Business Briefs – January 24, 2019

Federal Shutdown Hits Businesses Hard

WASHINGTON (AP) – From power restaurants in Washington and a belt-buckle maker in Colorado to breweries in California, businesses that count heavily on federal employees as customers are feeling the punishing effects of the government shutdown. In many cases, it’s forcing them to cut workers’ hours and buy less from suppliers — measures that could ripple through the larger U.S. economy.

European Divisions Beyond Brexit on Display in Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – Europe’s divisions are on display at the World Economic Forum as hundreds of protesters descended on the Swiss ski resort of Davos to lambast the elite attendees for caring more about their balance sheets than the state of the world. Shouting “anti-capitalista” and other chants, the gathering of socialists, environmentalists and others waved banners and signs that read “Davos Stinks” or “Let them eat money” — while braving sub-zero temperatures near the Davos train station.

Starbucks Posts Better-Than-Expected Profit in Fiscal 1Q

SEATTLE (AP) – Improved U.S. year-end sales helped Starbucks Corp. achieve better-than-expected results in its fiscal first quarter. After a disappointing year-end season in 2017, Starbucks made some changes. This past year, seasonal drinks went on sale earlier and the company removed some merchandise from the lobby to make a clearer path to gift cards.

Railroads Say Economy Still Growing at Steady Rate

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The economy appears strong to the major freight railroads that haul the products and raw materials companies rely on, but the lingering trade disputes could derail business if they continue. Union Pacific and CSX railroads both sounded optimistic about the economy when they reported hauling 3 percent more carloads of freight in the fourth quarter.

Will Robots Take Your Job? Quarter of U.S. Workers at Risk

Fully a quarter of U.S. jobs are at risk of robot automation over the coming few years, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution. As artificial intelligence accelerates the automation of today’s work, workers such as chefs and others in food services, short-haul truck drivers and clerical office workers are most likely to be affected. The report states that about 36 million Americans hold jobs with tasks that can be mostly performed by machines using current technology.

Apple Cuts Jobs in Shakeup of Self-Driving Car Division

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Apple is reducing the size of its workforce assigned to driverless car technology as the company reorganizes amid weakening sales of iPhones, its biggest moneymaker.

The company acknowledged the cutbacks in a Thursday statement, without specifying the number of jobs affected. CNBC reported that more than 200 employees were dismissed from Apple’s self-driving car division, known internally as “Project Titan.”

Some of the employees who lost their jobs in the driverless car division have been reassigned to other parts of the Cupertino, California, company, according to Apple.

Despite the reductions, Apple emphasized that it’s still committed to helping build robotic cars, something it has been working on for several years.

Warren Proposes ‘Ultra-Millionaire Tax’ as Part of 2020 Bid

WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. Elizabeth Warren is proposing a so-called ultra-millionaire tax as she vies for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

According to two economists advising her presidential campaign on the plan, the tax would hit an estimated 75,000 of the wealthiest American households.

The new tax plan released Thursday by the Massachusetts Democrat would impose a new 2 percent fee annually on American households’ net worth greater than $50 million.

U.S. Average Mortgage Rates Steady; 30-Year Stays at 4.45 Pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates held steady this week for the second straight week, sticking at their lowest levels in nine months after six weeks of decline.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was unchanged from last week at 4.45 percent. Rates remain above last year’s levels, however. The key 30-year rate averaged 4.15 percent a year ago.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans held at 3.88 percent.