Business Briefs – December 17, 2017

New York Manufacturing Grows At Slightly Slower Pace

WASHINGTON (AP) – Factories in New York state grew more slowly this month as shipments rose and new orders slipped.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Friday that its Empire State Manufacturing index declined to 18 in December from 19.4 last month. The index is down from a three-year high of 30.2 last month. Still, any reading over zero signals growth. The index is watched closely by economists because it provides a first look at the health of U.S. manufacturing each month.

A measure of shipments increased at a faster pace in December, while a gauge of new orders rose at a slightly slower pace. Hiring slipped but remained positive.

U.S. factories are benefiting from solid global growth and a cheaper dollar, which makes U.S. goods less expensive overseas. Those trends have lifted exports of manufactured goods.

As Bitcoin, Other Currencies Soar, Regulators Urge Caution

NEW YORK (AP) – The public’s interest in all things bitcoin and efforts by entrepreneurs to fund their businesses with digital currencies is starting to draw more attention from regulators.

The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission this week warned investors on the risks of investing in largely-unregulated digital currencies. And another federal agency is now proposing to regulate bitcoin trading like other regulated commodities such as wheat, oil, gold and silver.

Just this month, the SEC halted two attempts to raise money through what’s known as an initial coin offering. Legal experts believe this signals that a crackdown on sketchy offerings is coming.

“The SEC has given so many warnings now that people should know they are on notice,” said Joshua Klayman, a lawyer with the firm Morrison & Foerster who specializes in legal issues related to digital currencies.

Lithium Battery Maker to Employ Hundreds in Kentucky Plant

(AP) – A California-based battery maker, EnerBlu Inc., is moving its headquarters to Lexington, Kentucky, and plans to employ 875 workers to make lithium batteries in the state’s Appalachian region, where the coal industry’s decline has depressed the economy. Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers were among the Kentucky leaders gathering in Pikeville to cheer Friday’s announcement. The state approved up to $30 million in incentives to attract the investment of more than $400 million.

Calendar Quirk, Amazon, Put Pressure on Retailers to Deliver

NEW YORK (AP) – With Dec 25 on a Monday, most retailers have one less day to get packages delivered on time. It’s especially important that they hit the mark after some notable missteps with orders earlier in the season, and because Amazon has the advantage of delivering on Sundays. And after promoting the convenience of buying online with store pickup, retailers are also trying to satisfy lots of customers coming in to collect their orders.

EU Sees New ‘Dramatically Difficult’ Phase in Brexit Talks

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union has cleared the way for Brexit talks with Britain to move onto the second stage but warned that the discussions on trade and other matters relating to their future relationship will be “dramatically difficult.” The 27 leaders authorized the move with little fanfare on Friday, almost nine months after Britain triggered the two-year mechanism by which it will leave the bloc.

Trump Reconsiders Rules Protecting Miners From Black Lung

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Federal mining regulators are reconsidering regulations intended to protect miners from breathing coal and rock dust, the cause of black lung disease. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has requested public comments on whether standards “could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome by accommodating advances in technology, innovative techniques, or less costly methods.”