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Warren Buffett sticks to business, avoids politics in letter

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 23:21:40 UT

(AP) — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett reiterated his rosy long-term outlook for the U.S. economy and his distaste for high Wall Street fees in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that always draws a big audience. Here are some highlights of what Berkshire's 86-year-old chairman and CEO did say, and some of the top things investors wish he had addressed: Without mentioning Trump's immigration policies, Buffett did note that "a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants" played a significant role in the country's prosperity. [...] it can be extremely difficult for investors to determine whether a money manager has the rare ability to outperform the stock market. Investment manager Cole Smead said he felt that Buffett spent too much of the letter extolling Berkshire's virtues instead of talking about how he'll approach investing the company's $86 billion cash or what went wrong with the failed $143 billion bid for Unilever that Berkshire took part in with 3G Capital. Buffett raised eyebrows last fall when he invested more than $9 billion in airline stocks after years of urging investors to stay away from the airline sector. Berkshire is now one of the biggest shareholders in American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Continental and Southwest, but he has offered little explanation for his change of heart other than to say airlines are better businesses after all the consolidation in the industry.



Buffett's firm says 4Q profit up 15 percent on investments

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 20:37:27 UT

(AP) — Warren Buffett's company says fourth-quarter profit improved 15 percent, but most of the gains came from the paper value of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s investments and derivatives contracts. Buffett has said operating earnings offer a better view of quarterly performance because they exclude investments and derivatives, which can vary widely. The lack of any additional details on Berkshire's plan to eventually replace the 86-year-old Buffett as chairman and CEO suggests little has changed in the company's plan to split Buffett's job into three parts: chief executive officer, chairman and several investment managers. Buffett has said that all the CEO candidates are managers who already work at Berkshire and understand the company's culture well.



Business Highlights

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 22:52:34 UT

U.S. stocks have screamed to records since Election Day because investors are expecting Donald Trump's White House to cut taxes for business, make regulations easier for them and goose more growth out of the economy. WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought more new homes in January, after a steep fall-off the previous month, a sign the housing market is healthy despite higher mortgage rates. BERLIN (AP) — Volkswagen says it bounced back into the black in 2016 after suffering a loss the previous year due to the diesel emissions scandal. The German automaker reported a net profit attributable to VW shareholders of 5.1 billion euros ($5.4 billion) compared with a net loss of almost 1.6 billion euros in 2015. VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A gleaming new Trump International Hotel and Tower that rises above the Vancouver skyline has divided a city famous for its natural beauty and diversity. Speaking in parliament during prime minister's question time, Tsipras described the deal reached Monday as an "exceptional success" and said it showed the country's creditors accepted Greece's insistence that it could no longer bear any further austerity. CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey environmental regulators have approved a plan to run a natural gas pipeline through a federally protected forest preserve. The vote Friday to approve South Jersey Gas company's plan came amid raucous protests that included drums, tambourines and choruses of "This Land Is Your Land." To fulfill its vision, eSight probably will have to find a way to make its $10,000 glasses more affordable for a target market that typically doesn't make a lot of money.



Open homes north of Seattle from $350K

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 22:33:28 UT

If those earning $80,000 are struggling to buy in the city, what is everyone else supposed to do? While it's not always ideal -- or possible -- areas just north of the city can provide quality homes with plenty of amenities at hundreds of thousands less than those with a Seattle address.




US stocks eke out last-minute gain as utilities rise

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:53:11 UT

Investors continued to buy safer assets like government bonds, gold, and stocks that pay large dividends, such as utility and telephone companies. After a long string of gains earlier in February, stocks wobbled this week and bond prices jumped, which sent yields down. Investors bought utility stocks and phone company stocks, which pay large dividends similar to bonds. Silver added 22 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $18.34 an ounce and copper picked up 4 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $2.70 a pound after a steep loss the previous day. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 46 cents to $53.99 a barrel in New York. Late Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to continue doing business with private prison operators. The companies operate detention facilities used by Immigration and Customs enforcement as well as prisons and they get a lot of their revenue from contracts with the federal government. Since Trump was elected president their stocks have soared, as investors expected the Obama-era policy would be reversed while Trump's policies toward immigration and criminal justice would strengthen their business. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline declined 1 cent to $1.51 a gallon.



