Business News Archives for 2023-12

AM Business Notebook

>>Mortgage Rates Down For Ninth Straight Week

(Washington, DC)  --  Mortgage rates are down for the ninth straight week. The news comes as the Federal Reserve signals it could cut interest rates next year. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to six-point-six-one percent, according to new data from Freddie Mac. The company' chief economist said in a statement that ""Heading into the new year, the economy remains on firm ground with solid growth, a tight labor market, decelerating inflation, and a nascent rebound in the housing market."

 

>>Study: Social Media Companies Made 11-Billion Dollars In Ad Revenue From Minors  

(Undated)  --  Researchers are revealing how much social media giants profit from child and teen users.  A study led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that social media companies made about 11-billion-dollars in ad revenue from U.S.-based minors last year.  YouTube led in revenue gained from users aged 12 or younger at 959-million-dollars, and Instagram and TikTok led in ad revenue derived from teens aged 13 to 17.  Researchers said they are concerned about the amount of data collected for targeted ads, and called for greater data transparency as well as government regulations.  

 

>>Report: Google Settles $5-Billion Consumer Privacy Lawsuit

(Undated)  --  Google reportedly has agreed to settle a five-billion dollar consumer privacy lawsuit.  Reuters reported on Thursday that the tech giant agreed to settle the suit that claimed Google secretly tracked millions of people who thought they were browsing the internet privately.  The suit argued that Google's analytics, cookies, and apps tracked their activity even when they set the company's Chrome browser to "Incognito" mode and other browsers to "private" browsing status.  That, the plaintiffs claimed, turned Google into what the suit called an "unaccountable trove of information" to learn about their friends, shopping habits and "potentially embarrassing things" they sought online.  Terms of the settlement weren't announced but lawyers said they expect to present a formal settlement offer for court approval by February 24th.

 

>>Minimum Wage Going Up In 22 States

(Undated)  --  Pay raises are coming for many in the new year.  The minimum wage is going up in 22 states, where nearly 10 million people will see their wages go up.  On top of that, January 1st will also over three dozen cities and counties upping their minimum wages above state levels.  Workers in California, New York and Hawaii account for 51 percent of those slated to get a bump in pay.

 

>>Senators Call For Tesla Recall After Reuters Probe

(Washington, DC)  --  Two U.S. senators are calling for a Tesla recall after a Reuters investigation found failures in suspension and steering parts.  Democrats Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have sent a letter to CEO Elon Musk saying they are extremely concerned about a report published earlier this month that claims Tesla concealed safety flaws in its vehicles from federal authorities.  The senators are calling on Musk to correct "misleading representations" and to swiftly recall any defective parts.  Tesla has not responded to the letter, but has called the Reuters report "riddled" with incorrect information.

 

>>L'Oreal Heir Becomes 1st Woman With $100-Billion+ Fortune

(Undated)  --  The heir to the L'Oreal [[ LOR-ee-al ]] beauty empire is now the first woman to amass a fortune of more than 100-billion dollars.  According to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index, 70-year-old Francoise Bettencourt Meyers' fortune surged above 100-billion as L'Oreal's stock hit a record high on Thursday.  That pushed Meyers' net worth to 100-point-one billion dollars.  She is also the richest woman in the world.

AM Business Notebook

>>Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks Ban On Apple Watches

(Washington, DC)  --  A ban on sales of some Apple smartwatches is being put on hold.  A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of an International Trade Commission order barring Apple from selling its latest Apple Watch models in the U.S.  Apple stopped selling its Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches in response to an ITC order that found the blood oxygen sensor in the devices infringed on intellectual property from medical tech company Masimo.  The ban is suspended as the court considers Apple's motion for a longer-term pause during the appeals process. 

 

>>New York Times Sues Microsoft, OpenAI

(New York, NY)  --  Microsoft and OpenAI are being sued by the New York Times for copyright infringement.  The lawsuit filed Wednesday argues the companies illegally used articles from the Times to help train the artificial intelligence technology ChatGPT.  The Times is the first major news publication to go after Microsoft and OpenAI.  The newspaper claims Microsoft and OpenAI are responsible for "billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages." 

 

>>Amazon Prime Video To Start Running Ads

(Arlington, WA)  --  Users of Amazon Prime Video are not happy about an upcoming price hike for ad-free shows.  The streaming service posted a statement on Wednesday saying that starting on January 29th, Prime Video movies and TV shows will include limited advertisements.  For an extra two-99 a month though, customers can sign up for an ad-free subscription.  The post on X received negative responses from Prime users, with many threatening to cancel their service.  Amazon first announced back in September that Prime would include limited advertisements starting in early 2024.

