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Business & labor at a glance

Local bank stocks hold their ground

Local bank stocks continued to hold steady this week, with First Niles Financial remaining at $9 a share and Cortland Bancorp staying at $15.50 a share in trading Thursday.

Starbucks’ sales up during last quarter

SEATTLE – Starbucks says sales rose 9 percent in its flagship U.S. market and 8 percent globally during the final three months of last year. The increase at home and abroad was the result of a mix of higher customer traffic and increased spending.

Over the holidays, the company said, $1.9 billion was loaded onto Starbucks gift cards. It said one in six American adults received a Starbucks gift card over the holidays.

American Express to trim $1 billion

NEW YORK – American Express plans to trim $1 billion in expenses over the next two years as the credit card company continues to deal with a strong U.S. dollar and fierce competition for its cardholders.

Its fourth-quarter profit declined 38 percent from a year ago, and shares fell in after-hours trading.

The company has had an unusually dramatic year with the end of its exclusive arrangement with Costco, unfavorable legal matters, growing strength of the dollar and the death an executive thought to be the potential successor to its current CEO.

GM’s car-sharing ventures branded

DETROIT – General Motors is taking another step on its fast-moving journey into new ways of getting around.

The company has formed a brand called “Maven” that will run its car-sharing ventures, including a new one that will begin competing with ZipCar next month in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Business & labor at a glance

Local bank stocks hold steady Wed.

Local bank stocks held steady in trading Wednesday, with First Niles Financial closing at $9 a share and Cortland Bancorp closing at $15.50 a share.

Wal-Mart: Raises for most workers

NEW YORK – The vast majority of Wal-Mart’s U.S. employees will get raises as part of the world’s largest retailer’s previously announced commitment to invest in its workforce as it faces pressure from labor-backed groups and seeks to retain workers in a tighter labor force.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday said more than 1.2 million U.S. hourly workers will get wage increases Feb. 20. The company, which is the largest U.S. private employer with 1.4 million total workers, also said it will provide free, basic short-term disability to full-time hourly workers.

And it will start allowing workers to accrue paid time off as they earn it.

The moves mark the biggest changes Wal-Mart has made in its efforts to offer better wages and benefits to its workers.

Feds investigate Ford Focus doors

DETROIT – U.S. auto safety regulators have opened an investigation into complaints that doors won’t latch properly on about 400,000 Ford Focus compact cars

Those included some reports that the doors have opened while the cars are moving.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers Focuses from the 2012 and 2013 model years, according to documents posted Wednesday on the agency’s website.

It’s similar to an investigation that caused a recall last year of more than 456,000 Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion and Fiesta models.

Business & labor at a glance

GREENWOOD TO CELEBRATE SHOWROOM OPENING: Greenwood Chevrolet, 4695 Mahoning Ave., Austintown, will celebrate the grand opening of its new showroom at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The event will include a tour of the new showroom and customer lounge, as well as new products being produced by Chevrolet.

GOOD MORNING AUSTINTOWN EVENT SET: Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber will host its Good Morning, Austintown. 7:30 to 9 a.m. Jan. 29 at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course. Township officials will discuss new development in the community and school officials will offer updates on the district.

People on the move

GANTT NAMED OUTSTANDING TEACHER: Dr. Nancy Gantt has been named a 2016 Philip J. Wolfson Outstanding Teacher Award recipient. Each year, the Association for Surgical Education selects up to four distinguished educators in the country who have made significant contributions to the students and faculty at their School of Medicine to honor. Gantt, medical director for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, is a member of the surgery faculty at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and professor of surgery at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.

BAJI JOINS ASPEN DENTAL: Aspen Dental announced that Dr. Rajesh Baji has joined the its practice in Niles at 5700 Youngstown Warren Road. Baji received his doctor of dental surgery degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and has been practicing dentistry for 20 years.

Ribbon cuttings

SALON 843 SUITES OPENS: Salon 843 Suites, 843 Boardman-Canfield Road, Boardman, recently had a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Professional cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians and massage therapists can lease suites to set their own schedules and design their own spaces and business models at the site.

FRED ASTAIRE DANCE STUDIO HAS NEW OWNERSHIP: Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 4365 Youngstown Road SE, Warren, recently celebrated the new ownership of Travis Manero. The dance studio, which has been serving the Warren area since 1957, is offering ballroom dance, line dancing, wedding dances and more with nationally certified instructors.

To submit information for Business Briefs, People on the Move or New Businesses, email Tribune Chronicle business editor Virginia Shank at business@

tribtoday.com.

Business & Labor at a glance

Local bank stocks see no change

Local bank stocks stood pat in trading Wednesday, with First Niles Financial closing at $9 a share and Cortland Bancorp closing at $15.90 a share.

