Business Briefs – October 5, 2016

IMF Reduces Its Forecast for US Economic Growth This Year

WASHINGTON (AP) – The International Monetary Fund is downgrading its forecast for the U.S. economy this year and warns that political discontent threatens global growth.

The IMF on Tuesday cut its estimate for U.S. economic growth in 2016 to 1.6 percent from the 2.2 percent it had predicted in July. The American economy grew 2.6 percent in 2015.

As Demand for Cars Falters, Auto Prices Are Poised to Fall

DETROIT (AP) – While the U.S. inched its way out of the Great Recession, consumers went car shopping in droves. As sales rebounded, the price of cars and trucks rose to record highs.

Now, the price trend is set to reverse itself, partly because some buyers are unwilling or unable to pay the high prices and instead are opting for used cars.

Sales to consumers are declining, so companies are ramping up incentives. Discounts in September hit a level not seen since automakers were desperate for sales during the financial crisis in late 2008.

Google Gets Aggressive With New Phones, Other Gadgets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Google launched an aggressive challenge to consumer electronics giants like Apple and Samsung on Tuesday, introducing a new line of smartphones called Pixel and other gadgets designed to showcase a digital helper the company calls “Google Assistant.”

The new devices represent a big push by Google to make and sell its own hardware, instead of largely just supplying software for other manufacturers. At a starting price of roughly $650, the new Pixel phones are aimed at the same markets as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy flagship phones.

U.S. Probes Complaints of More F-150 Brake Failures

DETROIT (AP) – U.S. safety regulators are investigating whether a recall of Ford F-150 pickup trucks for brake failures should be expanded to more model years.

The probe covers about 282,000 pickups with 3.5-liter six-cylinder engines from 2015 and 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received 25 complaints alleging sudden brake loss in the trucks. No crashes or injuries were reported.

In May, Ford recalled about 271,000 six-cylinder F-150s from 2013 and 2014.

The safety agency says it received 10 complaints about 2015 brake failures and another 15 about the 2016 models. Investigators will decide if the 2015 and 2016 models should be added to the recall.

Toys R Us sells FAO Schwarz Brand to ThreeSixty Group

NEW YORK (AP) – Toys R Us has sold its FAO Schwarz brand to ThreeSixty Group, a company that designs and sells toys, home goods and other products.

FAO Schwarz, founded in 1862, was known for its New York toy store that was a magnet for tourists who would play a tune on the store’s floor piano or gawk at its large stuffed animals. But Toys R Us, which bought FAO Schwarz in 2009, shuttered the store last year to save money.

The company did not disclose how much it paid for FAO Schwarz.

Ericsson Cuts 3,000 Jobs in Sweden, Reduces Operations

STOCKHOLM (AP) – Ericsson said Tuesday it will cut 3,000 jobs in Sweden, or nearly 20 percent of its local workforce, and will downsize operations at several plants as part of its global plan to cut costs by 9 billion kronor ($1 billion) in 2017.

The Swedish networks company employs 115,000 people globally, of which 16,000 in Sweden, and said the layoffs are a necessary part of its transformation to meet “fast technology shifts and the digitalization of the telecom industry.”

The new demands will also create new jobs, Ericsson said, with plans to recruit 1,000 people in Sweden during the next three years.

UK Stock Market Just Shy of Record High as Pound Drops

LONDON (AP) – Britain’s main stock market fell agonizingly short of an all-time high on Tuesday amid a groundswell of optimism that exporters and multinationals will benefit from the pound’s woes in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union in June.

The pressure on the currency, particularly against the dollar where it is trading at 31-year lows, has mounted this week following comments from Prime Minister Theresa May that suggested the country could be heading for a definitive break from the European Union’s single market.