 

>>Tesla To Post Record Deliveries, But Fall Short Of Musk Prediction

(Austin, TX)  --  Tesla is expected to hit another record for delivering electric vehicles.  Financial analysts say it's likely Tesla delivered over one-point-eight million vehicles globally in 2023, with over 470-thousand units delivered in the fourth quarter.  That would be a rise of 37-percent from last year.  The record, however, would fall short of Elon Musk's forecast back in January, when the CEO said Tesla had the potential to reach two-million deliveries this year.

 

>>Smaller, Eastern Communities Dominate Most Popular Real Estate Markets

(Undated)  --  Folks looking for places to live are turning to the East and thinking small.  Real estate website Zillow is out with its annual list of most popular real estate markets for 2023 and eight of the top ten are in the Northeast and New England.  Only one has a population over 100-thousand and most of the others are home to fewer than 50-thousand people.  Topping the list is West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb with a population of about 20-thousand.  It's followed by Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire; Wethersfield and West Hartford, Connecticut; Stow, Ohio; Middletown, Connecticut; Twinsburg, Ohio; Newington, Connecticut and Concord, New Hampshire.

 

>>NBA Approves Mavericks Sale

(Dallas, TX)  --  The NBA is approving Mark Cuban's sale of a majority stake of the Dallas Mavericks.  Cuban is selling the stake to casino owner Miriam Adelson, who is also one of the richest people in the world.  Forbes listed Adelson as the 35th-richest this year with an estimated net worth of 32-point-three-billion dollars.  As part of the unique sale agreement, Cuban will retain control of basketball operations for the Mavericks as well as shares in the team.  The deal is expected to be finalized this week.

 

>>Inventor Of The Glock Dies

(Deutsch-Wagram, Austria)  --  The inventor of the Glock has died.  The company that makes the well-known handgun announced on its website that Gaston Glock died Wednesday at age 94.  No cause or details about his death were revealed.  Glock founded a company in Austria in 1963 that made curtain rods, and in the '70s made knives.  He invented the Glock semi-automatic pistol in the early 1980s, which became popular with law enforcement because it was lightweight and carried up to 17 rounds of ammunition.  
 

AM Business Notebook

>>Home Prices Post Largest Gain Of 2023 In October

(Washington, DC) -- Home prices posted their biggest gain of 2023 in October. The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index reported a four-point-eight percent annual increase in October. The jump in prices came despite a sharp rise in mortgage rates. Among the top 20 cities, Detroit reported the biggest annual gain with home prices up just over eight percent. San Diego and New York round out the top three with increases of about seven percent. Tesla EV Record

 

>>Tesla To Post Record Deliveries, But Fall Short Of Musk Prediction

(Austin, TX) -- Tesla is expected to hit another record for delivering electric vehicles. Financial analysts say it's likely Tesla delivered over one-point-eight million vehicles globally in 2023, with over 470-thousand units delivered in the fourth quarter. That would be a rise of 37-percent from last year. The record, however, would fall short of Elon Musk's forecast back in January, when the CEO said Tesla had the potential to reach two-million deliveries this year.

 

>>Apple Appeals ITC Apple Watch Import Ban

(Washington, DC) -- Apple is filing an appeal to overturn a ruling that bans imports of Apple Watches. An order by the U.S. International Trade Commission took effect Tuesday that blocks sales and imports of Apple Watches that use medical monitoring technology which has been patented by the Masimo technology firm. The ruling affects the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. Apple is calling for the ban to be put on hold until U.S. Customs and Border Protection can decide whether its redesigned watches violate Masimo's patent. The Customs office is expected to make its decision on January 12th.

 

>>SpaceX Booster Tips Over Due To Weather Off East Coast

(Port Canaveral, FL) -- It's the end of an era for one of SpaceX's rocket boosters. The company says its Falcon 9 booster made its final flight from Florida's East Coast after sending another batch of Starlink internet satellites into low-Earth orbit over the weekend. Officials say high seas forced the equipment to fall over on its side during transport back to Port Canaveral Tuesday morning. Over the last three and a half years, the reusable rocket has launched two astronauts and more than 800 satellites.

 

>>Holiday Retail Sales Up 3.1%, Despite Fears Of Pullback

(Undated) -- Americans spent more during the holidays than they did last year, despite fears they might cut back because of inflation. Results of a survey by Mastercard released Tuesday show retails sales were up three-point-one percent over last year. Online sales grew six-point-three percent while sales at brick-and-mortar stores rose over two-percent. Restaurant spending was up seven-point-eight percent while clothing and grocery spending both were up more than two-percent.

