Business Briefs – June 15, 2016

Leaving Rates Alone, Fed Sees Ultra-Slow Pace of Hikes Ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it foresees an exceedingly slow pace of interest rate hikes — and is in no hurry to resume them.

In explaining its decision to keep interest rates unchanged, the Fed expressed concern about a recent slump in U.S. job growth and the potential consequences of Britain’s upcoming vote on whether to leave the European Union.

The Fed suggested in a statement that it needs a clearer economic picture before resuming the rate hikes it began in December.

Home Depot: U.S. Credit Card Firms Slow to Upgrade Security

ATLANTA (AP) – Visa and MasterCard are using security measures prone to fraud, putting retailers and customers at risk of thieves, The Home Depot Inc. says in a new federal lawsuit.

It’s the latest large retailer to raise the security concerns. Last month, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sued Visa Inc. over similar issues.

Home Depot says new payment cards with “chip” technology remain less secure in the United States than cards used in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Even with chips, U.S. cards still rely on customers’ hand-written signatures for verification, rather than more secure PINs, Home Depot maintains.

Analysts Looking to Bookmakers to Predict U.K. Vote

LONDON (AP) – To gauge whether Britain will vote to leave the European Union, the smart money is looking to the bookies.

After polls missed badly in measuring sentiment before some of Britain’s most recent votes, bookies’ odds have become the point of reference for anyone trying to guess the outcome of the June 23 referendum on the country’s EU membership.

And it’s not just your average Joe plunking down a bill at the local betting shop. Big investors including Morgan Stanley, BlackRock and UBS have all turned to the gamblers for guidance on this seismic vote.

Report: New Evidence of Rising Obamacare Premiums

WASHINGTON (AP) – Premiums for popular low-cost medical plans under the federal health care law are expected to go up an average of 11 percent next year, said a study that reinforced reports of sharp increases around the country.

For consumers, the impact will depend on whether they get government subsidies for their premiums, as well as on their own willingness to switch plans to keep the increases more manageable, said the analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The full picture on 2017 premiums will emerge later this summer.

Foreign Ownership of U.S. Debt Falls for First Time in 6 Months

WASHINGTON (AP) – Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities slipped for the first time in six months, led by declines in Ireland and the Cayman Islands, the third and fourth largest owners of U.S. debt.

The Treasury Department says total foreign holdings declined 0.7 percent to $6.24 trillion.

The Cayman Islands, a Caribbean banking center, reduced its holdings 2.5 percent to $258.5 billion, while Ireland cut back 2.4 percent to $257.9 billion.

China, the largest overseas owner of U.S. debt, also reduced its holdings by a slight 0.1 percent, to $1.24 trillion. Japan, the second largest, raised its ownership 0.5 percent to $1.14 trillion.