How major US stock market indexes fared on Friday

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:47:05 UT

How major US stock market indexes fared on Friday A late push helped U.S. stocks finish higher Friday after a mostly down day. There was far more selling than buying on Wall Street, but the Dow Jones industrial average extended its winning streak to an 11th day.



New Jersey OKs gas pipeline through protected Pinelands

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:32:26 UT

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey environmental regulators on Friday approved a hotly contested plan to run a natural gas pipeline through a federally protected forest preserve amid raucous protests that included drums, tambourines and choruses of "This Land Is Your Land." The careful construction of this pipeline will address the energy demands of 142,000 customers in Cape May and Atlantic counties, protect and create jobs, and provide a meaningful opportunity to significantly reduce air emissions. "The use of natural gas and state-of-the-art emissions control technology, together, can turn the facility into a cleaner and more efficient generator of electricity for the people of south Jersey," RC Cape May Holdings, the plant's owners, said in a statement after the vote. After the plan was approved, they chanted, Shame on you! and See you in court! Pipeline supporters including construction workers, though greatly outnumbered, chanted USA! South Jersey Gas maintains that in addition to providing a cleaner fuel source to the power plant, the new pipeline would provide a second transmission vehicle for natural gas to customers in the two southern New Jersey counties.



Hewlett Packard Enterprise and JC Penney fall; CoreCivic up

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:31:12 UT

The company, which sells commercial tech gear to big organizations, cut its profit estimate for the year after reporting weak sales. Income-seeking investors bought shares of utilities, phone companies, and other high-dividend stocks. The department store chain reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit with help from strong sales online and at Nordstrom Rack.



Doubts grow over stock market's Trump-inspired surge

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:13:40 UT

U.S. stocks have screamed to records since Election Day because investors are expecting Donald Trump's White House to cut taxes for business, make regulations easier for them and goose more growth out of the economy. [...] it was only a few weeks ago that the committee made the decision to go "underweight" on stocks and favor bonds more instead. Besides the high price tags for stocks, another reason for the move was that the pace of change on business-friendly reforms in Washington will likely be slower than the market expects, Riley said. Not as much as many investors believe, according to Ben Inker, head of the asset allocation team at GMO that warned of bubbles in the stock market before the 2000 dot-com implosion and the 2008 financial crisis. [...] stocks, for most investors such as pension funds, are meant to be long-term investments, to be held longer than a news cycle or even a four-year White House term. "All the talk surrounding tariffs and trade barriers and walls, whether they're physical or financial, these are distinctly not helpful or supportive of real economic growth," said Rich Weiss, senior portfolio manager at American Century Investments. For now, the prevailing assumption in markets is that Trump will eventually be able to push through lower corporate tax cuts, ease regulations on business and approve some increased infrastructure spending.



Markets Right Now: Stocks stage late comeback, Dow at record

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:12:11 UT

A late burst of buying erased losses in U.S. indexes and left the Dow Jones industrial average with its 11th straight gain and another record close. High-dividend stocks such as utilities and phone companies rose the most. Investors tend to favor those stocks when bond yields are lower and they want less volatile investments. Stocks are moving lower in midday trading on Wall Street, led by declines in banks and energy companies. Banks were lower Friday as bond yields fell, which forces interest rates lower on mortgages and other kinds of loans. Hewlett Packard Enterprises slumped 8 percent after the company said its profits will slow this year, and J.C. Penney dropped 9 percent after saying it would close up to 140 stores and two distribution centers.