 

>>Free Returns Are On The Decline

(New York, NY) -- Free returns seem to be vanishing when shopping on online. More and more retailers are adding shipping fees for mail-in returns, including Macy's, H&M, Abercrombie and J. Crew. According to Happy Returns, a logistics company, 81-percent of merchants are charging a fee for at least some return methods. Amazon is now charging customers a one-dollar fee if they choose to return items to a UPS store if there's a Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh grocery or a Kohl's closer to their address. A spokesperson for the e-retail giant said it recently began flagging "frequently returned" products on its website.

 

>>Sluggish Federal Grants Delay Work At New Samsung Facility

(Austin, TX) -- Samsung is pumping the brakes on a new high tech plant in Texas. Computer chip production was set to start next year at the facility outside of Austin. That's now been delayed until the year 2025. It's a blow to the Biden Administration's push for increased domestic manufacturing. Samsung is reportedly upset that federal subsidies under the CHIPS Act are not being granted fast enough. Earlier this year, the world's largest chip maker announced they were pushing back plans to start manufacturing at an Arizona facility.

AM Business Notebook

>>Biden: Nippon Purchase Of US Steel "Deserves Scrutiny"

(Washington, DC)  --  President Biden believes Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel's plan to buy U.S. Steel "deserves scrutiny."  A top White House official said on Thursday that Biden is concerned about potential national security and supply chain issues.  White House National Economic Adviser Lael Brainard said Biden "has been clear" that his administration welcomes international manufacturers creating jobs for American workers, but he's concerned about a foreign entity buying what Brainard called "an iconic American-owned company."  The United Steelworkers union opposes the sale and a number of Rust Belt politicians want the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to determine whether the sale should be blocked on national security grounds.

 

>>In Spite Of Climbing Prices Last Month, Home Sales Are Up

(New York, NY)  --  Home sales inched slightly higher in November even as prices continued to climb and buyers paid mortgage rates that were at their highest levels of the year. Sales of existing homes rose point-eight-percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of three-point-eight million units, ending a five-month slide.  Sales were still weak, even though closed deals of existing homes beat expectations.  Elevated prices, together with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage nearing eight-percent in October, have created the least affordable market in several decades.  Mortgage rates reached a 23-year high seven-point-seven-nine percent at the end of October. Since then the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan has fallen to six-point-nine-five percent according to Freddie Mac.

 

>>FTC Proposes New Rules To Curb Monetizing Kids' Data

(Washington, DC)  --  The Federal Trade Commission is proposing new rules to put more limits on tech companies' collection and use of children's data, particularly when used for targeted advertising.  In announcing the proposed new rules on Wednesday, FTC Chair Lina Khan said kids must be able to play and learn online "without being endlessly tracked by companies looking to hoard and monetize their personal data."  The proposed rule changes would bar tech companies from keeping data indefinitely, and education tech companies would have to get school approval to collect kids' data, which couldn't be used for commercial purposes.  The FTC will take public comment for 60 days after the proposals are posted in the Federal Register.

 

>>Honda Recalls More Than 2.5 Million Vehicles

(Torrance, CA)  --  Honda is recalling more than two-and-a-half-million vehicles due to possible issues with fuel pumps.  The recall includes the 2018 through 2020 models of Honda Accords, Civics and CR-Vs.  Also part of the recall are some models of Acura MDX and RDX SUVs along with TLX and ILX sedans.  The carmaker said the fuel pump inside the vehicle could fail and lead to an increased risk of a crash due to a stalled engine.  Affected owners will receive a notification letter in February and dealers will replace the fuel pump module for free.

 

>>Hyperloop One Is Shutting Down

(Los Angeles, CA)  --  The high-speed transportation startup Hyperloop One is shutting down.  "Bloomberg" says Hyperloop is selling off its assets, closing its offices and laying off its workers by the end of the year.  The company's goal was to move passengers between cities through tubes called "hyperloops" at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour.  The report says the remaining intellectual property of Hyperloop One will go to its majority stakeholder, a port operator in Dubai.  

AM Business Notebook

>>Buttigieg To Airlines: Take Care Of Your Passengers

(Washington, DC) -- The Biden administration is promising to hold airlines accountable for delays and cancellations as holiday travel ramps up. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the administration has been taking "accountability to another level" following a meltdown in December 2022 that led to thousands of cancellations. Buttigieg called on airlines to take care of their passengers. This comes after Southwest Airlines agreed to a record-setting civil penalty over last year's holiday travel nightmare. The airline has agreed to pay a 140-million-dollar fine.

 

>>Airbnb Using AI Technology To Crack Down On New Year's Eve Parties

(San Francisco, CA) -- Airbnb is using artificial intelligence technology to help put a stop to New Year's Eve parties. Officials with the short-term rental platform say bookings that are made for the holiday are being analyzed to check for risk factors such as the length of the stay and the distance of the rental from the user's address. If the AI system finds that a booking may be problematic it will not allow the reservation to go through. Airbnb says its anti-party measures blocked over 63-thousand people from booking homes across the country last New Year's Eve.

