Business News

Last Update on February 12, 2016 18:24 GMT

RETAIL SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. retail sales rose modestly in January, evidence that Americans kept shopping despite sharp drops in stock prices.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent last month, the same as in December. Excluding the effect of falling gas prices, sales rose 0.4 percent.

Steady hiring and early signs that employers are finally handing out higher wages means that Americans have more money to spend. A key question for the economy this year is whether consumer spending can and offset the impacts of stock market volatility and slowing growth overseas.

Americans stepped up their purchases of autos, home supplies and groceries, and spent more online. They spent less at restaurants and bars, likely in part because of harsh snowstorms on the East Coast.

BUSINESS INVENTORIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles slightly in December, as sales dropped sharply. This combination has stoked anxieties about weakening economic growth.

The Commerce Department says December business inventories rose 0.1 percent, after having slipped 0.1 percent in November. Both manufacturers and retailers -- which were responding to holiday shopping -- increased their stockpiles.

But sales fell 0.6 percent in December, with a stiff 1.4 percent drop in manufacturer revenues accounting for much of the drop.

Overall business sales fell 2.4 percent last year to $15.8 billion, the first decline since the recession in 2009.

The figures suggest that businesses are struggling to sell off their inventories, a potential sign of lower demand and excess supply that signals slowing growth. Still, strong hiring levels have warded off fears of a downturn.

GENERAL MOTORS-SHAREHOLDER LAWSUIT

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Delaware's Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by General Motors shareholders over faulty ignition switches.

After hearing arguments this week, the court affirmed a judge's ruling from last summer.

The judge said the plaintiffs failed to satisfy a requirement that a shareholder suing on behalf of a company and seeking to hold top officials accountable must first demand that the board take action itself, or demonstrate why such a demand would be futile.

The faulty switches have been blamed for scores of deaths and injuries. GM knew about them for more than a decade but didn't recall them until early 2014.

The company said last year that the scandal, which prompted hundreds of lawsuits and a federal criminal probe, has cost it more than $5 billion.

FRANCE-FACEBOOK

PARIS (AP) -- Facebook has lost a crucial legal battle as a Paris court ruled the social network can be sued in France over its decision to remove the account of a French user who posted a photo of a famous 19th-century nude painting.

The ruling Friday by the Paris appeals court could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has 30 million regular users. It can be appealed to France's highest court.

A 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover launched the case after posting Gustave Courbet's 1866 "The Origin of the World," which depicts female genitalia. He wants his Facebook account reactivated and 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages.

Facebook had argued such lawsuits can only be heard by a California court, and that it's not subject to French consumer rights law.

DUKE ENERGY-COAL ASH

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Environmentalists are challenging in court a surprise deal in which North Carolina regulators settle decades of suspected groundwater pollution at Duke Energy's coal ash pits for $7 million.

A state Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments Friday as opponents seek to overturn the deal between Gov. Pat McCrory's former employer and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The deal cut the $25 million fine over groundwater pollution at a Wilmington plant that regulators had promoted as the largest penalty for environmental damage in state history. The agreement also claimed to settle groundwater pollution claims at not one, but all 14 power plants storing coal ash.

Duke Energy and environmental regulators pointed to a 2011 policy that favored correcting groundwater problems over fines as prompting the settlement.

NATURAL GAS PIPELINE

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Energy companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have carved a new proposed route through national forests in West Virginia and Virginia.

The alternate released Friday is in response to federal concerns about the national gas pipeline's initial path through sensitive areas.

Dominion Resources Inc. says the new route would reduce by one-third the pipeline's path through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, but add 30 miles to the project. The alternate route would also affect 249 new landowners.

Dominion said it worked extensively with the U.S. Forest Service to select the new route after foresters rejected the initial plan. The Forest Service feared, in part, the pipeline would harm a salamander that lives in high elevations in the Shenandoah Mountains and is found nowhere else in the world.

CONGRESS-CALORIE LABELING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has approved legislation to give supermarkets, fast-food chains and other food establishments some relief from government calorie labeling rules.

The vote was 266-144. The legislation goes now to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

Republicans say the calorie labeling rules set to go into effect this year are too burdensome, and they have sought to ease them and lessen potential financial penalties for businesses that have to comply.

Many restaurants and food retail outlets like grocery stores will have to post the calorie labels by December.

The FDA rules will make restaurants and other places that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food "clearly and conspicuously" on their menus, menu boards and displays.

KROGER-HEROIN ANTIDOTE

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. is making the heroin overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Kroger officials at a Cincinnati store for Friday's announcement. Kroger says 200 pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days.

CVS said recently it soon will offer naloxone without a prescription at its Ohio pharmacies, which state regulators have allowed.

Ohio fire crews use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 percent rise in 2014, one of the nation's sharpest increases.

Cincinnati-based Kroger is the nation's largest traditional grocer and has 2,774 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

VISA-SQUARE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Visa is now a major shareholder in Square, the mobile payment services company co-founded and led by Jack Dorsey.

Shares of Square spiked 14 percent before the opening bell Friday.

Visa snapped up a nearly 10 percent interest in Square, according to a regulatory filing. That would make it the San Francisco company's second-biggest shareholder, according to that data research firm FactSet.

Visa has been working on payment services technology of its own including Visa payWave, which allows users to pass a card over a terminal to record a payment.

Square Inc. went public in November. The Square device plugs into smartphones or tablets, so credit cards can be accepted almost anywhere.

Dorsey, a co-founder of Square, is also co-founder and CEO of Twitter Inc.

ETCH A SKETCH SOLD

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