Business Briefs – September 12, 2016

Study Details Sugar Industry Attempt to Shape Science

NEW YORK (AP) – The sugar industry began funding research that cast doubt on sugar’s role in heart disease — in part by pointing the finger at fat — as early as the 1960s, according to an analysis of newly uncovered documents.

The analysis published Monday is based on correspondence between a sugar trade group and researchers at Harvard University, and is the latest example showing how food and beverage makers attempt to shape public understanding of nutrition.

In 1964, the group now known as the Sugar Association internally discussed a campaign to address “negative attitudes toward sugar” after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease, according to documents dug up from public archives. The following year the group approved “Project 226,” which entailed paying Harvard researchers today’s equivalent of $48,900 for an article reviewing the scientific literature, supplying materials they wanted reviewed, and receiving drafts of the article.

The resulting article published in 1967 concluded there was “no doubt” that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. The researchers overstated the consistency of the literature on fat and cholesterol, while downplaying studies on sugar, according to the analysis.

U.S. Stocks Leap as Investors Hope for Steady Interest Rates

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks surged Monday after a Federal Reserve official said the central bank shouldn’t raise interest rates too soon, which came as a big relief to investors. After a market nosedive on Friday, investors bought safe investments like household goods makers and phone companies. Technology companies also jumped.

Stocks started the day lower following Friday’s drop, but they soon rallied. Investors were pleased when Lael Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve board, said the Fed shouldn’t raise interest rates quickly because that could hurt the economy. The biggest gains went to safe investments that pay big dividends, as they are more enticing to investors when interest rates and bond yields are low.

Stocks had plunged Friday following remarks from another Fed official that suggested interest rates could go up next week.

Economists: Growth Expected For at Least 2 More Years

Business economists still think the economy will continue to grow for the next two years, but they again have scaled back their expectations for just how much.

The median estimate from economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics calls for gross domestic product growth of 1.5 percent this year, down from the 1.8 percent they forecast in June. The outlook for next year calls for 2.3 percent growth.

In addition, 81 percent of those surveyed said they don’t expect the U.S. economy to peak until at least 2018.

Business Owners Have Mixed View of Economy

Small business owners aren’t very upbeat about the economy, but they’re also not particularly pessimistic. That’s the finding of a semiannual survey of owners taken in July and August and released last week by the advocacy group National Small Business Association.

Owners’ view of the economy has changed little from a similar survey taken in December. When asked to compare the economy now versus a year ago, 32 percent said it was improved, the same number as in December. A third said it was worse, up slightly from 29 percent. And 35 percent described the economy as about the same, down from 39 percent.

In its analysis, the NSBA said the negativity of the presidential election campaign likely is the biggest contributor to owners’ lack of enthusiasm about the economy. The NSBA noted that only 44 percent of owners said the economy is better off than it was five years ago, although the economy is actually greatly improved since 2011.

Potash, Agrium to Combine, Creating Huge Crop Company

NEW YORK (AP) — Potash Corp. and Agrium said Monday that they are combining to create the world’s largest crop nutrient company.

The Canadian companies both sell fertilizers and nutrients to farmers that help them grow their crops.

The new company will have 20,000 employees, a market value of $36 billion and annual revenue of $20.6 billion, the companies said.

Potash shareholders will own about 52 percent of the new company and Agrium shareholders will own about 48 percent.