 

>>Taxable Wealth is Leaving California

(Undated) -- Wealthy Californians are leaving the state in large numbers, looking for lower taxes, fewer regulations, and different socio-political climates. As 750-thousand more people left California than arrived in recent years, their taxable income left with them. Analysis of IRS data shows the average gross income of California taxpayers who moved to another state was about 137 thousand dollars. People who moved to California made an average of 75 thousand dollars. Economists say that with the state projected to have a 68 billion dollar budget deficit, the dwindling high-tax bracket income is going to be sorely missed.

 

>>Global Cinema Box Office Expected To Drop In 2024

(Los Angeles, CA) -- The global cinema box office is expected to drop in 2024 after a post-pandemic recovery. Box office research firm Gower Street Analytics attributes that to the recent writers' and actors' strikes. The projection puts the year's total 20-percent below the average of 2017 to 2019, the last three pre-pandemic years. Gower Street's CEO noted that given they lost half of production time this year, an expected five-percent decrease doesn't signal less interest in seeing movies. Rather, it's just the consequence of having "limited product availability."

AM Business Notebook

>>Southwest Airlines Agrees To Holiday Travel Meltdown Settlement

(Dallas, TX)  --  Southwest Airlines is agreeing to a record-setting civil penalty over last year's holiday travel nightmare.  The Department of Transportation said the airline has agreed to pay a 140-million-dollar fine.  That's 30-times more than any other fine for violating consumer protection laws.  During the year-end holiday travel period last year, Southwest canceled almost 17-thousand flights leaving two-million travelers stranded.  The settlement also requires Southwest to create a fund that will be used to pay or provide travel vouchers to passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled due to a factor in the airline's control.

 

>>Apple Halting Sales Of Apple Watch Series Nine And Ultra Two

(Cupertino, CA)  --  Apple will be stopping its sale of the its Series Nine and Ultra Two watch. Patent disputes over the device's blood oxygen monitor will be keeping the watch off the shelves starting December 21st. The United State International Trade Commission recently ruled that the tech giant had illegally incorporated the blood oxygen technology from medical tech company Masimo.  Apple Stock has taken a hit today following the announcement.

 

>>Teamsters Authorize Strike Against AB  

(St. Louis, MO)  --  The Teamsters have authorized a nationwide strike against Anheuser-Busch.  Union leaders announced over the weekend that its members will strike when the current contract expires in late February if the company fails to come to the negotiating table before then.  The union says there have been a couple of issues agreed to by the two sides but there have been no more talks in the past month and no negotiations are scheduled.  Increased wages, job protection and retirement benefits are a few of the issues still up for discussion.

 

>>Homebuilder Sentiment Rises As Mortgage Rates Fall 

(Washington, DC)  --  Homebuilder confidence is improving as mortgage rates fall.  The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index rose three points in December reversing a four-month decline.  The survey noted builders reported an "uptick" in traffic among prospective buyers who previously felt priced out of the market.  The group's chief economist said the decline in mortgage rates should help spur buyer demand for new homes heading into 2024.
 

AM Business Notebook

>>In The Business Week Ahead

(Undated) -- Coming up in the business week ahead, the first notable economic report comes down today with the home builder confidence index. Housing starts and building permits follow on Tuesday, with existing home sales on Wednesday. Weekly jobless claims are due Thursday with most analysts expecting just a slight increase from 220-thousand to 221-thousand initial requests for unemployment benefits. Revised gross domestic product figures will also be out that day. Friday brings data on personal income and spending along with new home sales and consumer sentiment.

 

>>Chicago Fed Reserve Bank President: Making Progress

(Chicago, IL) -- The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago says a recession can be avoided, but it's too early to declare victory. Austan Goolsbee said on CBS' Face the Nation the U.S. economy has made "a lot of progress." Goolsbee said the U.S. is succeeding in one-half of what he calls a "dual mandate" of maximizing employment and stabilizing prices. He noted the U.S. has done "very well" with employment and "pretty badly" with inflation over the last several years.

 

>>Georgia Woman Pleads Guilty To Stealing From Facebook

(Menlo Park, CA) -- A former Facebook employee is pleading guilty to stealing more than four-million dollars from the company. According to the Department of Justice, Barbara Furlow-Smiles ran the tech giant's diversity, equity and inclusion programs between 2017 and 2021. She embezzled the money through fraudulent credit card charges and expense reports. A federal prosecutor accused the Georgia woman of abusing a position of trust as a global diversity executive for Facebook to defraud the company of millions of dollars.

