Business Briefs – December 13, 2015

Average Gas Price Soon Under $2, Lowest Since Recession

DALLAS (AP) – Gasoline is close to breaking below a key psychological barrier as drivers enjoy some of the cheapest pump prices since the recession.

The nationwide average price of a gallon of regular Saturday was $2.02, down 58 cents from this time last year, according to auto club AAA. Experts say it could drop below $2 a gallon in the coming days.

For consumers, this winter is shaping up to be a good one, energy-wise. Forecasters predict warmer weather than normal, and fuel prices are low.

The retail price of heating oil for December through February is expected to average $2.40 a gallon, down 18 percent compared with last year, according to the Energy Department. The price of natural gas for residential customers is expected to average $8.72 per 1,000 cubic feet, down 9 percent.

On the roads, many drivers across the country are already seeing gasoline prices well below $2 a gallon. According to data compiled by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, drivers in about half of the states are already paying less than $2.

DuPont, Dow Chemical Seek Merger, Then 3-Way Split

DOVER, Del. (AP) – Dow Chemical and DuPont are merging to form a company valued at about $130 billion as they try to counter falling commodities prices and weakness in some key markets that have pressured their giant agriculture and chemicals businesses.

The two companies, whose research has brought the world products such as Ziploc bags, Saran wrap and Teflon coatings, will first form DowDuPont, then separate into three independent publicly traded companies focused on agriculture, material science and specialty products.

The proposed merger, announced Friday, would temporarily create the world’s second-largest chemical company.

Retails Sales Rise in November As Shopping Picks Up

WASHINGTON (AP) – Year-end shoppers are off to a solid but unspectacular start as retail sales showed a modest gain in November.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent to $448 billion last month. This marks an improvement after months of lackluster spending.

But in November, shoppers upped their spending at clothiers, sporting goods stores and electronics outlets. Spending at online retailers advanced a healthy 0.6 percent. General merchandise stores also improved, but sales at department stores were flat.

Treasury Delaying Announcement of Woman Going on $10 Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) – The country will have to wait a bit longer to find out who will become the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had said he would announce a decision by the end of this year naming the woman who will replace Alexander Hamilton’s portrait on the $10 bill.

But late Friday, Treasury issued a statement saying the announcement was being delayed until sometime in 2016. Treasury says the delay will give the government time to “carefully review and consider a range of options” for the currency redesign.

SEC Moves Toward Limits on Funds’ Use of Derivatives

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal regulators are moving toward imposing restrictions on the use of derivatives by mutual funds, aiming to protect investors in funds that rely on the high-risk transactions.

Members of the Securities and Exchange Commission voted Friday to propose the limits on derivatives use by mutual funds as well as exchange-traded funds.

The proposal goes out for public comment for 90 days, and it could be formally adopted by the SEC sometime after that.

Regulators Want More Details About Walgreens-Rite Aid Deal

NEW YORK (AP) – The Federal Trade Commission wants more information about Walgreens’ $9.41-billion plan to buy rival drugstore chain Rite Aid, a sign that regulators may be concerned about the deal’s impact on competition.

Walgreens said Friday that it fielded a request for additional information beyond what the companies have already been required to provide under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. Walgreens said it expected the request.

A former Justice Department attorney said regulators ask for more information when their initial review of a deal suggests that there are “serious competitive concerns.”