US rig count increases 3 this week to 754; Texas up 8

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:22:15 UT

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by three this week to 754. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday that 602 rigs sought oil and 151 explored for natural gas this week.



Correction: Trump-Manufacturing story

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:57:34 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a story Feb. 23 about a meeting that President Donald Trump held with two dozen manufacturing executives, The Associated Press referred incorrectly to Doug Oberhelman as the CEO of Caterpillar Inc. Oberhelman is the current chairman and former CEO of Caterpillar. President Donald Trump brought two dozen manufacturing CEOs to the White House on Thursday and declared their collective commitment to restoring factory jobs lost to foreign competition WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump brought two dozen manufacturing CEOs to the White House on Thursday and declared their collective commitment to restoring factory jobs lost to foreign competition. The discussion of job training and worker skills is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from countries like Mexico and China. White House officials said Trump heard the CEOs' concerns about a shortage of qualified workers and said he supports efforts to increase training for factory jobs. Trump officials said the meetings were intended to provide the White House with ideas in four areas: taxes and trade; regulatory reform; infrastructure; and the "workforce of the future," including advanced training. Proposed solutions may be included in future presidential executive orders or legislative proposals, a White House official said. The gathering occurred amid the same kind of jovially informal atmosphere that has prevailed in several meetings Trump has held with CEOs in the four weeks since his inauguration.



Sharp vision: New glasses help the legally blind see

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:24:32 UT

The headsets from eSight transmit images from a forward-facing camera to small internal screens — one for each eye — in a way that beams the video into the wearer's peripheral vision. While eSight's headsets don't require the approval of health regulators — they fall into the same low-risk category as dental floss — there's not yet firm evidence of their benefits. The latest version of ESight's technology, built with investments of $32 million over the past decade, is a gadget that vaguely resembles the visor worn by the blind "Star Trek" character Geordi La Forge , played by LeVar Burton. Others, ranging from kids to senior citizens, have worn the gadgets to golf, watch football or just perform daily tasks such as reading nutrition labels. [...] they take still images, analyze them with image recognition software and then generate an automated voice that describes what the wearer is looking at — anything from a child to words written on a page. Samuel Markowitz, a University of Toronto professor of ophthalmology, says that eSight's glasses are the most versatile option for the legally blind currently available, as they can improve vision at near and far distances, plus everything in between. Markowitz is one of the researchers from five universities and the Center for Retina and Macular Disease that recently completed a clinical trial of eSight's second-generation glasses.



J.C. Penney to shut 130-plus stores, offer early retirements

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:50:19 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney is joining its department store rivals in pruning its store numbers in an era of online shopping. [...] it is also still recovering from a catastrophic reinvention plan under a former CEO that sent sales and profits freefalling starting in 2012. [...] it has focused efforts on its home area, started selling major appliances again and expanded its number of in-store Sephora beauty shops. "With a slimmed-down store portfolio, (J.C. Penney) will be able to focus on making its remaining stores more of a destination," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. Macy's, the nation's largest department store chain, says its earnings for the quarter that includes the holiday period dropped nearly 13 percent, hurt by lower sales, store closures and other costs. The Plano, Texas-based company has also now armed its store associates with mobile devices to help check out online shoppers who are picking up orders in the store. Ellison said the company decided that coordinating a voluntary early retirement program with the store closures could lessen the effect on employees. Penney also emphasized that its stores can be used as leverage against online retailers, especially for picking up online orders, while many solely online companies are seeing dramatically higher fulfillment costs.



