Business Briefs – February 23, 2016

Amid Coal Market Struggles, Less Fuel Worth Mining in U.S.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – An exhaustive government analysis says that at current prices and mining rates, the country’s largest coal reserves, located along the Montana-Wyoming border, will be tapped out in just a few decades.

The finding by the U.S. Geological Survey upends conventional wisdom on the lifespan for the nation’s top coal-producing region. It also reflects the changing economic realities for companies seeking to profit off extracting the fuel as mining costs rise, coal prices fall and political pressure grows over coal’s contribution to climate change.

Saudi Oil Minister Says Market Should Handle Low Prices

HOUSTON (AP) – Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said Tuesday that production cuts to boost oil prices won’t work, and that instead the market should be allowed to work even if that forces some operators out of business.

Ali Al-Naimi said production cuts by big, low-cost producers like Saudi Arabia would amount to subsidizing higher-cost ones — an apparent reference to U.S. shale oil drillers.

U.S. Home Market: Sales and Prices Up but Not Enough Supply

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. home sales are climbing. Prices are rising, too. So the outlook for the housing market is golden, right? Not entirely.

A series of reports released Tuesday pointed to potential cracks in the foundations of America’s residential real estate market.

On the one hand, job growth and low mortgage rates have fueled demand and boosted sales. Yet supply is down and prices have risen faster than incomes. Because many homes have become unaffordable for would-be buyers, further gains may be unsustainable.

Consumer Confidence Falls To 92.2 in February

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumer confidence fell in February to the lowest level in seven months as worries about a slowing economy and tumbling stock prices took a toll.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 92.2 this month, down from a reading of 97.8 in January, which had been a three-month high. The February reading was the lowest since confidence stood at 91.0 in July.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions weakened due to less favorable views about business conditions and the labor market.

Home Depot Wraps Up Big Year With Another Big Quarter

ATLANTA (AP) – Home Depot reported better-than-expected profit and revenue in the fourth quarter and comparable-store sales jumped as the company continues to ride a sustained recovery in the housing market.

The nation’s largest home improvement retailer boosted its quarterly dividend by 17 percent and shares rose Tuesday on powerhouse earnings in what is typically a down season for this sector of the retail industry.

It is a good omen as tax refund and home upgrade season approaches.

Mars Recalls Candy Bars In 55 Countries

BERLIN (AP) – U.S. chocolate maker Mars said Tuesday it’s recalling candy bars and other items in 55 countries in Europe and elsewhere after plastic was found in one of its products.

Roel Govers, spokesman for Mars in the Netherlands, told The Associated Press that the recall affects 55 countries but would not provide further details, saying the company would email a news release later.