Business Briefs – February 25, 2016

 No, Smartphones Aren’t That Innovative: Why Pay Is Lagging

WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s a dreary thought but one economist argues America’s most innovative days are gone and a lack of truly groundbreaking inventions has imposed a long-term drag on economic growth — and with it the prospect of meaningful pay raises for most of us.

In a new book, Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, says innovations of the past raised wages and economic growth by increasing what economists call productivity. Yet in the past decade, wages, growth and productivity have all languished.

 Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgage Falls to 3.62 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week as anxiety over the global economy persisted. Long-term rates resumed their decline after being unchanged last week following six straight weeks of easing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.62 percent from 3.65 percent last week. That puts it well below the 3.80 percent it marked a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.93 percent from 2.95 percent last week.

Sears 4Q Loss Widens After Limping Through Year-End Season

NEW YORK (AP) – Sears’ fourth-quarter loss widened despite deep cost cuts and, after the struggling retailer limped through the crucial year-end shopping season, it promised to tighten spending even more this year.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert pointed to a warm winter that drove down sales for seasonal goods and brutal competition with other retailers, almost all of whom were forced into clear inventory by marking down prices drastically.

The company also announced that a major shareholder in the company would take a seat on the board.

Gap’s Shares Fall in Late Trading On Weak Profit Outlook

NEW YORK (AP) – Gap’s shares fell in after-hours trading Thursday after the clothing chain offered a weak profit outlook.

The outlook came as the San Francisco-based chain reported a 33 percent drop in fourth-quarter profits due to the negative impact of strong U.S. dollar and strategic moves to turn around its ailing business.

The results show the continued challenges that CEO Art Peck, who took over the helm a year ago, faces in turning around the business.

Halliburton to Cut Another 5,000 Jobs Amid Oil Slump

HOUSTON (AP) – Halliburton Co., which provides well-drilling services for oil companies, is cutting 5,000 more jobs as the industry continues to struggle with slumping oil prices.

A company spokeswoman said Thursday that the latest cuts will amount to about 8 percent of the Houston-based company’s global workforce.

Oil prices have tumbled about 70 percent since peaking above $100 a barrel in mid-2014. That has led to less drilling activity and to widespread layoffs in the oil fields. Halliburton rival Schlumberger cut 10,000 jobs in the fourth quarter.

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