 

>>New California Employment Laws Include Pay Raise For Fast Food Workers

(Sacramento, CA) -- 2024 is right around the corner and that means a pay increase for fast food workers in California. AB-1228 will increase the minimum wage to 20-dollars an hour. The law only applies to restaurants with more than 60 locations. Another new law going into effect in 2024 will prohibit employers from testing an applicant for cannabis use and discriminate against a worker based on their cannabis use off the job.

 

>>More Than Half Of High School Students Will Take Personal Finance Class

(Undated) -- More than half of U.S. high school students will soon be required to take a personal finance course before graduation. This, after Pennsylvania became the 25th state to guarantee a personal finance course for high school students when its governor signed a bill into law earlier this week. Personal finance courses generally teach high school students real-world lessons on topics including spending and savings, credit and credit scores, investing and managing risk. An official with the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance says as a result of the Pennsylvania legislation, 53-percent of high school students will have a mandatory financial education course.

AM Business Notebook

>>Intel Launching AI Chip

(New York, NY) -- Intel is getting ready to launch a new AI computer chip. It'll come out sometime next year in competition with rival chips, like one from Nvidia that powers massive artificial intelligence models like OpenAI's ChatGPT. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger made the announcement during a launch event in New York on Thursday. He said he expects it to be the "star of the show" in 2024. This comes as Nvidia's stock has shot up almost 230-percent year-over-year. Intel shares have gone up 68-percent.

 

>>Report Reveals Top 15 Jobs People Want To Quit

(Seattle, WA) -- Tech and healthcare workers lead the way when it comes to employees who want to quit their jobs. That's according to a new report by compensation software and data company Payscale. The report looked at the top 15 jobs people are planning to quit soon based on data from over 770-thousand U.S. workers. Senior product managers led the way with 66-percent planning to leave their roles, despite the 144-thousand-dollar median salary. The second job on the list goes to phlebotomists, medical professionals who collect blood samples, with 62-percent looking for a new job. Other employees who want to leave their jobs include line cooks, patient care technicians, emergency room nurses, and cyber security analysts.

 

>>Cruise LLC Announces Layoffs

(Detroit, MI) -- The autonomous vehicle division of General Motors has announced they will be laying off 24-percent of their staff. Cruise LLC says the company is making changes to their operating plans. The company released nine key leaders in the company on Wednesday after an analysis of an accident involving a pedestrian in San Francisco. Cruise LLC's self-driving ride service is currently suspended while safety standards are being evaluated. The layoffs announced today will affect approximately 900 workers.

 

>>Media Outlets Cut Record Number Of Jobs In 2023

(Chicago, IL) -- Media outlets slashed nearly 27-hundred jobs in news this year. That's the most since 2020, according to a new study from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Overall, media companies made more than 20-thousand cuts in 2023. Several media companies announced plans to tighten staff and cut costs this year. For example, The Washington Post is looking to cut 240 jobs from the newsroom by the end of the year, and other companies like Conde Nast and Vox have made similar announcements.

 

>>FDA Accuses Chewy, Pet Companies Of Selling Unapproved Antibiotics

(Washington, DC) -- The FDA is accusing Chewy and eight other pet product companies of selling unapproved animal antibiotics. The agency alleged on Thursday that the retailers violated federal law by selling unapproved medications containing penicillin and amoxicillin, which could help create drug-resistant "superbugs." A letter from the FDA says the products in question were targeted at birds and fish, and they're threatening legal action if the companies don't address the alleged violations within 15 days.

 

>>Manhattan's Median Rents Fall For First Time In Two Years

(New York, NY) -- There's good news if you're looking for a Manhattan apartment. A new real estate company report shows a two-percent decline in median monthly rent from four-thousand-ninety-five-dollars to four-thousand-dollars, the first price drop in 27-months. The actual cut might not sound like a big deal but Douglass Elliman, which co-authored the report, says it shows that affordability has hit a threshold and that a growing number of landlords are making concessions, like a month's free rent. But Manhattan's rents re still the highest in the nation, up eleven-percent since the COVID pandemic.

AM Business Notebook

>>Google Loses Antitrust Lawsuit

(Undated) -- Google has lost an antitrust lawsuit from video game company Epic Games, after a jury found the Google Play phone app is an illegal monopoly. Epic Games, maker of the popular Fortnite game, has been fighting Google and Apple for years over how the app stores' payment-sharing systems work. The company changed its software so customers could pay Epic directly to get around paying Google as much as 30 percent, and the game was kicked off the Google platform. On Monday a jury found Google was operating an illegal monopoly through its app. Google says it will appeal.

 

>>Hasbro Laying Off 1100 Workers

(Pawtucket, RI) -- Hasbro is laying off around 11-hundred employees as the toymaker has been struggling with lower sales into the holiday season. That's about 17 percent of the company's workforce. In a company memo obtained by CNBC, CEO Chris Cocks said the market had been challenging since coming down off of historic pandemic-driven highs.

