Business Briefs – February 22, 2016

Pound Plunges as Cameron Makes Pro-EU Case in U.K. Parliament

LONDON (AP) — A vote to leave the EU would be “a great leap into the unknown” at a perilous time for Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday, as uncertainty over the U.K.’s future sent the pound plunging.

Cameron told lawmakers that membership in the EU boosted the country’s economy and security. The political battle for Britain’s future has entered high gear ahead of a June 23 referendum.

“Leaving the EU may briefly make us feel more sovereign,” he said, but argued the U.K. would be “stronger, safer and better off” within the EU.

IEA: Slashed Spending by Drillers Could Lead to Price Spike

HOUSTON (AP) — Oil prices will more than double by 2020 as current low prices lead drillers to cut investment in new production and gradually reduce the glut of crude, the head of a group of oil-importing countries said Monday.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said oil would rise gradually to about $80 a barrel.

Oil prices shot to more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014 before a long slide sent them crashing below $30 last month.

U.S. Economy Growing, But Faces International Headwinds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy has just completed the best two years of job growth since the 1990s, wages are on the rise and consumers are more confident about the economy than they’ve been in more than a decade. But the United States faced global headwinds that will continue this year, President Obama’s economic advisers said Monday in a new report.

The advisers made recommendations to reduce income inequality, though many of them rely on cooperation from Congress as well as state and local governments.

Lumber Liquidators Stock Plunges On Revised CDC Report

NEW YORK (AP) — Lumber Liquidators’ stock plunged Monday after the CDC said people exposed to certain types of the company’s laminate flooring were three times more likely to get cancer than the agency previously predicted.

The CDC said its original report had used an incorrect value for ceiling height to assess the exposure. It now estimates the risk of cancer at six to 30 cases per 100,000 people. It previously estimated two to nine cases per 100,000 people.

Honeywell, United Tech Held Merger Talks: Sources

(Reuters) – Aerospace component suppliers Honeywell International Inc and United Technologies Corp have held merger talks, but the latter is convinced that a deal would not pass antitrust muster, according to people familiar with the matter.

There have been no recent meetings among lawyers or bankers on any specifics, one of the sources said.

A merger of the two firms would create a behemoth with combined sales of more than $90 billion, a company responsible for a huge amount of equipment on commercial airliners, ranging from jet engines to airplane cockpits and landing gear.

CNBC first reported on these talks earlier Monday. United Technologies and Honeywell declined to comment on the report. Pentagon officials had no immediate comment.

Starbucks Changes Rewards Program; Small Spenders Lose

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks is changing the terms of its rewards program so that people who spend around $5 or less per visit won’t get as many freebies.

The coffee chain says its loyalty program will award stars based on the dollars spent starting in April. Currently, people earn a star for each transaction, regardless of how much they spend, and get a free food or item of their choice after earning 12 stars.

People will now have to earn 125 stars for a free item, with each dollar spent being worth two stars — meaning they have to spend $62.50 to get their free item.

Verizon to Buy Fiber-Optic Business for About $1.8 Billion

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon says it will pay $1.8 billion to buy the fiber-optic network business of XO Communications, in a deal that the wireless phone company said would improve service for its customers.

XO Communications, based in Herndon, Virginia, owns and operators networks that its customers use for internet access and other uses. Carl Icahn is chairman and sole shareholder of the company.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of next year.