Business Briefs – December 17, 2015

Fewer Americans Filed for Unemployment Aid Last Week

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fewer Americans applied for unemployment claims last week, yet another sign of strength in the job market.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 11,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 271,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile 4-week average was essentially unchanged at 271,000.

The numbers show that most American workers are enjoying job security.

Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgages Rises to 3.97 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose slightly this week in the days before the Federal Reserve announced a historic increase in its key short-term interest rate.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 3.97 percent from 3.95 percent a week earlier. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.22 percent from 3.19 percent.

Despite Lack of Eggs, Just Mayo Says It’s Keeping Its Name

NEW YORK (AP) – Just Mayo says it will get to keep its name, a decision that caps a rollercoaster year for the vegan spread that has rattled the egg industry.

After months of discussions, Just Mayo’s maker Hampton Creek says it worked out an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration that lets the eggless spread keep its name, as long as a few changes are made to its label. The resolution comes after the FDA sent a warning letter to Hampton Creek in August saying Just Mayo was misbranded because mayonnaise is defined as having eggs.

Without providing details, the FDA said in statement it worked with Hampton Creek to address the issues cited in its letter, and that it considers the matter to be resolved.

China Southern Airlines Orders 110 Boeing Jets Worth $10B

HONG KONG (AP) – China’s biggest airline said Thursday it’s buying more than a hundred Boeing 737 jets in a deal worth about $10 billion that comes just months after the U.S. plane maker announced plans to build a Chinese finishing plant for the aircraft type.

China Southern Airlines is buying 30 Boeing 737 Next Generation jets and 50 737 Max aircraft, the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Its Xiamen Airlines unit is buying 30 of Boeing’s 737 Max jets.

The Next Generation planes have a list price of $81.2 million while the Max series aircraft sells for $96.1 million.

Cerberus Taking a Majority Stake in Avon N. American Unit

NEW YORK (AP) – Private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management is taking a majority stake in Avon’s North American division.

The companies said that they believe the partnership will help to improve Avon’s performance and boost shareholder value.

Cerberus will get an 80.1 percent interest in Avon North America in exchange for a $170 million equity investment. The North American unit will be separated from Avon Products Inc. into a privately-held company that will include the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. It will be managed by New York-based Cerberus.

Apple Names Jeff Williams as Chief Operating Officer

CUPERTINO (AP) – Apple named Jeff Williams as its chief operating officer Thursday, a job that hasn’t been filled since Tim Cook left the position more than four years ago to become CEO.

Williams has worked at Apple for about 17 years and supervised the launch of the Apple Watch, which went on sale earlier this year. The company said he played a “key role” in the launch of the iPhone.

Employers Applaud ‘Cadillac’ Tax Delay But Still Seek Repeal

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress delivered a present to employers this week when it proposed a two-year delay for a health benefits tax many would have had to pay starting in 2018.

The delay, which was reached as part of a budget deal, means companies that offer employees expensive health insurance will not have to pay the so-called Cadillac tax for those plans until 2020. But employers want the tax, which amounts to a 40 percent levy on the cost of benefits plans above a certain amount, repealed altogether.