Business Highlights

By: The Associated Press, Associated Press
December 23, 2016 Updated: December 23, 2016 at 4:03 pm
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US stocks inch higher in slow pre-holiday trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street traders sometimes root for year-end "Santa Claus rallies," but on Friday, stocks finished slightly higher on the quietest full day of trading in more than a year.

Major U.S. indexes stayed in a narrow range throughout the day. Drugmakers and other companies in health care did the best, while retailers continued to take small losses just before the holiday. Energy companies also slipped.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin fell after President-elect Donald Trump again tweeted that the company's F-35 fighter jet costs too much.

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Midwest buying spree lifted US new-home sales in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — A buying spree in the Midwest spurred new U.S. home sales last month to the fastest pace since July.

The Commerce Department said Friday that new-home sales in November rose 5.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate 592,000. It was the fastest pace since July's 622,000. Sales were up 16.5 percent from November 2015.

Sales in the Midwest shot up 43.8 percent, the region's biggest monthly increase since October 2012. Sales were up 7.7 percent in the West, flat in the Northeast and down 3.1 percent in the South.

The median price of new home sold last month was $305,400.

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Another Trump tweet jab, again in the defense sector

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Boeing and Lockheed Martin slipped in early trading Friday after a tweet from President-elect Donald Trump appeared to pit the two giants in the defense industry against one another to lower prices for government contracts.

It was just the latest targeted jab at U.S. corporations that may have led to volatile trading. Now it's Boeing and Lockheed, the defense contractors, who are defending their business practices after Trump tweeted late Thursday: "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!"

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Fiat Chrysler to recall 50K SUVs; engines could stall

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler is recalling nearly 50,000 small SUVs worldwide because the engines could stall while being driven.

The recall covers the Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass and Patriot from the 2016 model year. All have 2-liter or 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines. The company says a sensor connector in the engine can malfunction. That can cause the SUVs to either stall or fail to start.

Fiat Chrysler says it doesn't know of any crashes or injuries due to the problem.

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APNewsBreak: Railroad in fiery derailment agrees to changes

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The nation's largest freight railroad has agreed to more thorough inspections and maintenance improvements after a fiery oil train derailment in Oregon and the discovery of more than 800 potential safety violations across its sprawling network.

Details on the agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration and Union Pacific Railroad were obtained by The Associated Press.

Sixteen tank cars from a Union Pacific train hauling North Dakota crude through the Columbia River Gorge derailed in early June along a curve in the tracks near Mosier, Oregon. The accident sparked a massive fire that burned for 14 hours and prompted the evacuation of nearby areas.

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GM's main China venture fined $29M in anti-monopoly case

BEIJING (AP) — General Motors Co.'s main joint venture in China was fined $29 million on Friday on charges it suppressed competition by enforcing minimum sales prices for dealers, the latest in a string of penalties against foreign auto brands under the country's anti-monopoly law.

Chinese regulators have punished companies in industries from milk to medical devices under a 2008 anti-monopoly law in what appears to be an effort to force down consumer prices.

GM had announced in August 2014 its joint venture, Shanghai GM, was under investigation by anti-monopoly regulators.

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Fred's, a small drugstore chain, may become national player

NEW YORK (AP) — Fred's, a small regional drugstore chain from Tennessee, has had a very good week.

It all started Tuesday, when Fred's said it would pay $950 million to buy 865 stores that Rite Aid needed to sell in order to appease anti-trust regulators and close its $9.4 billion buyout deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

The deal will more than double Fred's current store count of 650. Fred's stock has soared since, rising about 75 percent this week, its biggest one-week gain since its shares began trading nearly 25 years ago.

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Deutsche, Credit Suisse to compensate consumers post-crisis

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Two European banks have agreed to offer American homeowners and borrowers billions of dollars' worth of help under a settlement related to the sale of risky securities that helped spark the 2008 financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse said Friday they agreed to the tentative settlements with the U.S. Justice Department over their dealings in mortgage-backed bonds.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest, agreed to pay $7.2 billion — $3.1 billion in fines and $4.1 billion in consumer relief. That relief could include easier terms on loan repayments terms for homeowners and borrowers. Credit Suisse agreed to a similar settlement under which it would pay $5.3 billion, including $2.8 billion in consumer relief.

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Starbucks to offer free drinks for 10 days at certain stores

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Starbucks aims to drum up holiday sales with promises of free espresso drinks this season — as long as you're in the right store.

Starting Friday, select Starbucks stores will host 1,000 Pop Up Cheer Parties over 10 days, where customers can enjoy free tall handcrafted espresso beverages.

The event will be held at 100 Starbucks stores in the U.S. per day, from 1-2 p.m. local time. The locations will change daily and will be listed on starbucks.com/cheer and Twitter with the hashtags #FindCheer #10daysofcheer.

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The Dow Jones industrial average added 14.93 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,933.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 2.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,263.79. The Nasdaq composite advanced 15.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,462.69.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 7 cents to close at $53.02 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 11 cents to close at $55.16 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, natural gas prices continued to climb as investors anticipated that colder weather will lead to more demand for home heating. Natural gas futures rose 12 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $3.66 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon and heating oil stood still at $2.48 a gallon.

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