Business Briefs – January 19, 2017

U.S. Jobless Claims Hit Lowest Level in More Than 43 Years

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in more than 43 years, another sign that most American workers enjoy job security.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 234,000 Americans sought jobless aid, a drop of 15,000 from the previous week and the lowest since November 1973. The four-week average, which is less volatile, fell by 10,250 to 246,750, also the lowest since November 1973. The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits was 2.05 million, down 7.7 percent from a year earlier.

U.S. Ends Probe of Tesla Fatal Crash Without Seeking Recall

WASHINGTON (AP) – Tesla Motors Inc. won’t face a recall or fine as a result of a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system, but U.S. safety regulators are warning auto manufacturers and drivers not to treat semiautonomous cars as if they were fully self-driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it found that the system had no safety defects at the time of the May 7 crash in Florida, and that it was primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions rather than other crash scenarios.

Average U.S. 30-Year Mortgage Rate Falls to 4.09 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates marked their third week of declines this week, after snapping a nine-week run of increases.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans fell to an average 4.09 percent from 4.12 percent last week. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.81 percent.

Union Pacific Cost Cuts Offset Declining Shipments in 4Q

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Union Pacific’s fourth-quarter profit grew 2 percent as cost reductions offset a 3 percent decline in shipments.

Net income reached $1.14 billion, or $1.39 per share, well above the per-share earnings of $1.34 that Wall Street was looking for, according to Zacks Investment Research. Revenue declined 1 percent to $5.17 billion, but that was also better than the $5.14 billion analysts expected.

The railroad reduced its expenses 3 percent to $3.2 billion in the quarter in response to the slower shipping volume.

Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz said higher energy prices, favorable agricultural markets and improving consumer confidence all suggest railroad shipping volumes will grow this year.

American Express Misses 4Q Profit Forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) – American Express Co. on Thursday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $825 million, or 88 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were 91 cents per share.

The results missed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 98 cents per share.

The credit card issuer and global payments company posted revenue of $8.02 billion in the period, exceeding market forecasts of $7.94 billion.

Over 652K Vehicles Involved in Latest Takata Air Bag Recall

DETROIT (AP) – Thirteen automakers are recalling more than 652,000 vehicles in the U.S. in the latest round of dangerous Takata air bag inflator recalls.

Automakers with recalls posted Thursday are Audi, Nissan, Jaguar-Land Rover, Subaru, Daimler Vans, Tesla, Mitsubishi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mazda, McLaren and Karma. All the recalls are to replace front passenger inflators.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. Sixteen people have died worldwide and more than 180 have been hurt due to the problem.

Western Union to Pay $586 Million for Fraud Victims

NEW YORK (AP) – Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to the U.S. government to pay back victims of fraud that the money transfer company failed to protect.

The government says that Western Union did not have a strong enough anti-fraud program, allowing scammers to use its money transfer services to rip off customers.

As part of the agreement, Western Union has also agreed to implement and maintain an anti-fraud program and properly train its staff to identify potential fraud.