 

>>Buyout Bid For Macy's

(New York, NY) -- It looks like there's a bid to take Macy's private. It's being reported that a group of investors has made a bid to take the company private for nearly six-billion-dollars. They would be paying a premium for the retailer, which has been under pressure from competitors for years. While online rivals have taken a bite of the company's market value, Macy's has also tried to move away from shopping malls by opening 30 new store locations at strip malls.

 

>>Most Americans Living Paycheck To Paycheck Expect To Spend The Same Or Less

(New York, NY) -- Most Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck say they expect to spend about the same amount or less this holiday season as they did last year. That's according to a new Forbes Advisor survey that says close to half say they'll spend about the same, and nearly one in five said they plan to tighten their belts. Another 30-percent of those whose paycheck just covers their living expenses with little left over say they'll spend more.

AM Business Notebook

>>Cigna Drops Merger Plan With Humana

(Bloomfield, CT) -- Health insurer Cigna is dropping its plans to merge with competitor Humana. The Wall Street Journal reports the two companies couldn't reach an agreement after working on the idea for weeks. A Cigna-Humana merger would have led to a company with a value exceeding 140 billion dollars.

 

>>Congress Introduces Fans First Act To Address Exploitative Ticket Pricing

(Washington, DC) -- Fans of artists may be able to more easily secure tickets to shows thanks to new legislation. A bipartisan group of senators has introduced the Fans First Act, to "address flaws in the current live event ticketing system by increasing transparency in ticket sales, protecting consumers from fake or dramatically overpriced tickets, and holding bad actors who engage in illegal ticket sale practices accountable." That's according to the announcement from Congress. It's the latest move from the group, which led Washington's effort to address exploitative ticket pricing for live entertainment since 2022, when Ticketmaster prices for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen soared in response to high demand.

 

>>Consumer Sentiment Jumps 13% In December

(Ann Arbor, MI) -- Consumer sentiment is sharply higher this month as inflation fears ease. The University of Michigan's early reading for December jumped 13 percent after four months of declines. The survey noted improved sentiment across all age and income groups, with inflation expectations for the year ahead plunging to their lowest level since March 2021. Consumer sentiment is now nearly 40 percent above its all-time low measured in June of 2022.

 

>>Dollar General Reverses Track On Self-Checkout

(New York, NY) -- Dollar General is reversing track on self-checkouts. The company's CEO Todd Vasos said on an earnings call late last week that it began to "rely too much on self-checkout" in stores. According to Retail Dive, Dollar General invested hard in the technology in 2022, adding them to more than half of its nearly 20-thousand stores. Now, the stores are re-assigning workers to the checkout counters. Vasos says the move should help sales because of the human interaction and it will also likely shorten lines.

 

>>"The Boy And The Heron" Tops Box Office

(Hollywood, CA) -- A Japanese animated film that's dubbed in English has topped the weekend box office. "The Boy and the Heron" took in an estimated 12-point-eight-million-dollars to finish just ahead of the "Hunger Games" prequel. "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" was second with nine-point-four-million-dollars. Beyonce came up short in her bid to join Taylor Swift in having a concert film top the box office for two straight weeks. Last week's number one, "Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce," dropped to sixth place this week.

AM Business Notebook

>>199,000 Jobs Added In November

(Washington, DC) -- The latest jobs report shows the economy added 199-thousand jobs in November. Figures from the Labor Department also show the unemployment rate dipped to three-point-seven percent last month. The report was slightly stronger than expected raising concerns the Federal Reserve may hold interest rates steady for longer. Consumer Sentiment

 

>>Consumer Sentiment Jumps 13% In December

(Ann Arbor, MI) -- Consumer sentiment is sharply higher this month as inflation fears ease. The University of Michigan's early reading for December jumped 13 percent after four months of declines. The survey noted improved sentiment across all age and income groups, with inflation expectations for the year ahead plunging to their lowest level since March 2021. Consumer sentiment is now nearly 40 percent above its all-time low measured in June of 2022.

 

>>Mortgage Refinance Applications Increasing

(New York, NY) -- Mortgage rates are falling back toward seven-percent after surging over eight-percent in October and that's jump-starting the refinance market. Applications to refinance a home loan increased 14% from the previous week and were ten-percent higher than the same week one year ago. However, applications for a mortgage to purchase a home were 17-percent lower than a year earlier. Slower inflation and financial markets anticipating the potential end of the Fed's hiking cycle are both behind the recent decline in rates. Mortgage rates continued to move lower this week. The government's monthly employment report will be released Friday, which could either continue that trend or reverse it, depending on what it says about the economy.

