Business Briefs – February 7, 2017

GM Posted $9.4B Net Profit In 2016, But Encore May Be Tough

DETROIT (AP) – General Motors executives promised investors bigger pretax profits for 2016 and 2017. On Tuesday, the company partly delivered, reporting a 16 percent increase in last year’s pretax income. An encore could be a lot harder.

Overall auto sales are flattening in the U.S., GM’s biggest profit center, and car inventories are growing. Economic troubles linger in Europe and South America. And a new U.S. president wants to redo the North American Free Trade Agreement and could slap a border tax on imports from Mexico. All of these will make it hard for GM to beat last year’s net income of $9.4 billion.

U.S. Job Openings Remain at Mostly Healthy Level in December

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of open jobs was mostly unchanged in December from the previous month, leaving openings at a healthy level. The Labor Department says job openings were flat at 5.5 million in December.

Labor Nominee Hired Housekeeper Who Was in U.S. Illegally

WASHINGTON (AP) – Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder acknowledged Tuesday that he had employed a housekeeper who was in the U.S. illegally, putting him again at odds with President Donald Trump’s push to keep jobs in American hands. Puzder’s statement has the potential for complicating his confirmation. A spokesman says the fast food CEO remains committed to leading the Labor Department.

Puzder said in a statement that he and his wife were unaware the housekeeper was not legally permitted to work in the U.S. during the years they employed her.

“When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status,” Puzder said. “We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the State of California.”

Growth in Consumer Borrowing Slowed in December

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumers increased their borrowing in December at the slowest pace in six months, as growth in credit card usage decelerated sharply. Total borrowing rose $14.2 billion in December, smaller than November’s increase of $25.2 billion, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday.

President Trump Advisers’ Tax Credit Plan for Infrastructure Has Risks

WASHINGTON (AP) – A plan to revitalize the nation’s aging infrastructure put forward by two Trump administration economic advisers relies on a transportation financing scheme that hasn’t been tried before. Under the plan, the government would allocate $137 billion in federal tax credits for private investors who underwrite infrastructure projects. Experts warn the plan could backfire by rewarding investors in projects that would have been built even without tax credits.

German Official Rebuts Trump Administration Currency Claim

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – The head of Germany’s central bank has rejected a Trump administration official’s statement that German companies have benefited from an artificially cheap currency. Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann says that German firms are successful exporters “because they are well positioned in world markets and convince people with innovated products.”