Business Highlights

Boeing Max cleared for takeoff, 2 years after deadly crashes

After nearly two years and a pair of deadly crashes, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is clearing Boeing’s 737 Max for flight. The nation’s air safety agency announced the move early Wednesday, saying it was done after a comprehensive and methodical 20-month review process. Regulators around the world grounded the Max in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet. That happened less than five months after another Max flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members on both planes were killed. The planes won’t return to the skies for a while. The FAA says it must approve pilot training changes.


Pfizer: COVID-19 shot 95% effective, seeking clearance soon

Pfizer says new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective. The company said Wednesday results also show it appears safe and protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. It’s the final data needed to seek emergency use of limited shot supplies even as the catastrophic outbreak worsens across the globe. Wednesday’s announcement comes just a week after it first revealed promising preliminary results. Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.


Stocks give up early gains and end lower on Wall Street

An afternoon slump left stock indexes broadly lower on Wall Street, erasing early gains, as traders worried anew about the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. The S&P 500 lost 1.2%. It was up 0.3% in morning trading and small-company stocks were headed for another record high after Pfizer and BioNTech reported updated data suggesting their potential COVID-19 vaccine may be 95% effective. Major indexes turned lower in afternoon trading, and the losses accelerated after New York City said it would close its public schools to in-person learning again as infections continue to rise there.


Global luxury sales forecast to plunge 23% due to pandemic

MILAN (AP) — A study shows that sales of luxury apparel, jewelry and beauty products are set to plunge by nearly a quarter this year as the pandemic wipes out more than six years of growth. The report published Wednesday by the Bain consultancy notes that the slide is narrower than the 35% collapse forecast in the spring. That is thanks largely to a market recovery in China, which is generating nearly one third of all sales. For 2020, the sector is expected to generate 217 billion euros in revenues, down 64 billion euros from 2019.


Apple to cut app store fees as legal scrutiny intensifies

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services. The concession announced Wednesday will lower Apple’s commissions for in-app subscriptions and other purchases from 30% of the sale 15%, effective Jan. 1. But the discount will only apply to developers with app store revenue up to $1 million annually. That threshold excludes the makers of some of the most popular apps downloaded on iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices.


Norwegian Air seeks bankruptcy protection, to restructure

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle is seeking restructuring and bankruptcy protection in Ireland, where its fleet is held. It said the move was “in the interest of its stakeholders” as the pandemic has caused a near-total halt to global travel. The Oslo-based company this month said it was facing a “very uncertain” future after the Norwegian government turned down its request for additional financial support to survive the coronavirus crisis. Norwegian Air had been struggling even before the pandemic and as flights have been grounded it has made deep job cuts.


Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top beauty brands

SUMATRA, Indonesia (AP) — On vast plantations across Indonesia and Malaysia, an Associated Press investigation has found that women are burdened with some of the most dangerous duties in the production of palm oil, which is contained in almost three out of every four personal care products. Some of the women are sexually harassed and raped. They push wheelbarrows with punishing loads and haul bags of fertilizer so heavy that, over time, their wombs sometimes collapse. They also spray toxic chemicals with little or no protective gear. Using the latest company data and U.S. Customs records, the AP was able to link the abuse to the supply chains of giant Western beauty brands that tout their commitment to sustainability and human rights.


Home construction up 4.9% in October to 1.53 million

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Home construction rose 4.9% in October as home building remains as one of the bright spots of the economy. The increase pushed home construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million homes and apartments and followed a more modest gain of 1.9% in September. Building permits, a good barometer of future activity, remained at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.55 million annualized units, effectively unchanged from September. The figure remains up 2.8% from a year earlier, showing how strong the housing market was over the summer despite the pandemic.


Conservation groups sue US to halt oil project in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Conservation groups are suing the Trump administration to halt the approval of a development plan for a ConocoPhillips oil project in Alaska. The groups say officials have underestimated the plan’s harm to local wildlife. Groups that filed the lawsuit Tuesday include the Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and the Sierra Club. They also say federal officials failed to provide a plan to mitigate harm to Arctic communities and public health. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it stands by its environmental analysis. ConocoPhillips is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.


Twitter, Facebook CEOs vow election action; GOP touts curbs

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook gave assurances of vigorous action against election disinformation, Republicans at a Senate hearing pounded the social media companies over political bias, business practices and market dominance. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg defended the safeguards against the use of their platforms to spread falsehoods and incite violence in the presidential contest. Responding to concern from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they pledged continued vigorous action for two special elections in Georgia that could determine in January which party controls the U.S. Senate.


The S&P 500 fell 41.74 points, or 1.2%, to 3,567.79. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 344.93 points, or 1.2%, to 29,438.42. The Nasdaq composite lost 97.74 points, or 0.8%, to 11,801.60. The Russell 2000 small-cap index gave up 22.60 points, or 1.3%, to 1,769.32.