Business Briefs – January 31, 2016

U.S. Paychecks Show Little Sign Of Accelerating in 4th Quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. paychecks increased moderately in the final three months of last year, yet the gain was little changed from the sluggish post-recession trend.

The employment cost index, which tracks wages and benefits, rose 0.6 percent in the October-December quarter, the Labor Department said. That’s the same as the previous three months.

In the past year, salaries and benefits have risen just 2 percent, the same annual pace as the previous two quarters. That is below the roughly 3.5 percent rate that is consistent with a healthy economy.

Survey: U.S. Consumer Confidence Slips in January

WASHINGTON (AP) – American consumers lost some confidence this month after the stock market tumbled and the economy showed signs of weakness, the University of Michigan said Friday.

The university’s index of consumer sentiment slipped to 92 in January from 92.6 last month. A year ago, the index stood at 98.1.

Richard Curtin, chief economist for Michigan’s surveys, blamed a drop in stocks that caused “an erosion of household wealth, as well as weakened prospects for the national economy.”

Caterpillar Closing 5 Plants, Cutting 670 Jobs

NEW YOrK (AP) – Caterpillar says it plans to close five plants, causing a net reduction of about 670 jobs in Illinois and several other states, as part of a broader cost-cutting campaign announced last year.

The mining and construction equipment company will cut about 230 jobs for office and production workers at a major manufacturing campus in East Peoria, Illinois, where Caterpillar says it’s consolidating some manufacturing and transferring some work to outside contractors. Another 120 employees there will be placed on indefinite layoff.

Nissan to Recall Altimas for Third Time to Fix Hood Latches

DETROIT (AP) – Nissan is recalling nearly 930,000 Altima midsize cars worldwide — some for a third time — to fix a latch problem that could let the hood fly open while the cars are moving.

The new recall covers cars from the 2013 to 2015 model years, including 846,000 in the U.S.

Nissan says paint can flake off the latch, exposing bare metal. Over time, the latches can rust and cause the secondary hood latch to remain open. If the main latch isn’t closed and the car is driven, the secondary latch may not hold the hood down.

American Airlines Posts Record Profit for 4Q, All of 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – American Airlines reported a record profit for the fourth quarter and all of 2015 as a sharp drop in fuel prices more than offset lower revenue.

The world’s biggest airline said Friday that its full-year earnings were the highest for any carrier when one-time items were excluded. American is poised for another big year: airline officials said they expect to save another $2 billion on fuel in 2016.

Falling Oil Prices Push Chevron To First Loss Since 2002

DALLAS (AP) – Chevron suffered its first money-losing quarter since 2002 in the final three months of last year, as plunging crude prices chopped more than one-third from its revenue.

Cheaper energy is great for consumers, who save with every fill-up, but oil-producing nations and big exploration companies like Chevron and Exxon are paying the price.

Chevron is cutting spending, laying off workers, and looking to sell even more of its assets. The problem with that strategy: It’s a buyer’s market right now for oil facilities, with too many for-sale signs.