 

>>AMD Shares Jump After Launch Of AI Chip To Rival Nvidia

(Santa Clara, CA) -- AMD shares jumped on Thursday, for the stock's best day since May and its highest close since June. Shares of the Silicon Valley-based semiconductor company closed at 128-37 one day launching new artificial intelligence chips that will compete against Nvidia [[ nih-VID-ee-uh ]] to power AI applications. CEO Lisa Su said Microsoft and Meta have committed to using AMD's new chip. Nvidia has dominated the AI chip market for the past year, but cloud providers and tech companies have been searching for an alternative to lower costs and provide flexibility.

 

>>CEO Says 10M Signed Up For X In December

(San Francisco, CA) -- The CEO of X says over ten-million people signed up for the social media platform in December. CEO Linda Yaccarino made the claim Thursday in a post on X. The platform does not normally release user data, and it's not clear how the December sign-ups compare to the monthly average. The New York Times recently reported that X could lose as much as 75-million dollars in advertising revenue by the end of the year as major brands including Apple and Disney suspend their marketing campaigns on the platform, which has been accused of placing ads next to posts supporting antisemitism.

 

>>Post Pandemic Travel Boom Continues In 2024

(New York, NY) -- Airlines expect record traveler numbers and revenues in 2024, but the high cost of capital continues to plague the industry. The airline industry expects net profits to reach 25-point-seven billion in 2024 on a two-point-seven percent profit margin. Around four-point-seven billion people expected to travel in 2024; that number tops pre-pandemic levels of four-point-five billion travelers in 2019. While the speed of the recovery has been extraordinary; it also appears that the pandemic cost the aviation industry about four years of growth. However next year's outlook shows more normal growth patterns for both passenger and cargo.

 

>>Top 1% Of Earners Own More Wealth Than Entire Middle Class

(Washington, DC) -- The richest Americans are richer than ever. New figures from the Federal Reserve show that the top one-percent of earners in the U.S. own more wealth than all middle class Americans combined. According to statistics through the middle of this year, 26-and-a-half percent of all household wealth, 38-point-seven trillion dollars, belongs to those whose income puts them in the top one-percent. Middle class households own about 26-percent of the nation's wealth.

AM Business Notebook

>>Job Openings Fall To 2 Year Low In October

(Washington, DC) -- The number of job openings hit a two-year low in October. The Labor Department reported just over eight-point-seven million vacancies for the month. That's a decline of more than 600--thousand openings and a far bigger drop than expected. It's also a sign the tight labor market could be loosening. The total number of people being hired or quitting their jobs in October was little changed.

 

>>Supreme Court Hears Purdue Pharma Case

(Washington, DC) -- The liability of the OxyContin maker and its role in the U.S. opioid crisis is being scrutinized by the Supreme Court. The High Court heard a challenge today from the Justice Department to last year's six-billion-dollar settlement agreed by Purdue Pharma. The bankruptcy ruling by a New York court shielded the Sackler family, which controlled the company, from future litigation. Families of Oxycontin victims say they deserve to sue the Sacklers. Most of the money from the original deal would go to states, and Native American tribes to help fight the epidemic.

 

>>President Biden Received Recurring Payment From Son's Firm: House Panel

(Washington, DC) -- Financial records released by House Republicans show President Biden received monthly payments from his son Hunter's business in 2018. Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said Hunter's firm Owasco PC received payments from Chinese companies and other foreign entities, and claimed the payments of nearly 14-hundred dollars to Biden show the president participated and benefited from an alleged "influence peddling scheme." But leaked emails from Hunter Biden's infamous laptop suggest the payments were for a truck Joe Biden helped his son purchase. Hunter's lawyer in a statement also confirmed this, saying Joe Biden helped his son buy the truck when he was struggling financially due to his addiction. This comes as House Republicans are expected to ramp up their impeachment investigation into the president.

 

>>SpaceX To Launch Experimental Spacecraft This Weekend

(Cape Canaveral, FL) -- SpaceX is gearing up for an experimental spacecraft in Florida later this week. The company says its Falcon Heavy rocket will send a national security payload for the U.S. Space Force into orbit. The mission is part of the agency's National Security Space Launch program. The goal is to try out technology for an unmanned space platform. Liftoff is scheduled for this Sunday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. An exact time will come out closer to launch day.

 

>>Spotify Announces Layoffs

(New York, NY) -- Music streaming giant Spotify is announcing layoffs. CEO Daniel Ek announced Monday the company is letting go 17-percent of its employees. In an email to staff, Ek said Spotify had hired too many employees over 2020 and 2021 and they're taking "substantial action to rightsize" costs. This round of layoffs follows the company cutting six-percent of its workers at the beginning of the year and another two-percent in June. Spotify raised subscription prices earlier this year and reported a third quarter profit of almost 71-million dollars.

