Update on the latest business


Stocks turn mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks indexes are mixed in midday trading on Wall Street, as an early rally loses steam.

Health care and energy stocks are taking some of the biggest losses Wednesday. Drugmaker Celgene sank 8 percent after the FDA said it’s not ready to review the company’s multiple sclerosis drug.

Energy companies turned lower after the price of oil sank.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.88 percent.


US economic growth revised down slightly to 2.5 pct. in Q4

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. economic growth was revised down slightly to a still-solid 2.5 percent rate in the final three months of last year.

The Commerce Department says the fourth quarter advance in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, followed even faster increases of 3.1 percent in the second quarter and 3.2 percent in the third quarter.

Consumer spending raced ahead at the fastest pace since the spring of 2016, but the strong gain was slightly lower than previously reported. That pulled down the overall GDP figure from an initial estimate of 2.6 percent.

For the year, GDP rose 2.3 percent, a significant pick-up from 1.5 percent in 2016.


US pending home sales slump 4.7 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pace of Americans signing contracts to buy homes fell 4.7 percent in January to its lowest level in more than three years, due to a lack of homes for sale, higher prices and rising interest rates.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of pending sales fell to 104.6, its lowest reading since October of 2014.

More Americans are looking to buy homes as the economy has improved, but prices continue to rise amid a dearth of supply.

Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that U.S. home prices rose at the fastest 12-month pace in more than three years in 2017.

Last week, Freddie Mac said that the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.40 percent, the highest it’s been since April 2014.


Lowe’s 4Q profit miss overshadows impressive store sales

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Lowe’s is posting disappointing profit numbers for the fourth quarter, sending shares tumbling.

Shares slid as healthy same-store sales were overshadowed by the profit miss and lower overall revenue.

The Mooresville, North Carolina, company on Wednesday reported a 16.4 percent drop in earnings to $554 million, or 67 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 74 cents per share, which is 14 cents short of Wall Street expectations.

Revenue fell 1.8 percent to $15.49 billion, which edged out expectations. Same-store sales, usually considered a measure of a retailer’s health, rose 3.7 percent for the U.S. home improvement business.

Lowe’s expects fiscal 2018 earnings to be in a range of $5.40 to $5.50 per share.


Dick’s to stop selling assault-style rifles in its stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Dick’s Sporting Goods will immediately end sales of assault-style rifles in its stores and won’t sell guns to anyone under 21 years old following the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.

Dick’s Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said on “Good Morning America” Wednesday that after the shooting the company “felt it needed to do something.”

Stack says that the gunman, Nickolas Cruz, had purchased a gun at a Dick’s store, but not the one used at the school shooting, even though all existing rules were followed. Stack says that the system that’s in place won’t stop sales to dangerous people and said lawmakers must do something.

The company says in a letter that it had already removed assault-style rifles from Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but will now remove them from sale at all 35 Field & Stream stores.

Stack said Dick’s is prepared for any potential backlash, but will not change its policies on gun sales.


Georgia Lt. Gov. defends stance against Delta

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s lieutenant governor is defending his controversial threat to block a proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel unless Delta Air Lines restores the travel discount it had offered to members of the National Rifle Association.

Appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Fox Wednesday morning, Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Delta had taken “punitive” action against defenders of the Second Amendment and was unfairly targeting “law-abiding gun owners.” Cagle and other Republicans who are running to be the state’s next governor have been united in pushing back against Delta’s stance.

A Democratic candidate for governor says Cagle’s threat may have broken bribery, extortion and ethics laws. Stacey Evans says Cagle stands to benefit economically as a member of the NRA. She’s calling for the Georgia attorney general to investigate.


Panama police in riot gear enter, leave Trump hotel

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Police in helmets and bulletproof vests have entered and then left the Trump luxury hotel in Panama at the center of a management dispute.

The employment director for the Labor Ministry said its agents went to the hotel Wednesday to ensure workers were being paid.

Judith Aparicio said “our visit is intended to provide assurance to workers.” The officials and police escorting them later left.

On Tuesday, rival teams of security guards grappled in a stairwell.

President Donald Trump’s family hotel business is in a bitter fight over Trump Hotels’ contract to manage the 70-story luxury high-rise on Panama’s waterfront.

Led by Miami-based private equity fund Ithaca Capital, the owners of the condo-hotel units voted to remove Trump’s name from the building and fire his hotel management company.


Tyson fined $2 M for causing Missouri fish kill

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Tyson Foods Inc.’s poultry subsidiary has been ordered to pay a $2 million fine for discharges from a southwest Missouri plant that caused a fish kill.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday that Tyson also must pay $500,000 for damages and serve two years of probation after pleading guilty in September to two counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act.

