Business & Tech

TALKING POINTS

Federal regulators propose weakening the ‘Volcker Rule’

FINANCE

Federal regulators propose weakening Volcker Rule

Federal regulators on Thursday proposed weakening key post-financial crisis restrictions on risky trading, handing Wall Street another victory in rolling back tough industry regulations. The proposed changes would lift restrictions on big banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, investing in venture capital and other types of funds. The effort comes a decade after risky trading was blamed for contributing to the near collapse of the US financial sector and is part of a sweeping industry deregulation under the Trump administration that has helped boost banks to record profits. The most recent proposal addresses a key part of the Volcker Rule — one of the complex regulations to come out of 2010’s financial reform law, the Dodd-Frank Act. Regulators spent years crafting hundreds of pages of rules aimed at stopping taxpayer-insured banks from taking on the same type of risks as hedge funds. Restricting risky trading under the rule, which was named for Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has made the financial system safer, supporters of the rule say. But the industry has called it too cumbersome and time-consuming and spent years calling for changes. — NEW YORK TIMES

FOOD

Lipton may be put on the market as tea sales drop

Lipton owner Unilever is weighing a sale of one of its best-known brands. The Anglo-Dutch giant initiated a review of its global tea business, which includes the more than century-old label and generates sales of almost 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion). Unilever is following a consumer shift to coffee as a primary source of caffeine. In the UK, almost 900 million fewer cups of tea were drunk over the 12 months through May 2018, according to trade publication The Grocer. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

MEDICAL DEVICES

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $344m in
pelvic mesh case

A San Diego judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay nearly $344 million in penalties for deceptively marketing pelvic mesh devices for women. Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled Thursday against the medical giant in a lawsuit brought by the California Department of Justice in 2016. J&J is dealing with thousands of lawsuits over drug side effects, its role in the US opioid epidemic, and allegations its baby powder caused cancer in some users and its surgical mesh for sagging pelvic organs injured patients.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

Retailers

Nordstrom the latest to sell used clothing

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National retailers have a new plan to attract customers: used clothing. Nordstrom will begin selling secondhand apparel online and in its New York flagship store this week, the latest attempt by the 119-year-old company to appeal to changing consumer tastes and capitalize on one of the few bright spots in retail. It joins Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Madewell, among others, in carving out a place for used clothing, shoes, and handbags alongside new ones. — WASHINGTON POST

MORTGAGES

Rates fall again

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Mortgage rates continued to fall this week, breaching already historically low levels and offering an incentive to potential home buyers. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.51 percent from 3.60 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 4.46 percent a year ago. The average rate on a 15-year mortgage declined to 3 percent from 3.04 percent last week.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

E-CIGARETTES

Altria writes down $4.1b on its Juul investment

Altria reported a $4.1 billion write-down on its Juul Labs investment Thursday, another sizable charge as the vaping crisis continues to roil the e-cigarette industry. The company now values its 35 percent stake in the e-cigarette company at $4.2 billion, a significant drop from the $12.8 billion it paid in December 2018. Three months ago, Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco sellers, devalued its investment in Juul by $4.5 billion. Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, said its fourth-quarter charge was largely because of the growing number of legal cases pending against Juul, which increased by more than 80 percent since the end of October. — NEW YORK TIMES

BANKING

Deutsche lost $1.6b in fourth quarter of 2019

Deutsche Bank reported a whopping loss for the last three months of 2019 and for the full year as it cut staff and wrote down the value of assets, affirming its status as one of Europe’s most troubled big lenders. The bank said it lost 1.5 billion euros, or $1.6 billion, in the last three months of 2019, bringing the total loss for the year to 5.3 billion euros. In 2018 the bank effectively broke even for the year and in the fourth quarter. The Frankfurt-based bank, once Europe’s largest by assets, is in the midst of a desperate attempt to recover from years of scandal and mismanagement that has caused its share price to plummet more than 90 percent since 2007. — NEW YORK TIMES

AUTOMOTIVE

VW is still the biggest automaker

Germany’s Volkswagen has kept its lead as the world’s largest automaker after Japanese rival Toyota announced it sold fewer vehicles last year. Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that it sold 10.74 million vehicles around the world in 2019, trailing Volkswagen AG’s record annual sales of 10.97 million vehicles. In 2018, Volkswagen sold 10.83 million vehicles, edging out Toyota for the number one crown. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUTOMOTIVE

Hummer pickup will be battery-powered

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The Hummer, once a gas-guzzling target for environmentalists, is making a comeback. But this time around it won’t burn fuel or spew greenhouse gases. General Motors announced Thursday that it will start selling a battery-powered Hummer pickup truck in September of 2021. At least part of the new Hummer will be shown in a 30-second television ad featuring basketball star LeBron James during the second quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

VIDEO GAMES

Nintendo profits rise on Switch console sales

Japanese video game maker Nintendo Co. reported Thursday a 29 percent rise in quarterly profit, as its earnings got a lift from solid demand for the Switch console during the year-end shopping season. Kyoto-based Nintendo’s October-December profit totaled 134 billion yen ($1.2 billion), up from 104 billion yen the same period a year earlier. It raised its full-year Switch sales forecast to 19.5 million machines, up from 18 million projected earlier. The Switch is a hybrid game machine that works both as a console and a tablet. More than 52 million Switch consoles have been sold since sales began about three years ago. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

AVIATION

Bradley International Airport to
keep its name

The largest airport in Connecticut will keep its name after a study found that there was no decisive benefit to making a change. The Connecticut Airport Authority’s directors accepted the recommendation from the quasi-public agency’s executive director, Kevin Dillon, to retain the Bradley International Airport name. The study found, among other things, that airports that changed their names did not see a bump up in passenger traffic, the main motivation for adopting a new name. The airport is named for Lieutenant Eugene Bradley, an Army airman who in 1941 died in a crash during a training exercise at the site, which was then a military base. — ASSOCIATED PRESS