Business Briefs – January 9, 2019

Fed Minutes: Growing Risks Make Rate Hike Path Less Clear

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve officials expressed increasing worries when they met last month, as they grappled with volatile stock markets, trade tensions and uncertain global growth. The threats, they said, made the future path of interest rate hikes “less clear.” According to minutes of the Fed’s December meetings, officials believed that with inflation still muted, the central bank could afford to be “patient” about future rate hikes.

Remember Virtual Reality? Its Buzz Has Faded at CES 2019

NEW YORK (AP) – Virtual reality was poised to take over the world a few years ago, but now its buzz has faded. The culprits include overhype, clunky headsets and a lack of compelling VR software. In particular, venture-capital funding for VR software development has plummeted, falling almost 60 percent in 2018 by one estimate.

Airbus Deliveries Up, Sales Down After Challenging Year

PARIS (AP) – Airbus delivered more planes than ever to airlines around the world last year, but orders for new aircraft slumped.

In a statement Wednesday, the company said it handed over 800 planes to customers in 2018. That was up from 718 a year earlier, and just behind the 806 delivered by rival Boeing in 2018.

However, Airbus said it sold 747 aircraft last year, down from 1,109 the year before — and well below the 893 Boeing planes sold in 2018.

Most Airbus deliveries and orders were for single-aisle planes, especially its workhorse A320 family, instead of more lucrative wide-body jets.

The head of Airbus’ commercial division Guillaume Faury acknowledged “significant operational challenges” in 2018, without elaborating.

Federal Shutdown Delays Some State Road, Bridge Contracts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Uncertainty over federal funding for transportation projects amid a partial government shutdown is forcing some states to delay approving contracts for new road and bridge projects. Other states are preparing for that possibility if the shutdown continues. Transportation officials in Oklahoma this week announced plans to delay bids on 45 new highway projects worth about $137 million.

S. Korea Orders Seizure of Japan Assets Over Forced Labor

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A South Korean court says it has ordered the seizure of local assets of a Japanese company after it refused to compensate several wartime forced laborers, in an escalation of a diplomatic brawl between the Asian neighbors. Japan called the decision “extremely regrettable” and said it will push for talks with Seoul on the issue.

U.S. Officials Declare End to Outbreak From Romaine Lettuce

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. health officials are declaring an end to a food poisoning outbreak blamed on romaine lettuce from California.

From October to December, the E. coli outbreak sickened 62 people in 16 states. No one died, but 25 people were hospitalized. Illnesses were also reported in Canada.

Investigators concluded that romaine lettuce grown in central and northern California was the likely source. They found the same bacteria strain in a reservoir at a farm in Santa Barbara County.

Officials said Wednesday that no new illnesses have been reported for a month, and lettuce from the area is no longer in stores or restaurants. Romaine harvesting has since shifted to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California’s Imperial Valley.