Business Briefs – January 12, 2016

Oil Keeps Falling. And Falling. How Low Can It go?

DALLAS (AP) – The price of oil keeps falling. And falling. And falling. It has to stop somewhere, right?

Even after trending down for a year and a half, U.S. crude has fallen another 17 percent since the start of the year and is now probing depths not seen since 2003.

“All you can do is forecast direction, and the direction of price is still down,” says Larry Goldstein of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, who predicted a decline in oil in 2014.

On Tuesday the price fell another 3 percent to $30.44 a barrel, its lowest level in 12 years. Oil had sold for roughly $100 a barrel for nearly four years before beginning to fall in the summer of 2014.

Many now say oil could drop into the $20 range.

Gov’t to Announce New Safety Relationship With Automakers

DETROIT (AP) – Automakers have agreed to work on fundamental changes in their relationship with government in order to spot safety trends before they become problems and get new technology to the marketplace faster.

The process of issuing government regulations to correct safety problems takes too many years, Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

Rosekind alluded to the possibility that the auto industry will agree to safety culture changes and technology voluntarily rather than waiting for the arduous government rule-making process.

Starbucks Expects China to Surpass U.S. as Largest Market

NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks said it expects China to eventually overtake the U.S. as the coffee chain’s largest market.

The Seattle company said it is on track to open 500 stores in China this year. It expects to have a total of 3,400 stores in China by 2019.

Starbucks currently has 2,000 stores in China, making it the company’s second largest market after the U.S. The company has more than 12,000 stores in the U.S. that it either operates or licenses to others.

PC Sales Fall for 4th Consecutive Year

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The PC industry had another down year in 2015, as global shipments fell for the fourth-consecutive year despite new models and the release of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system.

Even end-of-year sales had a limited impact on shipments during the final months of 2015. Analysts at the Gartner research firm estimate manufacturers shipped 288.7 million personal computers in 2015, down 8 percent from 2014.

Gartner says Apple was the only major computer maker to see an increase in global shipments last year, while Lenovo, HP, Dell and Asus all saw declines.