Sep 11, 2014 1:34 PM
Update on the latest business
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) Stocks are lower in midday trading on Wall Street as investors look at falling oil prices and the latest sanctions against Russia.
Energy stocks are among the day's worst performers as the price of oil touched its lowest level since January.
European markets were weighed down by news that the European Union has decided to go ahead with a new round of sanctions against Russia.
Traders are also looking ahead to a Federal Reserve meeting next week and wondering when interest rates will rise.
Applications for US unemployment rise to 315K
WASHINGTON (AP) More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the trend in benefit applications in the past month remained low.
The Labor Department says that weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, the most since late June. Still, the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose just 750 to 304,000. The average is 7.1 percent lower than it was a year ago.
The data covers the week ended Sept. 6, which included the Labor Day holiday. Unemployment benefits data can be more volatile around holidays.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average fell to a seven-year low of 293,750 last month. Generally, fewer applications indicate employers are holding onto their staffs.
Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.12 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose slightly this week but remained near their lows for the year.
Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year loan edged up to 4.12 percent from 4.10 percent last week, where it had stayed for three straight weeks.
The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, rose to 3.26 percent from 3.24 percent.
At 4.12 percent, the rate on a 30-year mortgage is down from 4.53 percent at the start of the year. Rates have fallen even though the Federal Reserve has been trimming its monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low. The purchases are set to end next month.
US-WORKPLACE DEATHS REPORTING
Feds tighten rules on workplace death reporting
WASHINGTON (AP) The federal government is tightening its rules on the reporting of workplace deaths and severe injuries, declaring that employers beginning Jan. 1 must report any fatalities within eight hours of the accident or incident.
Work-related hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye will now have to be reported within 24 hours, under the final rule announced by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Previously, OSHA's regulations required such reports to be filed only if three or more workers were killed or hospitalized while on the job.
Speaking of the stronger rules, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez says, "We can and must do more to keep America's workers safe and healthy."
The agency says no company will be exempt, no matter how small.
FDA approves weight-loss drug Contrave
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. regulators are greenlighting a new weight-loss drug called Contrave, the third in a string of approvals for anti-obesity treatments.
The drug is made by Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., based in La Jolla, California. The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is approved for use by people who have a body mass index of 30 or higher, which is the level at which people are considered to be obese. It is also approved for use by people with a BMI of 27 or higher who also have a weight-related medical condition such as diabetes.
In addition to Contrave, the FDA has approved Qsymia from Vivus Inc. and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Sales of the drugs have been below expectations because of limited insurance coverage and high costs for patients.
Toyota recalls pickups to fix air bag problem
DETROIT (AP) Toyota is recalling about 130,000 Tundra full-size pickup trucks because a plastic trim piece can interfere with the side air bags.
The recall affects Crew-Max and Double Cab versions in the U.S. from the 2014 model year. The company says the trim covering the center pillars behind the front seats may have been installed incorrectly. It could stop air bags from inflating to their intended shape.
Toyota says it doesn't know of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.
Dealers will inspect the trim and replace it if necessary.
Truck owners will be notified of the recall by mail.
Obama: US to step up economic penalties on Russia
WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama says the U.S. is moving ahead with tougher economic sanctions on Russia over what the U.S. says are Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine.
Obama says the sanctions will affect Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors. He says they'll increase Moscow's political isolation and economic costs to the country.
The U.S. penalties are paired with a new round of European Union sanctions announced Thursday in Brussels. The U.S. and the EU will both disclose the full details Friday.
The latest sanctions from the West come despite a cease-fire reached last week between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.
Obama says if Russia follows through with its commitments to help end the crisis, the sanctions can be rolled back. Otherwise, he says, they'll be increased.
Russian gas supplies to Poland drop further
WARSAW, Poland (AP) Poland's gas monopoly says that Russian natural gas deliveries dropped by 45 percent on Wednesday, the third day of decreases amid concern Moscow is piling on political pressure over the crisis in Ukraine.
The company, PGNiG, said Thursday it has received no notification of reductions from Russian supplier Gazprom. On Wednesday, PGNiG said it was seeking an explanation but Gazprom denied any fall in exports. Some commentators say Russia is trying to punish Poland for selling gas on to Ukraine.
Deliveries dropped by 20 percent on Monday and 24 percent on Tuesday, PGNiG said.
Poland is compensating the shortfall by importing more gas from Germany and the Czech Republic.
Domestically, experts say there is no need for immediate concern because the weather is warm and gas storage tanks are full.
RBS would leave Scotland in case of independence
LONDON (AP) Royal Bank of Scotland says it has made plans to move its headquarters to England in the event that Scotland votes for independence next week.
The bank, a key employer in Scotland and a symbol of its financial sector, says it has drawn up contingency plans because being based in an independent Scotland would create uncertainties that could hurt its business and customers. It says it could affect its credit rating and change the legal, fiscal and monetary environment it works in.
Thursday's warning comes a day after another financial group, Standard Life, said it is ready to move parts of its business to England in case of independence.
RBS has been based in Scotland since 1727.
MasterCard loses EU court battle over fees
BRUSSELS (AP) The European Union's highest court has thrown out an appeal by MasterCard against a decision by the bloc's antitrust authority to scrap some of its fees charged to merchants.
The ruling by the 28-nation bloc's Court of Justice on Thursday closes MasterCard's seven-year-old battle against a decision made by the EU's competition watchdog.
The judges in Luxembourg confirmed a 2012 ruling against by a lower EU court, saying the relevant fees cannot be seen as "objectively necessary" since the card system remains "capable of functioning without those fees."
The so-called multilateral interchange fees on every card transaction were retained by the card-issuing bank and charged to merchants.
MasterCard is based in Purchase, New York.
RadioShack says it may need more capital
NEW YORK (AP) RadioShack says it may need more capital to help complete its turnaround efforts.
CEO Joseph Magnacca said in a statement on Thursday that the consumer electronics company is actively exploring options for overhauling its balance sheet and is in advanced talks with "a number of parties."
RadioShack Corp. is also working with its lenders, bondholders, shareholders and landlords to try to find a long-term solution. Magnacca said this could include debt restructuring, consolidating stores and other measures to help lower costs.
Details of a recapitalization are not yet finalized. Magnacca said the Fort Worth, Texas company is reviewing several alternatives, some that would need consent from its lenders.
RadioShack's stock rose 5 cents, or 5.3 percent, to 98 cents in premarket trading.
Utah ski resort sold amid long legal battle
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) One of Utah's largest ski areas will be sold to Vail Resorts Inc., resolving a legal battle between two ski titans and paving the way for the creation of what could be the country's largest resort.
The $182.5 million deal gives Vail the base area and parking lot at Park City Mountain Resort, east of Salt Lake City. The Colorado-based company already is leasing the upper 3,000 acres of slopes, but couldn't use them without the base area owned by Powdr Corp.
The deal announced Thursday will allow Vail to join Park City with the Canyons ski area, which it also leased from real estate company Talisker.
Vail CEO Rob Katz said when the two adjacent resorts are connected with a lift in the future, the resulting 7,000-acre resort will be the largest in the country.