The discharge of an animal feed ingredient into the wastewater treatment system in the town of Monett killed more than 100,000 fish in a nearby stream.

The Arkansas-based company said previously in a statement that it was taking full responsibility for the “an unfortunate mistake.”

Under the sentence, Tyson also will hire an independent auditor to examine environmental compliance at its poultry facilities, conduct training and improve procedures.


Judge explains order halting Louisiana pipeline construction

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge who halted construction of a crude oil pipeline through a Louisiana swamp says the project’s irreversible environmental damage outweighs the economic harm that a delay brings to the company building it.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick issued a 61-page ruling Tuesday explaining her decision to stop construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC asked the judge to suspend her order while it appeals, but the judge refused.

Dick says her order only applies to the basin and doesn’t prevent the company from working elsewhere along the pipeline’s 162-mile-long (261-kilometer) path from Lake Charles to St. James Parish.

Environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month, claiming its permit approval violated environmental laws.


Company founded by ex-Virginia governor files for bankruptcy

(Information in the following story is from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A company founded by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has filed for bankruptcy, citing negative press and lawsuits by investors who call it a “scam perpetrated by savvy and politically connected operatives” to exploit overseas investors.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bankruptcy filing by the electric car company cites $7.5 million won by 12 investors and pending lawsuits. It says GreenTech Automotive raised almost $142 million from investors from 2009 to 2013 as part of a visa program that offered immigrant investors permanent residency, and says investors were warned the status wasn’t guaranteed.

It also says Watchdog.org articles prompted federal investigations and negative attention. GreenTech’s 2013 $85 million lawsuit against Watchdog.org was dismissed.

McAuliffe resigned from GreenTech in 2012, but featured the company prominently in his 2013 race.


German government to consider label for cleaner diesel cars

BERLIN (AP) — The next German government will consider a proposal to identify diesel vehicles with low emissions using a visible label soon after it takes office.

The question of how authorities can distinguish which cars emit high amounts of harmful nitrogen oxides was pushed to the fore by a German court decision Tuesday that said cities can impose driving bans on particularly dirty diesels.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday the so-called blue badge system would be “taken up quickly” by the new Cabinet, which could assume office next month.

Cities have long called for such a labeling system but previous German governments have opposed it.

Environmental groups accuse the government of ignoring the air pollution problem for fear of angering millions of diesel car owners and the country’s powerful auto lobby.


British arm of retailer Toys R Us goes into administration

LONDON (AP) — The British arm of Toys R Us has gone into insolvency administration, putting 3,200 jobs at risk.

Accountancy firm Moorfields says it has been appointed to oversee “an orderly wind-down” of the debt-burdened toy chain, which has 105 U.K. stores.

It said Wednesday that it will “make every effort to secure a buyer for all or part of the business.” All stores will remain open until further notice.

Toys R Us has struggled in recent years, with its big warehouse-style stores losing business to online retailers. Its results over the crucial Christmas period were worse than expected.

The chain’s American owner filed for bankruptcy protection in September and announced last month it would close up to 182 stores in the U.S.


Greece eases capital controls ahead of bailout exit

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek government has eased capital controls put in place during the summer of 2015 when the country’s future in the euro currency was in the balance.

The Finance Ministry said Wednesday it was raising the amount an account holder can withdraw a month from 1,800 to 2,300 euros ($2,200 to $2,800). It is also allowing Greeks to open new bank accounts without restrictions for the first time since the summer of 2015.

Bailout monitors from European institutions and the International Monetary Fund are in Athens for their final review before Greece’s third bailout program ends in August.

Creditors are pressing Greece to speed up auctions of foreclosed properties, triggering protests in central Athens, where left-wing activists tried to block access to a building where online property auctions were scheduled.


Pizza Hut replaces Papa John’s as NFL’s pizza sponsor

NEW YORK (AP) — So long Papa John’s, hello Pizza Hut.

The NFL announced a multiyear marketing deal with Pizza Hut on Wednesday, one day after the league and Papa John’s said that they mutually agreed to cut ties. The league’s relationship with Papa John’s frayed last year when the pizza maker’s founder John Schnatter criticized NFL leadership over national anthem protests by players.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John’s says it will remain in football through marketing deals with 22 of the league’s 32 teams.

Pizza Hut said its marketing partnership with the NFL will begin with the league’s April 2018 draft in Arlington, Texas, just miles from the pizza restaurant’s headquarters in Plano.

Pizza Hut is owned by Yum Brands Inc.

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