Co., the Georgia utility that’s building a pair of identical reactors south of Augusta. Reports estimate the parts could be salvaged for more than $860 million.

TAX AGENCY-DATA BREACH

State tax data breach twice as large as originally thought

(Information in the following story is from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com)

BOSTON (AP) — Officials with Massachusetts’ tax collection agency say a data breach that exposed private information from about 39,000 business taxpayers was twice as large as originally thought.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue tells The Boston Globe the information was viewable to other companies, potentially even competitors.

The error lasted from early August through Jan. 23 and allowed some companies to view other business’s names, tax identification numbers, amount and date of tax payments, number of employees and banking information about their payroll processor.

The agency says just one Social Security number was exposed.

The Department of Revenue reported what happened with that number, triggering a review by the state attorney general.

The state says the agency fixed the issue in January within hours of being made aware of it.

GOOGLE-LAWSUIT

Another former employee sues Google over issues of diversity

NEW YORK (AP) — Another former Google employee is suing the tech company over issues of diversity.

Software developer Tim Chevalier, who is transgender, says he was fired for speaking up about online bullying he experienced at the company and complaining about discrimination, harassment and white supremacy on Google’s internal messaging system.

The lawsuit comes after another former employee, James Damore, sued the company after he was fired for writing a memo criticizing Google for pushing mentoring and diversity programs. Damore’s lawsuit alleged his ouster was driven by a corporate culture that discriminates against white men conservatives.

Chevalier’s lawsuit was filed Wednesday in San Francisco County Court.

In a statement, Google said it prohibits promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender and decides on termination, “without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

DOG ON PLANE

Child injured by dog during boarding for Southwest flight

PHOENIX (AP) — Southwest Airlines says a child was hurt by a support dog as passengers boarded a plane in Phoenix.

A passenger tweeted that the dog bit the girl as she approached and that she screamed and cried.

Southwest said Thursday that the dog’s teeth “scraped a child’s forehead” and that paramedics checked the child, who was not identified.

The child stayed on Wednesday’s flight to Portland, Oregon, while the dog and its owner stayed behind. Southwest said it could not confirm the child’s age.

The incident came as Delta and United airlines prepare to crack down on emotional-support animals on planes.

Unlike service animals such as guide dogs, support animals need no training. However, passengers can be asked to show a medical professional’s note explaining why support animals should travel.

SATELLITE LAUNCH

SpaceX launches Spanish satellite from California

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A SpaceX rocket carrying a Spanish satellite has blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 6:17 a.m. Thursday and climbed into the dawn sky over the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.

Spain’s PAZ satellite carries an instrument to make radar images of the Earth for government and commercial purposes. A secondary payload consists of two small test satellites for a system that would provide internet access to remote areas.

SUBWAY-LOYALTY PROGRAM CHANGES

So long, free Footlongs: Subway to shake up rewards program

NEW YORK (AP) — Subway is shaking up its loyalty program, giving customers the ability to earn $2 discounts instead of free Footlongs.

The changes, taking place next month, are part of Subway’s attempts to revamp its image, lure people back to its restaurants and fight falling sales.

With the new loyally program, customers who spend $50 will get a $2 discount they can use on any menu item. The previous program gave those that spent $50 a free 6-inch sandwich; those that spent $75 earned a free Footlong.

But Subway says customers will be able to earn points at more restaurants: Only a third of its restaurants in the U.S. and Canada participated in loyalty program being phased out. All 28,500 U.S. and Canadian restaurants will participate in the new one.

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