Business Briefs – February 8, 2016

Gas Prices Drop 8 Cents Over Past 2 Weeks, to $1.82&

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) – The average price of gasoline has dropped 8 cents over the past two weeks, to $1.82 a gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that the price is 37 cents per gallon under its year-ago point.

Lundberg says the price drop may continue if crude oil costs continue to slide.

In the Lower 48 states, the highest average price of regular gasoline was $2.62 per gallon in Los Angeles. The lowest was $1.44 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The U.S. average diesel price is $2.13 per gallon, down about 7 cents from two weeks ago.

Toyota Posts $5.4 Billion Quarterly Profit, Raises Forecast

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota’s quarterly profit rose nearly 5 percent as the weaker yen and cost reductions offset declining sales in some markets. The automaker raised its full-year earnings forecast.

Toyota Motor Corp., the No. 1 automaker in global vehicle sales, reported Friday a 627.9 billion yen ($5.4 billion) profit for the October-December fiscal third quarter, up from 600 billion yen a year earlier.

Quarterly sales rose 2 percent to 7.34 trillion yen ($63 billion).

Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury model, raised its annual profit forecast to 2.27 trillion yen ($19.5 billion) from 2.25 trillion yen ($19.2 billion).

U.S. Exports Fell in 2015 for First Time Since Recession

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. trade deficit rose in December as American exports fell for a third straight month, reflecting the pressures of a stronger dollar and spreading global weakness. Those factors contributed to the first annual drop in U.S. export sales since the Great Recession shrank global trade six years ago.

The December deficit increased 2.7 percent to $43.4 billion, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Exports fell by 0.3 percent, driven by sales declines of civilian aircraft, autos and farm products. Imports increased 0.3 percent as Americans bought more foreign-made cars and petroleum.

For all of 2015, the deficit rose 4.6 percent to $531.5 billion. Exports fell 4.8 percent, the first setback since 2009 when the world was in the grips of recession. Imports also retreated 3.1 percent.

Congress Unites in Scorn for Shkreli, but Gridlock Remains

WASHINGTON (AP) – A smirking Martin Shkreli briefly united Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill this week, as lawmakers took turns blasting the price-hiking former CEO who has become the new poster child for corporate greed.

But the gridlocked state of Congress virtually assures federal efforts to lower drug prices will remain in limbo for years. And even then, experts warn that the options available to Congress would not stop companies like Turing Pharmaceuticals, where Shkreli engineered a 5000 percent price increase of a critical anti-infection drug.

U.S. Consumer Borrowing Accelerated in December

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. consumers in December increased their borrowing at the fastest pace in three months. The result suggests that consumer spending should remain strong in the coming months.

Borrowing expanded $21.3 billion in December, the strongest showing since an increase of $28.6 billion in September, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. That pushed total borrowing to a fresh record of $3.55 trillion.

Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards rose $5.8 billion, slightly below the November gain. Borrowing in the category that covers auto and student loans jumped $15.4 billion in December, higher than the November gain of $7.7 billion.

HSBC Reaches $470 Million Deal With US, States Over Banking Abuses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Banking giant HSBC has reached a $470 million settlement with the federal government and nearly all states over mortgage lending and foreclosure abuses that officials say helped intensify the country’s economic meltdown, the Justice Department announced Friday.

The agreement requires the bank to pay $100 million and to provide an additional $370 million in consumer relief to borrowers and homeowners, including by reducing mortgage interests rates as well as the principal on mortgages for homeowners who are at risk of default.

The deal also requires the bank to improve standards for how it services loans and handles foreclosures.