BC-APFN-US--Business Features Digest

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

The business news enterprise package planned through Oct. 20. For comments or questions, call 212-621-1680. For questions about photos, call ext. 1900. For questions about graphics, call ext. 7636. Repeats of stories are available from or the Service Desk, 1-800-838-4616.




WASHINGTON — Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear. The Dow Jones industrial average has lost 900 points since Oct. 8, largely on fears of another recession in Europe, a slowdown in China and world-spanning crises that include the Ebola outbreak and the rise of the Islamic State. Yet economists aren't reducing their forecasts for the U.S. economy. The IMF, which cut global growth forecasts last week, actually upgraded its outlook for the United States. Economists say troubles elsewhere aren't severe enough to derail a U.S. economy gaining strength from a stronger job market, falling fuel prices, lower mortgage rates and improvements in household finances and confidence. By Paul Wiseman. SENT: Thursday, 1.070 words.


NEW YORK — A sudden plunge in the price of oil after years of stability is sending economic and political shockwaves around the world. Oil exporting countries such as Russia, Venezuela and Iraq are bracing for potentially crippling budget shortfalls while importers like China, India and Europe are benefiting from the lowest prices in four years. U.S. consumers are enjoying lower prices too, but they could put the brakes on the U.S. oil boom. By Jonathan Fahey. SENT: Thursday, 1,000 words, photos, graphic.


NEW YORK — What does a small business do in the midst of mountains of snow? Try to profit from it. After last year's rough winter and with forecasts of another snowy season, company owners want to ensure they can operate through whatever's ahead and, in some cases, capitalize from it. By Joyce M. Rosenberg. SENT: Wednesday, 660 words.


WASHINGTON — Just as the U.S. job market has finally strengthened, the Federal Reserve now confronts a new worry: a sputtering global economy that's spooked investors across the world. The economic slump could spill into the United States, potentially weakening job growth and keeping inflation well below the Fed's target rate. Such fear has led some analysts to suggest that the Fed will wait until deep into next year to start raising interest rates, and more gradually than expected. Yet so far, the prospect of continued lower rates — which make loans cheaper and can fuel stock gains — is being outweighed by investors' mounting fears of weakness from Asia to Europe to Latin America. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: Tuesday, 930 words.


WASHINGTON — Just as their economies had begun to recover from the man-made horror of civil war, the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been knocked back down by a terrifying force of nature: the Ebola virus. Besides killing 3,400 people, the outbreak has brought economic life to a standstill. Markets are empty, hotel rooms vacant, flights cancelled, investments on hold. The World Bank has dramatically downgraded its economic forecasts for the three countries at the center of the Ebola crisis. Still, economists doubt that much damage will spread to neighboring countries or threaten Africa's continued economic rise. Combined, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have a gross domestic product of barely $13 billion, half the size of Vermont's. By Paul Wiseman. SENT: Monday, 890 words, photo.


U.S. consumers would be paying less for cable and Internet access if U.S. regulators had followed the guidance of Jean Tirole in promoting industry competition. So say experts of the work of Tirole, a 61-year-old Frenchmen who won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for showing how to encourage better products and competitive prices in industries dominated by a few companies. Tirole defies categorization as either pro- or anti-regulation. His work is credited with helping shape the deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s and in devising rules to align companies' interests with those consumers. By Paul Wiseman and Karl Ritter. SENT: Monday, 920 words.


NEW YORK — A swoon in the price of oil is lowering fuel bills for drivers, shippers and airlines, but it also contains worrisome signs for the boom in U.S. oil production and the economy. Two of the big reasons for the drop in oil prices — a weaker global economy and a stronger dollar — could hurt the U.S. economy by reducing exports, employment, and growth. That could overwhelm the benefit of lower fuel prices. If oil prices fall further, analysts say, drilling in some areas will have to slow because it will no longer be profitable. By Jonathan Fahey. SENT: Monday, 880 words, photo.



CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple unveils the iPad Air 2, the world's thinnest tablet, as the company tries to drive excitement amid slowing demand for tablet computers. Apple also announces Yosemite, a new Mac operating system. Apple Pay, the company's new system for using iPhones to make credit and debit card payments at retail stores, will make its debut Monday. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement during a company event and said deals have been made with hundreds of additional credit card issuers since the mobile pay service was announced last month. By Brandon Bailey and Anick Jesdanun. SENT: Thursday, 1,000 words, photos.


LONDON — The caller said her home had burned down and her husband had been badly hurt in the blaze. On the telephone with her bank, she pleaded for a replacement credit card at her new address. The card nearly was sent. But as the woman poured out her story, a computer compared the biometric features of her voice against a database of suspected fraudsters. Not only was the caller not the person she claimed to be, "she" wasn't even a woman. The program identified the caller as a male impostor trying to steal the woman's identity. By Raphael Satter. SENT: Monday, 1,050 words, photos.


NEW YORK — Some things get better with time: wine, jeans and this "smart" music player. The idea behind the $399 Aether Cone is that over time, it learns your listening habits and weighs such factors as whether it's a lazy Sunday morning to play what it thinks you're in the mood for. I was skeptical because my music tastes vary depending on how I'm feeling at any particular moment. But I've come to appreciate its sometimes-surprising musical tours. By Barbara Ortutay. SENT: Monday, 820 words, photo.



No stock is an absolutely safe investment, but health care stocks as a group have held up better than others during past downturns. That's brought more attention to health care stock funds, as worries about weak global economic growth have sent stocks sinking in recent weeks. Health care stock funds have also performed better than any other category over the last five years, but investors should be mindful that conditions have changed for the sector. By Stan Choe. UPCOMING: Thursday, 900 words.



FRANKFURT, Germany — Europe's economy needs help — fast. Yet the two powers that could take action, the European Central Bank and Germany, don't see eye to eye about what to do. That leaves Europe's currency union stuck in a dangerous policy limbo that now has investors worried. By David McHugh. SENT: Friday, 860 words, photos.


PARIS — Pencils down, papers over. France finds itself in the uncomfortable position of a student at the end of exams as it hands in its 2015 budget plans to European Union authorities for review. Wednesday's deadline for the bloc's 28 member states to submit their budgets opens up a two-week window during which France and a few other countries who know they've missed several targets in their budget plans must wait and hope for leniency, or be forced into a redo. It's a process that will either cause humiliation for France, Europe's second largest economy, or make a mockery of the EU's new debt rules meant to avoid a repeat of the debt crisis. By Greg Keller. SENT: Wednesday, 840 words, photo.


SEOUL, South Korea — After an avalanche of data breaches, South Korea's national identity card system has been raided so thoroughly by thieves that the government says it might have to issue new ID numbers to every citizen over 17 at a possible cost of billions of dollars. The admission is an embarrassment for a society that prides itself on its high-tech skills and has some of the fastest Internet access. By Kim Tong-Hyung. SENT: Tuesday, 1,150 words, photos.