Business Briefs – February 29, 2016

Buffett Says U.S. Economy Weaker Than He Expected but Growing

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Billionaire Warren Buffett said the U.S. economy appears weaker than he thought it would be as recently as last fall, but that doesn’t change his optimistic long-term view of the country’s prospects.

Buffett appeared on CNBC Monday and addressed a variety of topics after releasing his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend. The more than 90 companies owned by Berkshire give Buffett a complex and detailed view of how the economy is affecting different U.S. sectors.

The economy continues growing slowly, and Buffett is confident the U.S. economy will improve over time.

 Valeant Shares Slide Despite CEO’s Return After Long Illness

Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals tanked Monday, amid ongoing turmoil over it delayed financial results and leader’s health.

Even news Sunday that CEO Michael Pearson is returning immediately after nine weeks recovering from pneumonia and unspecified complications failed to buoy Valeant shares.

The shares are trading at a fraction of their high last August, which was just before its practice of buying rights to old drugs and jacking up the prices came under congressional scrutiny. A few months later, its questionable relationship with a drug distributor raised concerns about the accuracy of its financial reporting.

 AARP: Price Hikes Doubled Average Drug Price Over 7 Years

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The average cost for a year’s supply of a prescription drug doubled in just seven years to more than $11,000 — about three-quarters of the average annual Social Security benefit.

That’s according to the latest study of price trends for widely-used drugs conducted by AARP, the senior citizens advocacy group. It finds prices for existing drugs, driven entirely by manufacturer price hikes, have been rising more quickly since 2007 and likely will continue to do so.

AARP says its research shows drugmaker price hikes imposed one or more times a year are making prescription medicines increasingly unaffordable for retirees and many other patients.

Report: Cheap Natural Gas Leads To More Plants and Pollution

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The nation’s boom in cheap natural gas — often viewed as a clean energy source — is spawning a wave of petrochemical plants that, if built, will emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases, an environmental watchdog group warned in a report Monday.

The Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project said hydraulic fracturing of shale rock formations and other advances, such as horizontal drilling, have made natural gas cheap and plentiful — so plentiful that the United States has begun exporting gas.

The watchdog nonprofit is led by Eric Schaeffer, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Enforcement.

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