Business Briefs – January 13, 2019

How’s the U.S. Economy Doing? Shutdown Makes It Harder to Say

WASHINGTON (AP) – Government data on home construction and retail sales won’t be released next week because staffers who compile those reports have been furloughed. The retail sales report provides a snapshot of consumer spending, which fuels more than two-thirds of the economy. With Macy’s and Kohl’s having said their end-of-the year sales were weaker than expected, a broader gauge of retail spending would have provided important clarity.

GM Raises 2018 Forecast, Predicts Stronger 2019 Earnings

DETROIT (AP) – General Motors strengthened its pretax profit estimate for 2018 and predicted even stronger performance for 2019 as it executives made a presentation to investors on Friday. The rosy forecast comes despite declining sales for the company in the U.S. and slowing sales in China. The company predicts that its 2018 pretax profits will be higher than the $5.80 to $6.20 range it forecast in the third quarter. For 2019, it expects that to increase to $6.50 to $7.

Cheaper Gas Sends U.S. Consumer Prices Down 0.1 Pct

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumer prices slipped 0.1 percent last month, pulled down by sharply lower gas prices, cheaper air fares, used cars, and mobile phone plans. The Labor Department said the consumer price index rose just 1.9 percent in December from a year earlier, the first time it has fallen below 2 percent since August 2017.

U.S. Aviation System Is Starting To Show Strains From Shutdown

MIAMI (AP) – The partial government shutdown is starting to strain the national aviation system, with unpaid security screeners staying home, air-traffic controllers suing the government and safety inspectors off the job. Miami International Airport will close one of its concourses most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make sure the TSA can adequately staff the remaining security checkpoints. The national air traffic controllers union sued the government, claiming its members are illegally being denied pay.

Fed Officials Feared Adverse Market Reaction in 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve officials were worried about an adverse market reaction when they made their first tentative moves in 2013 to pull back on the massive support they had been providing to help the economy recover from the Great Recession. Transcripts of their discussions released Friday show that then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues devoted considerable time debating the wording of the statement.

Federal Work at Superfund Sites Suspended During Shutdown

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – As President Donald Trump and Congress battle over Trump’s demand for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the 3-week-old partial government shutdown has stopped federal work on Superfund sites except for cases in which the administration deems there’s “an imminent threat” to human life or property. The freezing of federal work has deepened mistrust and doubts among some people living in and around the nation’s most toxic sites. Residents say the shutdown is “just adding more fuel to the fire.”

Mnuchin: Next Round of Trade Talks This Month

WASHINGTON (AP) – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the next round of trade negotiations with China will likely occur later this month in Washington. Mnuchin told reporters that Vice Premier Liu He was expected to lead a delegation to Washington “later in the month.”