The Latest: Hotly contested Pinelands pipeline approved

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:25:06 UT

New Jersey regulators have approved a measure allowing a natural gas pipeline to run through the federally protected Pinelands preserve. The vote ends a classic jobs-versus-environment battle in the nation's most densely populated state, although environmentalists are expected to try to appeal the decision. Hundreds of chanting protesters are disrupting a meeting at which New Jersey regulators plan to vote on a hotly contested natural gas pipeline plan. Environmentalists fear damage to the pristine Pinelands region, which includes more than a million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. A hearing on whether a hotly contested natural gas pipeline should run through a federally protected forest preserve in New Jersey is underway. Environmentalists fear damage to the pristine Pinelands region, which includes more than a million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. About 500 people have filled a hotel ballroom as New Jersey regulators prepare to vote on whether a natural gas pipeline should run through the state's federally protected Pinelands region. Environmentalists fear damage to the pristine Pinelands region, which includes more than a million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. New Jersey regulators are set to vote on whether a natural gas pipeline should run through the state's federally protected Pinelands region, which includes more than a million acres of farms, forests and wetlands.



US new-home sales rise in sign of housing market health

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:11:52 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought more new homes in January after a steep fall-off the previous month, a sign the housing market is healthy despite higher mortgage rates. Low mortgage rates and a steady job market have helped the housing market recover from its bubble and bust cycle a decade ago. A limited supply of homes available has helped push up prices, but there are signs that in the new home market builders may be addressing the problem.



Sales of new US homes rose 3.7 percent in January in sign of housing market health

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:00:26 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new US homes rose 3.7 percent in January in sign of housing market health.



J.C. Penney beats 4Q profit forecasts

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:15:25 UT

PLANO, Texas (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. on Friday reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $192 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. The Plano, Texas-based company said it had profit of 61 cents per share. The average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 61 cents per share.



India police arrest cheap mobile maker on fraud charges

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:13:44 UT

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — The director of an Indian company that claimed it was selling the world's cheapest smartphone was arrested Thursday on fraud charges, police said Friday. Police spokesman Rahul Srivastava said Friday that the arrest was made after the distribution company, Ayam Enterprises, filed a complaint that it had paid Goel 3 million rupees, but had received handsets worth only 1.3 million rupees.



Asian stocks fall amid Trump trade policy fears, strong yen

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 04:25:18 UT

TOKYO (AP) — Asian markets slipped in muted trading Friday amid worries over U.S. trade policies that may affect regional economies. President Donald Trump's stance on trade has unnerved many in Asia, as he has repeatedly accused countries like China and Japan of unfair competition and currency manipulation that he says are hurting U.S. jobs. JITTERY TIMES: "While shares have generally continued to push higher they remain at risk of a short term correction being technically overbought again, and with short term investor sentiment at levels often associated with corrections," Shane Oliver of AMP Capital said in a commentary. Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures shed 15 cents to $54.30 a barrel.



Google-bred company accuses Uber of self-driving car theft

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 01:24:02 UT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A self-driving car company founded by Google is colliding with ride-haling service Uber in a court battle revolving around allegations of betrayal, high-tech espionage and greed. The 28-page complaint accuses Anthony Levandowski, a former top manager for Google's self-driving car project, of stealing pivotal technology now propelling Uber's effort to assemble a fleet of autonomous vehicles for its ride-hailing service. The dispute highlights the high stakes in the race to build self-driving cars that promise not only to revolutionize the way people get around but also the automobile industry. The San Francisco company has tangled with authorities in California and around the world about how much of its drivers' histories should be covered in background checks and whether those drivers should be treated as contractors ineligible for employee benefits.



Coke says it supports WHO's sugar guidelines

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 23:23:19 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Coke says it supports the World Health Organization's guidelines for limiting added sugar, as the company works on repairing its image in public health circles and reshaping its business. In some cases, a Coke drink could still account for the entirety of a person's daily sugar intake under the WHO guidelines, which recommend people limit added sugar to 10 percent of their total daily calories. The maker of Fanta, Powerade and Smartwater, which has felt pressure from local proposals for special taxes on sugary drinks, isn't alone in seeking to align itself with public health officials. Emails from 2015 obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show Coke and Mars executives, along with executives at many other food and beverage companies, were copied on messages planning for the study.