Business Briefs – May 5, 2016

Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgages Falls to 3.61 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, following the Federal Reserve’s decision not to raise its benchmark interest rate.

The decline put long-term mortgage rates near their low levels for the year, offering an inducement to prospective home buyers during the spring buying season.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.61 percent from 3.66 percent last week. It’s far below its level a year ago of 3.80 percent.

Some Howl Over Alibaba’s Place In Anti-Counterfeiting Group

SHANGHAI (AP) — The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition’s decision to welcome e-commerce giant Alibaba as a new member isn’t sitting well with some. It so incensed the U.S. luxury brand Michael Kors that it severed its longstanding connection with the industry group.

Michael Kors employees will not attend IACC events as long as Alibaba is a member, and asked the brand’s name be scrubbed from all IACC materials.

It offers a rare glimpse of the deep loathing one of China’s most successful global companies and attention to Alibaba’s role in the global counterfeiting industry.

Kellogg’s Sales Decline As Cereals Remain Sluggish

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Kellogg’s profit declined in the first quarter as the maker of Frosted Flakes and Pop Tarts continued to fight sluggish cereal sales.

The company said sales slipped 1.2 percent for its flagship U.S. Morning Foods segment, which includes cereals such as Froot Loops, Mini Wheats and Raisin Bran. The dip reflects the ongoing struggles as Americans increasingly reach for alternatives at breakfast.

Still, Kellogg CEO John Bryant expressed confidence that the company would end the year with positive cereal sales. That would mark the first time Kellogg’s U.S. cereal sales were positive since 2012.

Bitcoin’s Self-Proclaimed Founder Backtracks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The man who claimed to be the founder of bitcoin appears to be stepping back into the shadows, leaving numerous questions in his wake.

Three days after Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright came forward as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the unknown creator of the digital currency bitcoin, wrote in a blog post that he does not “have the courage” to publish additional proof, as he promised Wednesday, that he is the elusive creator of the internet currency.

Wal-Mart Brings Back Greeters

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s largest retailer said this week that it’s bringing back door greeters to a majority of its 5,000 stores by mid-summer to improve customer service. For stores which have been selected as higher risks for thefts, Wal-Mart will position a “customer host,” who will not only greet customers but also check receipts to prevent theft. The rollout follows a successful pilot program.

Four years ago, Wal-Mart decided to remove the workers at the front of the store.

Zimbabweans Hunt for U.S. Cash as Shortages Bite

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Severe shortages of U.S. dollars that are used as local currency in Zimbabwe have forced many residents to become cash hunter-gatherers.

This week, Zimbabwe’s central bank imposed measures in an attempt to ease the cash crunch, which reflects the country’s dire economic situation. The measures include reducing the amount of money that travelers can take outside the country and limiting daily cash withdrawals.

Long lines are frequent outside banks, where tellers limit daily withdrawals to $200, forcing people who need larger amounts to make repeat visits.