Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


How Matt Damon may kickstart China's global movie ambitions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — China has a new ally in its campaign to become a global cultural superpower: Matt Damon.

Chinese leaders have long sought international cultural influence, aka "soft power," commensurate with the nation's economic might. But China's own film industry remains a mere flicker on the global screen.

That is where Damon comes in — next year he will headline in "The Great Wall" a historical epic filmed in China. If all goes according to plan, the film could be China's first international blockbuster — one that might presage a wave of similar films intended to present a new face of China to the world.


AP Investigation: American company bungled Ebola response

WASHINGTON (AP) — An American company that bills itself as a pioneer in tracking emerging epidemics made a series of costly mistakes during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa — with employees feuding with fellow responders, contributing to misdiagnosed Ebola cases and repeatedly misreading the trajectory of the virus, an Associated Press investigation has found.

San Francisco-based Metabiota Inc. was tapped by the Sierra Leonean government and the World Health Organization to help monitor the spread of the virus and support the response after Ebola was discovered circulating in neighboring Guinea in March 2014. But emails obtained by AP and interviews with aid workers on the ground show that some of the company's actions made an already chaotic situation worse.


NY official: Wall Street bonuses down amid profit slide

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Average Wall Street bonuses were down 9 percent last year to $146,200 as industry profits declined, New York's comptroller reported Monday.

Industry-wide profits decreased by 10.5 percent, according to the annual estimate from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The comptroller said revenues were weak, especially from trading and underwriting. Profits were at their lowest reported level since 2011.

"This was the third consecutive year of lower profit," DiNapoli told reporters Monday. "You do have a very volatile market."


Fed Vice Chair sees hints of too-low inflation moving up

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said Monday that inflation in the U.S. may be starting to tick up from too-low levels, a key condition for further interest rate hikes.

"We may well at present be seeing the first stirrings of an increase in the inflation rate — something that we would like to happen," he said.

However, another Fed official, Lael Brainard, expressed uncertainty about whether an improving job market would be enough to bolster inflation, given persistently low oil prices and a strong dollar.


US consumer borrowing growth slows in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers bumped up their borrowing in January at the slowest rate pace in nearly three years, as outstanding revolving debt — such as credit cards — slipped from December.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that borrowing rose $10.5 billion in January, an annual increase of just 3.58 percent. That marks the smallest annual percentage gain since February 2013. Total borrowing was $3.54 trillion.

Borrowing in the revolving category that covers credit cards slipped $1.1 billion. Borrowing in the category that covers auto and student loans increased $11.6 billion last month.


JetBlue's trial approach: Will train novices to be pilots

DALLAS (AP) — JetBlue Airways is taking applications for 24 slots in a new program to train novice pilots to fly a passenger jet.

The airline said Monday that the program — the first of its kind at a large U.S. airline — will cost about $125,000 and take four years to complete. Graduates could wind up flying 100-seat passenger jets.

Warren Christie, JetBlue's senior vice president of safety and training, say the program won't replace the airline's traditional pipelines for pilots, many of whom come from smaller airlines.


US appeals ruling on accessing data in New York iPhone case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is appealing a New York judge's ruling that Apple cannot be forced to provide the government with access to locked iPhone data.

The filing in Brooklyn federal court on Monday came a week after U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein issued his decision in a routine drug case.

The New York case tackles the same legal ground as the California case in which a judge ordered Apple to create software to help the U.S. break into an encrypted iPhone used by the shooter who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2.


Verizon to pay $1.4M in 'supercookie' FCC settlement

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon will pay a $1.35 million fine over its "supercookie" that the government said followed phone customers on the Internet without their permission.

The supercookies landed their name because they were hard, or near-impossible, to block. Verizon uses them to deliver targeted ads to cellphone customers. The company wants to expand its advertising and media business and bought AOL for its digital ad technology in 2015.

The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it found that Verizon began using the supercookies with consumers in December 2012, but didn't disclose the program until October 2014.


Activist investor pushes Shutterfly to pursue a sale

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Activist investor Ancora Advisors is stepping up the pressure on photo sharing service Shutterfly to negotiate a sale of the company or reshuffle its board of directors if a deal can't be quickly worked out.

Ancora outlined its demands in a letter sent Monday to Shutterfly's interim CEO, Philip Marineau.

The Cleveland investment fund wants Shutterfly Inc. to reach out to potential bidders following the company's disclosure last month that it had received an unsolicited offer from an unnamed private equity firm.

Ancora's letter identified the suitor as Thomas H. Lee Partners, a private equity firm in Boston.


State, Wells Fargo charged with fraud for 38 Studios deal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged Rhode Island's economic development agency and Wells Fargo with defrauding investors in the state's disastrous $75 million deal with 38 Studios, the video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Providence, accuses the Rhode Island Commerce Corp. and Wells Fargo Securities of making materially misleading statements when they sold the bonds used to fund the deal.

Schilling moved his company from Massachusetts to Rhode Island in 2010, after the agency agreed to give it a $75 million loan guarantee. The deal was financed through bonds offered to investors. Less than two years later, 38 Studios ran out of money and closed its doors, filing for bankruptcy.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 67.18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,073.95. The Standard and Poor's 500 edged up 1.77 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,001.76. The Nasdaq composite index slipped 8.77 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,708.25.

Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.98, or 5.5 percent, to close at $37.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose $2.12, or 5.5 percent, to $40.84 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 6.1 cents to $1.393 a gallon, heating oil rose 6.1 cents to $1.223 a gallon and natural gas rose 2.4 cents to $1.69 per 1,000 cubic feet.