Business Briefs – March 15, 2016

Fed Seen Holding U.S. Rates for Now, Leaving Door Open for June Hike

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers are seen leaving short-term interest rates unchanged at a two-day policy meeting that began Tuesday, but also to signal that a rate hike is not too far off as long as the job market and inflation continue to improve.

The U.S. central bank lifted borrowing costs in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

Low Gas Prices Drag Down U.S. Retail Sales in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales slipped last month, pulled down by sharply lower gas prices, and Americans spent much less in January than previously estimated. The figures suggest that consumers remain cautious about spending despite steady hiring.

Americans’ reluctance to open their wallets could hold back growth in the first three months of this year.

FDA Advisers Back First Dissolving Heart Stent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health advisers overwhelmingly backed the safety and effectiveness of an experimental stent that dissolves into the body after doing its job.

A panel of FDA advisers voted unanimously Tuesday that the Absorb heart stent is effective for treating patients with narrowing arteries. Abbott Laboratories has asked the FDA to approve its stent as an alternative to permanent, metal implants that have long been used.

VW Sued By Big Investors Over Handling of Emissions Scandal

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – Institutional investors are suing Volkswagen for 3.25 billion euros ($3.57 billion) in damages over the company’s handling of its emissions scandal, which has so far seen the share price fall by about a third.

Attorney Andreas Tilp said Tuesday that the suit in the German regional court in Braunschweig was joined by investors from 14 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Among the plaintiffs is CalPERS, the giant pension fund for government employees in California.

Volkswagen had no immediate comment on the suit, but has said that shareholder lawsuits in Germany are without merit.

Foreign Holdings of Treasury Debt Increase to $6.18 Trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose in January to the highest level in a year even though the biggest foreign owner, China, cut back slightly. China trimmed its holdings 0.7 percent to $1.24 trillion. Japan, the second largest foreign owner of Treasury debt, boosted its holdings 0.1 percent to $1.12 trillion.

U.S. Homebuilder Sentiment Holds Steady in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders remain optimistic that the housing market will improve, but their expectations for sales over the next six months have dimmed. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday held steady at 58 this month. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good.

Google Reveals 77 Percent of Its Online Traffic Is Encrypted

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google has disclosed that encryption shields 77 percent of the requests sent globally to Google’s data centers, up from 52 percent at the end of 2013, according to company statistics released Tuesday.