Business Briefs – January 11, 2016

With SUV Look, Tech Touches, Chrysler Aims to Revive Minivan

DETROIT (AP) – Thirty-three years ago, Chrysler invented the minivan. Now, it’s reinventing it — with styling reminiscent of an SUV, high-tech features and a first-ever hybrid version that Chrysler hopes will make minivans popular again.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica was unveiled Monday morning at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

It’s the latest incarnation of the family hauler that took the suburbs by storm. Lee Iacocca, Chrysler Corp.’s former chairman, drove the company’s first minivan off the assembly line in 1983. Baby Boomers loved its sliding doors and roomy interior, and the minivan quickly replaced station wagons as the vehicle of choice for shuttling around kids. By the early 1990s, Chrysler was selling more than 500,000 per year. U.S. minivan sales peaked at 1.37 million in 2000.

If You Think Drones Are a Passing Fad, Better Think Again

LAS VEGAS (AP) – If you’re used to thinking of drones as a passing fad, last week’s CES gadget show should give you second thoughts.

Tiny, self-piloted copters promise to buzzily follow you around. New drones that could find lost wilderness adventurers or help them see out above treetops; others purport to carry a human passenger at the touch of a button.

None of this, of course, will be happening overnight. Limited battery life means that many commercial models can’t fly for more than about 20 minutes at best. Manufacturers haven’t yet figured out the best way to keep many tiny drones where they ought to be, given that GPS positioning sucks too much power for their minuscule batteries. Obstacle avoidance systems that would let small drones pilot themselves are still under development. And looming over the entire field are new government rules intended to keep people safe, but which may also slow innovation.

Markets to Face Slowing Company Profits After China Tumult

NEW YORK (AP) – Tumult in China triggered the worst opening week for U.S. stocks in history, and this week investors could get plenty more to worry about. Profits are expected to drop at U.S. companies. Again.

Earnings for companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index are forecast to drop for the second straight quarter, a rare occurrence outside a recession. Despite a rebounding jobs market, the U.S. did not grow fast enough to boost profits, and once surging developing economies that helped lift foreign sales slowed dramatically.

China and Its President Are Off to a Rocky 2016

BEIJING (AP) – Barely more than a week into 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping is having a rough time of it, with challenges ranging from a plummeting stock market to new provocations from obstreperous ally North Korea. While none pose an existential threat to his administration, the world will be watching to see whether he has the sophisticated touch needed to find durable solutions and maintain stability.

China twice deployed its “circuit breaker” mechanism to halt trading as stock markets nosedived by 10 percent in the first week of the year.

Meanwhile, China’s currency, the yuan, has slid to a five-year low against the dollar, forcing the government to spend tens of millions of dollars from its foreign currency stockpile to defend it.

Hiccups in the world’s second-largest economy are expected to continue in 2016, with growth falling to a six-year low of 6.9 percent in the July-September quarter and forecast by the International Monetary Fund to decline further to 6.3 percent this year.