Business Briefs – December 7, 2017

Bitcoin Soars Then Falls Back; Banks Raise Risk Concerns

NEW YORK (AP) – The price of bitcoin is swinging wildly Thursday, rising to more than $19,000 only to fall sharply minutes afterward. The frenzy comes just before futures for bitcoin will start trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday evening and on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange a week later. A group of banks have complained that federal regulators approved the futures too quickly and without properly considering the risks inherent in bitcoin.

U.S. Consumer Borrowing Up $20.5 Billion in October

WASHINGTON (AP) – American consumers increased their borrowing by $20.5 billion in October. It was the biggest gain in 11 months and reflected strong increases in the use of credit cards and in auto and student loans.

GE Cuts 12K Power Jobs as Demand, Renewables, Skew Market

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – General Electric Co. will cut 12,000 jobs in its power division as alternative energy supplants demand for coal and other fossil fuels, and energy demand declines overall. The company said Thursday that the cuts to both office and production jobs, will help “right-size” GE Power in a traditional power markets that is being upended globally.

Tech is Taking Over Our Lives, And our 401(K) Accounts

NEW YORK (AP) – Investing in a stock fund has increasingly become a bet on technology companies, regardless of where in the world the fund focuses on. From Silicon Valley to Shanghai, surging share prices for technology companies mean the industry is making up an ever-larger chunk of stock funds. Tech companies have been able to produce strong profit growth for years, even when the global economy was scuffling, but the strong performance also raises worries that they’re overpriced.

Dems Accuse EPA Chief of Sidelining Science Pros

WASHINGTON (AP) – Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says his proposed regulatory rollbacks and other policies are grounded in science. He is dismissing criticisms he is ignoring experts to appease favored industries. Pruitt defended his approach Thursday during his first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the EPA. Democrats accused him of purging academic experts from EPA advisory panels. Pruitt says he was avoiding conflicts of interest.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Though Remain Historically Low

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. mortgage rates rose this week as the economy showed signs of strength, which makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will raise its short-term rate next week. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.94 percent from 3.9 percent last week.

Ford Shifts Production of Electric SUV to Mexico

DETROIT (AP) – Ford Motor Co. is shifting production of an electric SUV from the U.S. to Mexico in order to make more self-driving vehicles in Michigan. Ford announced last January that it would invest $700 million and hire 700 workers to make electric and autonomous vehicles at its Flat Rock plant near Detroit.

U.S. Airlines on a Pilot-Hiring Spree

NEW YORK (AP) – After a decade of instability and bankruptcies during which hiring slowed to a crawl, U.S. airlines have been adding pilots at a breakneck pace over the past three years.

Major U.S. commercial and cargo airlines have hired more than 3,000 pilots in each of the past three years and have hired 4,353 more through October this year, surpassing the total hires in 2016.

Regional airlines are raising entry-level pay and adding bonuses in hopes of attracting more new pilots to fend off a looming pilot shortage.

Add in continued waves of departures as more pilots reach the federally mandated retirement age of 65, and arguably there’s never been a better time to become a pilot.

“Right now, the demand is so strong, when you qualify, you’re going to get multiple job offers,” observed Louis Smith, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot and president of career-counseling company Future & Active Pilot Advisors. “It’s a sellers market.”