Business Briefs – January 5, 2016

Even With Iran-Saudi Tension, Supply Dictates Price of Oil

DALLAS (AP) – A persistent glut of oil is trumping Middle Eastern tension, extending the slump in oil markets into 2016.

The price of oil fell 30 percent last year, following a 50 percent plunge in 2014. The price is already down in early days of 2016. Even the breakoff of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran failed to halt the slide. Oil prices are likely to remain where they are until production drops or the world economy perks up and drives demand higher.

Chinese Investors Swearing Off Stocks After Price Turmoil

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese small investors are swearing off stocks. That is setting back the Communist Party’s hopes of encouraging widespread stock ownership to help transform its financial markets into tools to propel economic reform.

Despite a rebound in prices from August lows, no significant new money from small investors has flowed into stocks.

Last year’s Chinese stock boom and disastrous bust has left a legacy of public distrust of financial markets along with a bill the ruling party has yet to disclose for its rescue.

Dividends on the Chopping Block As Profit Growth Peters Out

NEW YORK (AP) – The dividend gravy train is slowing down, threatening an important source of income for investors.

About 500 companies cut or halted their dividends last year, the most since the Great Recession in 2009. Other companies got more reluctant to raise their payouts to shareholders, according to numbers released Tuesday by S&P Dow Jones Indices. The number of dividend increases was the lowest in four years.

Dividends, the share of profits that some companies distribute to investors, have been increasingly important because bonds still offer relatively low interest payments and stock prices have been flat.

U.S. Auto Sales Hit All-Time High in 2015

DETROIT (AP) – Americans are buying more new cars than ever before. U.S. auto sales hit a record high of 17.47 million in 2015, topping the old record of 17.35 million set in 2000. Analysts expect sales could go even higher this year as unemployment continues to decline and more young buyers enter the market. Automakers reported December and full-year sales Tuesday.

Lumosity to Pay $2M to Settle Deceptive Ad Allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The developer of Lumosity “brain training” games will pay $2 million to settle federal allegations that it misled customers about the cognitive benefits of its online apps and programs.

The FTC said Tuesday the company’s advertisements deceptively suggested that playing a few times a week could boost performance at work, in the classroom and even delay serious conditions like dementia. Under the settlement, Lumos Labs must contact its customers and offer them an easy way to cancel their subscriptions.

Amazon: Cyber Monday Shoppers Ordered 23m Items From Sellers

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s sellers had a strong Cyber Monday. The largest U.S. retailer said Tuesday that customers ordered more than 23 million items from its sellers on Cyber Monday, the popular online shopping day after Thanksgiving. That was up 40 percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s “Fulfillment By Amazon” service seem to be bearing fruit. 1 billion items were delivered in 2015 for businesses selling on Amazon.