Business Briefs – January 1, 2017

U.S. Stocks Notched Big Gains in 2016 Despite an Early Stumble

NEW YORK (AP) – In a year with no shortage of surprises and stomach-churning turns in the market, stock investors can feel pretty good about 2016.

Wall Street repeatedly bounced back from steep slumps, including the worst start to any year for stocks, the second correction for the market in five months and investor fears of a global slowdown. It also weathered plummeting oil prices and the surprising outcomes of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential election win.

A turnaround in company earnings growth, more stable oil prices, a steadily improving U.S. economy and job market all helped keep the market on an upward trajectory. More recently, investor optimism that the Republican election sweep will usher in a bevy of business-friendly policies spurred the market to new heights.

Another Safer Year in Coal Mining With Record-Low 9 Deaths

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – The nation’s coal mines are nearing a new low mark for on-the-job deaths for the third year in a row and have a chance to keep the number of fatal accidents in single digits for the first time.

With just a day left in 2016, U.S. coal mines recorded nine deaths. West Virginia had four. Kentucky had two deaths and there was one each in Alabama, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The low numbers are attributed to far fewer coal mining jobs and tougher enforcement of mining safety rules.

Benefits of Indian Cash Overhaul Elusive as Deadline Passes

NEW DELHI (AP) – Fifty days ago, India yanked most of its currency from circulation without warning, jolting the economy and leaving most citizens scrambling for cash. As the deadline for exchanging the devalued 500- and 1,000-rupee notes for new ones hit on Friday, many Indians were still stuck waiting in long bank lines.

Empty ATMs and ever-changing rules prevented people from withdrawing money, and many small, cash-reliant businesses such as neighborhood grocery stores suffered huge losses or went under.

Despite those problems, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his Nov. 8 demonetization decree succeeded in uncovering tax evasion and cracking down on graft. The Indian government is urging patience, insisting it’s playing a long game that will eventually modernize Indian society and benefit the poor.

New Wood Technology May Offer Hope for Struggling Timber

RIDDLE, Ore. (AP) – D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. is one of two U.S. timber mills making a new wood product that’s the buzz of the construction industry. It’s called cross-laminated timber, or CLT, and it’s made like it sounds: rafts of 2-by-4 beams aligned in perpendicular layers, then glued — or laminated — together like a giant sandwich.

The resulting panels are lighter and less energy-intensive than concrete and steel, much faster to assemble on-site than regular timber and strong enough to build even the tallest skyscrapers, proponents say.

From Maine to Arkansas to the Pacific Northwest, the material is sparking interest among architects, engineers and researchers. Many say it could infuse struggling forest communities like Riddle with new economic growth while reducing the carbon footprint of urban construction with a renewable building material.

China to Ease Curbs on Foreign Investment After Complaints

BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese government said on Friday it will ease restrictions on foreign investment in sectors ranging from banking and internet services to rail equipment and motorcycles, in response to mounting complaints from foreign business groups and governments.

An official with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planning agency, said service sectors such as accounting and auditing, architectural design and ratings services will be open to foreign investment.

China’s Manufacturing Expands For 5th Consecutive Month

BEIJING (AP) – Activity at China’s factories slowed in December but still represented the fifth consecutive month of expansion in the latest sign that the world’s No. 2 economy is stabilizing.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index by the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing was 51.4 in December, the second highest level of 2016. The highest reading was November’s 51.7 — the first time the index had hit that level since July 2014.

December’s figure climbed from 49.7 a year earlier.

The index is based on a 100-point scale with the 50-point mark separating expansion from contraction.