 

>>Striking Nurses, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Reach Deal

(New Brunswick, NJ) -- Union nurses and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital have hammered out a tentative agreement that would end the four-month-old strike. The deal between the 17-hundred nurses and the hospital was reached Friday but no details have been disclosed. Union members are attending informational meetings this week ahead of the ratification vote. No potential date when nurses would return to work has been announced. Nurses have been on the picket line in New Jersey since early August, demanding better staffing ratios, better pay and a cap on health insurance costs.

AM Business Notebook

>>Fed Chair: Too Soon To Say When To Expect Rate Cuts

(Atlanta, GA) -- Investors say the Federal Reserve is done hiking interest rates, but the Fed Chair warns them not to speak so soon. Jerome Powell said in remarks at Spelman College in Atlanta last week that the Fed is "moving forward carefully, as the risks of under- and over-tightening are becoming more balanced." He said it would be "premature to conclude with confidence" that interest rates won't rise. Experts say rate cuts could come mid-2024, but Powell joins other officials saying they're not thinking about that yet. His comments come weeks before the central bank's policy meeting, where the Federal Reserve is general expected to hold rates steady.

 

>>Alaska Airlines To Acquire Hawaiian Airlines For $1.9 Billion

(SeaTac, WA) -- Alaska Airlines is set to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for one-point-nine-billion dollars. The airline companies announced the deal Sunday, and will take up to 18 months to be completed. Headquarters will be located in Seattle, with Honolulu a key hub. The merger will mean a fleet of 365 planes and 12-hundred destinations now for Alaska Airlines.

 

>>Median Law Enforcement Salaries: California 1st, Arkansas Last

(Undated) -- When it comes to pay for law enforcement officers, California ranks first and Mississippi is last. The non-profit organization USA Facts used 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics data to determine the median salary for U.S. states and metro areas. Adjusting for each state's cost of living, the median salary for law enforcement officers in California was 93-thousand-169-dollars. California also had 16 of the 20 top-paying metro areas for police, with San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara leading the way at 132-thousand-930-dollars. The adjusted median salary for law enforcement officers in Mississippi was just over 43-thousand-dollars. Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina joined Mississippi as the only four states with an adjusted median salary below 50-thousand-dollars for police, sheriff's department and other agency officers.

 

>>Four Year College Degree Requirements Are Disappearing For Many Corporations

(New York, NY) -- Nearly half of US companies intend to eliminate Bachelor's degree requirements for some job positions next year. According to a survey by Intelligence-dot-com of 800 US employers, 55-percent said they'd already eliminated degree requirements this year. It comes after Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Bank of America and Google announced similar plans. Walmart eliminated college degrees as a requirement for hundreds of its corporate roles, saying it would get rid of 'unnecessary barriers' that prevent career advancement. The growing trend of cutting degrees requirements has been described as 'an essential step in reducing inequity in the American labor market.'

 

>>Beyonce Concert Film Tops Box Office

(Hollywood, CA) -- For the second time this year, a concert film debuts on top of the weekend box office. "Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce" took in an estimated 21-million-dollars to join "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" in hitting number one in its opening week. "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" finished second at 14-million-dollars after spending its first two weeks at number one. A classic monster opened in third place as "Godzilla Minus One" took in eleven-million-dollars.

AM Business Notebook

>>Tesla Cybertruck Distribution Begins At Texas Facility

(Austin, TX)  --  Delivery of Tesla's Cybertruck is now officially underway following an invitation-only event at their Austin, Texas manufacturing plant.  The cheapest model available will cost around 61-thousand-dollars and won't be available until 2025.  Meanwhile, the top of the line version called the "Cyberbeast" will cost just under a-hundred-thousand.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month that more than a million people have already pre-ordered the Cybertruck.  

 

>>More Retailers Switch To "Returnless" Return Policy

(New York, NY)  --  More U.S. retailers are adopting a "returnless" return policy this holiday season.  The returns firm goTRG says U.S. shoppers are expected to return 173-billion dollars worth of holiday purchases this year, and that returns drain profits because they have to be transported, sorted and resold, often at a discount.   The firm says this year, 59-percent of retailers are offering so-called "returnless" policies for unwanted products whose return costs exceed their value.  They're not naming the companies using the new policy, because the firm says that information is "not something that retailers want out there."

 

>>Liquid Death Changes Name Of "Armless Palmer"

(Los Angeles, CA)  --  Liquid Death is changing the name of its "Armless Palmer" iced tea-lemonade drink after a lawsuit threat.  The drink will now be called "Dead Billionaire."  The company posted on Instagram that a "large enterprise" raised the possibility of a lawsuit.  New York-based AriZona Beverages sells an "Arnold Palmer," named for the golfer who is credited with inventing the beverage.  

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