Business Briefs – September 19, 2016

With Economic Outlook Hazy, Fed Likely to Leave Rates Alone

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve has repeatedly signaled that it’s edging closer to resuming interest rate hikes — it just doesn’t seem to be there quite yet.

When the Fed ends its latest policy meeting Wednesday, it’s expected to leave the short-term rate it controls at the low level where it’s been for 10 months. In the view of most economists, the Fed wants more time to assess the health of the U.S. economy, the risks from overseas and the prospect that low inflation will soon reach the central bank’s 2 percent target rate.

Many think the next rate increase will come in December.

Banks Focus More on New Accounts — And the Fees They Bring

NEW YORK (AP) – When Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies before a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, it won’t be just his bank under fire, it’ll be the entire industry.

Wells Fargo is in the spotlight after its employees allegedly opened up to two million bank and credit card accounts, transferred customers’ money without telling them and more to meet lofty sales goals. But cross-selling, as it is called, is the lifeblood of the entire retail banking industry. Other banks don’t face the same allegations of fraud, but experts say the industry as a whole engages in high-pressure sales tactics.

With Some Gas Stations Dry, Pipeline Works to Send More Fuel

ATLANTA (AP) – Gas prices spiked and drivers found “out of service” bags covering pumps as the gas shortage in the South rolled into the work week, raising fears that the scattered disruptions could become more widespread.

The shortage is blamed on a pipeline rupture and leak of at least 252,000 gallons of gas in Alabama. The pipeline company has two main lines and said Monday that it is shipping “significant volumes” on the second of the two lines to mitigate the impact of the interruption on the other line.

Samsung Says It Has Found No Battery Problem in China

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Samsung Electronics said Monday that its investigation into the first report of a Galaxy Note 7 fire in China found no battery problem, reducing concerns that its smartphone crisis had expanded.

The tech giant said it was not able to investigate a second reported fire because it could not obtain that phone.

The two accounts of Galaxy Note 7 fires were widely reported by Chinese and South Korean media, raising alarms because company had already said a recall wasn’t necessary in China because the phones sold there did not have the manufacturing error that caused fires elsewhere.

Australia’s Busiest Container Port Leased for $7.3 Billion

SYDNEY (AP) – An Australian-led consortium has won a 50-year lease on the country’s busiest container port for 9.7 billion Australian dollars ($7.3 billion), officials announced Monday.

The Lonsdale consortium, which includes multinational firm Global Infrastructure Partners LLC and Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, among others, secured the lease for the Port of Melbourne in a deal expected to create thousands of jobs and boost investment in local infrastructure projects, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The lease is the latest in a series of port privatizations in Australia in recent years.

Wal-Mart Completes Purchase of Jet.Com

NEW YORK (AP) – Wal-Mart said Monday it has completed its purchase of online retailer Jet.com for $3 billion in cash plus $300 million in stock, an acquisition aimed at helping the world’s largest retailer attract younger and more affluent customers to drive online sales.

The hefty price tag shows how heavily Wal-Mart is willing to invest as it tries to increase online sales. Wal-Mart has said it will incorporate some of Jet.com’s “smart technology” that lowers prices in real times by looking for ways to cut costs. However, Wal-Mart and Jet.com will operate as separate brands.

FDA OKs 1st Muscular Dystrophy Drug; Awaits Proof It Works

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal regulators on Monday granted tentative approval to the first drug for a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

The approval comes nearly five months after the Food and Drug Administration and a panel of outside advisers panned the drug, saying there was little evidence that it helped. But regulators faced a public backlash from patients’ families, politicians and physicians who pushed for the largely unproven medication.

Sarepta Therapeutics’ Exondys 51 aims to treat a rare form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a deadly inherited disease that causes muscle weakness, loss of movement and eventually death.