Business Briefs – December 7, 2016

Innovation or Monopoly? Panel Looks at AT&T-Time Warner Deal

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senators questioning the logic of a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner turned their focus to the how the $85.4 billion mega-deal would affect Americans.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson assured the members of a Senate antitrust panel Wednesday that it will bring the consumers better price options than what they have today. Still after hours of questioning, the skepticism of some senators seemed to deepen over what would be one of the largest media mergers ever.

ECB Seen Expanding Stimulus Amid Uncertainties

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – Faced with weak growth and inflation across the 19-country eurozone, the European Central Bank is expected to extend its stimulus program for at least another six months when it concludes its policy meeting Thursday.

Last month’s victory by Donald Trump in the U.S. election and the uncertainty generated by the recent Italian referendum, which prompted Premier Matteo Renzi to offer his resignation, will make the decision all the more straightforward, analysts say.

Consumers’ Borrowing Slowed Down in October

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumers increased their borrowing in October at the slowest pace in four months as growth in credit card debt and the category that covers auto loans and student loans slowed.

Total borrowing rose $16 billion, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. The October increase was the smallest since June.

Revolving credit, which covers credit cards, increased $2.3 billion in October. The non-revolving category, which covers auto loans and student loans, rose $13.7 billion in October.

Economists watch borrowing trends to gauge how consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, will fare.

Starbucks to Boost Number of Shops, Add More Food to Menu

NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks plans to open 12,000 new locations within five years to boost its number of coffee shops worldwide by almost 50 percent.

The Seattle-based chain is also adding more food to its menu in 2017 and soon customers will be able to talk to the Starbucks app to order a latte or cookie instead of tapping their smartphones.

Starbucks outlined its five-year growth plans to investors on Wednesday, about a week after it announced that Howard Schultz, who helped build the brand, would step down as CEO in April.

Venezuela Unveils 6 New Bills Amid Galloping Inflation

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuela has unveiled six new bills set to go into circulation next week.

Central Bank President Nelson Merentes said Tuesday the new higher-denomination bills would make commercial transactions easier in the country with the world’s highest inflation. The six new bills will range from 500 to 20,000 Bolivars.

Triple-digit inflation and a currency meltdown have left the country’s largest note worth just around 2 U.S. cents on the black market. Currently the largest-denominated bill is 100 bolivars, not even enough to buy a piece of hard candy at a street kiosk.