Business Highlights

Walmart to spread out deals to avoid Black Friday crowds

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is spreading out its traditional one-day Black Friday deals over three weekends in November in an effort to reduce crowds in its stores during a pandemic. The company’s plans announced Wednesday offer the first glimpse from a major retailer of what a reinvented Black Friday will look like during a pandemic. Macy’s and other chains have said that Black Friday deals will be spread out and they will encourage more online shopping, but none have given specific details. The Arkansas-based discounter will kick off the deals online Nov. 4, with new deals in stores on Nov. 7.

United loses $1.8 billion as pandemic devastates industry

United Airlines financial hole grew deeper over the summer as a modest recovery in air travel slowed down, pushing the carrier to a loss of $1.84 billion in the typically strong third quarter. The airline said Wednesday that revenue plummeted 78% from a year earlier. The loss was worse than analysts had expected. The results reinforced the damage that the pandemic is doing to a major industry. Seven months into the worst of the coronavirus impact in the U.S., air travel remains down 65% from a year ago. The decline in lucrative business travel is even deeper.

G-20 suspends poor nations’ debt payments for 6 more months

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Group of 20 nations, representing the world’s biggest economies, agreed Wednesday to extend the suspension of poor countries’ debt payments by an additional six months to support the most vulnerable countries in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The suspension of $14 billion in debt payments had been due to expire at the end of the year. Wednesday’s decision gives developing nations until the end of June 2021 to focus spending on health care and emergency stimulus programs rather than debt repayments.

Bank profits remain resilient despite lingering pandemic

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America saw their profits partly recover from the depths of the coronavirus-caused recession earlier this year, mostly because the banks see the U.S. economy improving and are setting aside less money to cover potentially bad loans. The health of the banking sector is a proxy for the U.S. economy, since their balance sheets rise or fall depending on whether borrowers are repaying their debts. Trillions of dollars of stimulus and reopening economies have helped partly lift the U.S. economy out of its historic contraction, which in turn has kept banks from having to write down or write off loans.

UnitedHealth tops profit forecast, hikes outlook

UnitedHealth Group beat third-quarter forecasts, and the nation’s largest health insurer finally hiked its 2020 earnings outlook after holding off while trying to sort out COVID-19′s impact. Health insurers have approached 2020 forecasts cautiously, even though many reaped huge profits in the first half as the spreading pandemic kept people home and out of the health care system. UnitedHealth said Wednesday that both care patterns and prescription volumes approached normal levels in its recently completed quarter. The company announced a new 2020 forecast range that largely exceeds expectations but told analysts to expect a conservative approach to 2021.

Brazil meatpacker fined for bribes that fueled US expansion

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — An owner of the world’s largest meatpacker has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to paying nearly $150 million in bribes for over a decade to high-level government officials in Brazil. Sao Paulo-based J&F Investimentos made the plea in a federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday. As part of the settlement agreement, it must pay fines of $256 million to U.S. and Brazilian authorities. J&F’s legal counsel told the court that bribes paid between 2005 and 2017 helped secure J&F funding from the Brazilian government that was used in part to purchase assets in the U.S. Companies controlled by J&F employ more than 250,000 people in 190 countries.

US wholesale prices up 0.4% in September as food costs surge

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale prices jumped 0.4% in September as food costs rose by the largest amount since May. The Labor Department said Wednesday that the September increase in its producer price index, which measures inflation before it reaches the consumer, followed a 0.3% rise in August and a 0.6% surge in July which had been the biggest monthly gain since late 2018. The 0.4% September rise was bigger than economists had been expecting and reflected a 1.2% increase in food costs, the sharpest rise since a 5.6% spike in May as coronavirus-related shutdowns at food processing plants triggered shortages. For September energy prices fell for a second month, dropping 0.3% after a 0.1% dip in August.

US Senate high stakes spur astronomical spending in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Political groups fighting for control of the U.S. Senate have poured more than $118 million into the contest between Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and Republican incumbent Steve Daines. It’s a record shattering figure for the sparsely-populated state and dwarfs spending on a per-voter basis in all other Senate battleground states. The cash deluge comes amid growing Republican worries they could lose control of the chamber. Democrats are trying to reverse a years-long GOP surge in Montana that included President Donald Trump winning the state by more than 20 percentage points in 2016.

Extra safety scrutiny planned as virus vaccine worries grow

Facing public skepticism about rushed COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. health officials are planning an extra layer of safety scrutiny for the first people vaccinated when shots become available. A new poll shows a quarter of Americans say they wouldn’t get vaccinated, a slight increase since spring. The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found only 46% of Americans want the vaccine and 29% aren’t sure. In addition to rigorous final testing, officials plan repeated check-ins via text message to see how early vaccine recipients are feeling. Some states are planning their own safety reviews.

California braces for renewed fire threat from windy weather

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dry, windy weather is posing an extreme wildfire risk in Northern California, where massive blazes already have destroyed hundreds of homes and killed or injured dozens of people. The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for extremely dangerous fire conditions from 5 a.m. Wednesday through Friday morning. With bone-dry humidity and wind gusts possibly hitting 55 mph, Pacific Gas & Electric warned that it may cut power Wednesday evening to as many as 54,000 customers in 24 counties. The nation’s largest utility is expected to make a decision on whether to implement preemptive electricity cuts to prevent fires from being started.

Pilgrim’s Pride reaches plea deal on chicken price-fixing

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government over charges of price-fixing in the chicken industry. If a federal judge approves the agreement, Pilgrim’s Pride would pay a fine of $110.5 million as a penalty for restraining competition. In exchange, the U.S. Department of Justice would not bring further charges against Pilgrim’s Pride or recommend a monitor or any probationary period. Pilgrim’s Pride had been scheduled to face price-fixing charges in federal court Thursday. The company’s former president and CEO and former vice president were indicted separately on price-fixing charges in June.

The S&P fell 23.26 points, or 0.7%, to 3,488.67. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 165.81 points, or 0.6%, to 28.514. The Nasdaq composite shed 95.17 points, or 0.8%, to 11,768.73. The Russell 2000 of smaller-company stocks fell 15.2 points, or 0.9%, to 1,621.65.

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