Business Briefs – January 17, 2016

Get Used to It: Big Drops For Stocks Are Back Again

NEW YORK (AP) – Yes, this is scary. Stock prices plunged again Friday and are down more than 8 percent in just two weeks, an unprecedented slide for a start of a year.

The vicious drops feel even more unsettling because they’re such a departure from the placid and strong returns that investors had been enjoying for years.

Now investors just need to get used to it, analysts say. The painful return of big price swings serves as a reminder that investing in stocks can be harrowing, especially if investors focus on the day-to-day moves.

Year-end Sales Report Shows Challenge for 2016

NEW YORK (AP) – Year-end shoppers did not make retailers happy during this critical season — overall sales in November and December were disappointing.

Sales rose 3 percent to about $626.14 billion, according to The National Retail Federation. That’s below the forecast for a 3.7 percent gain the group had expected.

The group blamed the shortfall on unusually warm weather that led to discounts on cold-weather items. It also pointed out that stores don’t have the ability to raise prices in a still tough spending environment.

Chinese Buying Spree Accelerates With Takeover of GE Unit

BEIJING (AP) – Haier Group, the world’s biggest home appliance maker, is buying General Electric Co.’s appliance business for $5.4 billion to expand its U.S. and global presence.

The acquisition announced Friday comes as Haier tries to transform itself into a premium brand. GE is shifting emphasis from traditional businesses such as appliances, in which it has been prominent for more than a century, to higher-technology areas such as medical equipment and clean energy.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Demands Action on Puerto Rico’s Crisis

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged Congress on Friday to pass legislation by March to help ease Puerto Rico’s economic crisis before it’s too late.

Lew made the request as he announced an upcoming trip to the island to meet with government officials and business leaders to talk about the financial situation.

Puerto Rico is struggling with $72 billion in public debt that the governor there has said is unpayable and needs restructuring. The island recently defaulted on $37 million in interest on bonds and faces its first lawsuit over how it has diverted funds to meet certain bond payments.

Transcripts of 2010 Fed Meeting Show Concerns About Leaks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transcripts released Friday show that in the fall of 2010, officials of the Federal Reserve were worried not just about a sluggish economy but also about in-fighting at the Fed and possible leaks of sensitive information.

The transcripts reveal that then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told members of the Fed’s top policy group that he was concerned about reports of leaks to the news media and to financial market players. He was also concerned about as officials taking “very inflexible positions” in advance of Fed meetings.

Bernanke’s comments came at the start of a pivotal Fed meeting when the central bank approved a second round of bond purchases in an effort to bolster a struggling economy.