Camera maker GoPro to cut jobs

NEW YORK – Wearable-camera maker GoPro says it will eliminate about 100 jobs after its fourth-quarter sales fell far short of its expectations.

GoPro says fourth-quarter revenue was $435 million, instead of the $500 million to $550 million that it forecast in October.

The San Mateo, California, company had around 1,500 employees at the end of 2015 after hiring more than 500 people that year. It is cutting 7 percent of its jobs, or around 100 positions.

GoPro’s products are popular with extreme sports enthusiasts, but it faces competition from smartphones and other wearable gear.

CSX predicts challenging year

OMAHA, Neb. – CSX Corp. expects to deliver lower profits in 2016 as weak demand for coal and crude oil persists.

The railroad’s forecast for lower freight volume suggests that the overall U.S. economy might be slowing after several years of steady growth.

“We’re calling it almost a freight recession,” Chairman and CEO Michael Ward said Wednesday.

“We really think there are some challenges on the industrial side of the economy.”

The railroad’s fourth-quarter results showed an overall 6 percent drop in all shipments. Coal led the decline with a 32 percent drop in carloads, but few sectors showed any growth.

Ward said the railroad will continue working to improve productivity and cut about $200 million in expenses in 2016.

Business & Labor at a glance

Tesla software will allow self-parking

DETROIT – Some Tesla Motors vehicles will be able to park themselves without a driver inside with a software update beamed to customers this weekend.

Owners must line up their Model S sedan or Model X SUV within 33 feet of the space they want it to drive or back into. The owner can then stand within 10 feet and park the car automatically using the key fob. The car can also exit the spot when the driver summons it with the fob.

Tesla says the system should only be used on private property.

The software update also puts new speed limits on Tesla’s semi-autonomous mode. The car will now only drive at the speed limit when automatic steering is being used on residential roads and on roads without a center divider.

Average gas price falls cent in 3 weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. – The average price of gasoline has dropped a penny over the past three weeks, to $2.05 a gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that with the slight decline the price remains the lowest since 2009.

Lundberg says prices may continue to go down as crude oil costs drop and refineries run at a high rate.

The current gas price is 15 cents per gallon under its year-ago point.

In the Lower 48 states, the highest average price of regular gasoline was $3.01 per gallon in Los Angeles.

The lowest was $1.64 in St. Louis.

The U.S. average diesel price is $2.31 per gallon, down about 8 cents from 3 weeks ago.

Business & Labor at a glance

Local banks see mixed results Fri.

For the fifth day in a row, First Niles Financial closed at $9 a share in trading Friday, while Cortland Bancorp returned to its Monday high of $15.90 a share after dropping 15 cents Tuesday, standing pat Wednesday and losing another nickel Thurday, when it closed at $15.70 a share.

Nov. wholesalers’ inventories fall

WASHINGTON – U.S. wholesale businesses trimmed their stockpiles for the second straight month in November, while their sales plunged by the largest amount in 10 months.

The Commerce Department says wholesale inventories fell 0.3 percent in November following a similar 0.3 percent drop in October. Sales plunged 1 percent, which was the biggest setback since January.

Economists are hoping that continued strong job gains will boost consumer spending and businesses will respond by restocking their empty shelves in coming months. They believe that slower inventory growth in the October-December period held back economic growth in the fourth quarter

JPMorgan Chase economists forecast the economy grew at 2 percent rate in the fourth quarter, with weaker inventory rebuilding, cutting growth by about 0.3 percentage point.

Nov. consumer borrowing rises

WASHINGTON – U.S. consumers boosted their borrowing in November, as higher credit card spending partially offset slower growth in auto and student loans.

Consumer borrowing rose $14 billion in November to a fresh record high of $3.53 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Friday. Economists believe that strong job gains in the labor market will boost consumer confidence and convince households to finance purchases by taking on more debt.

For November, the category that covers credit cards increased $5.7 billion.

Business & Labor at a glance

Local bank stocks stand pat Wed.

Local bank stocks saw no movement in trading Wednesday, with Cortland Bancorp remaining at $15.75 a share and First Niles Financial standing pat at $9 a share.

Macy’s will cut thousands of jobs

NEW YORK – Macy’s is cutting thousands of jobs after disappointing holiday sales.

The Cincinnati-based department store chain says sales fell 5.2 percent in November and December at existing stores.

Warm weather and lower spending by international tourists hurt sales.

The company also listed Wednesday which 40 stores it would close. It had announced it was closing stores in September.

Macy’s said Wednesday that it now expects its profit for its fiscal fourth quarter and full year, which run through January, to fall short of its previous estimate.

U.S. trade deficit narrowed in Nov.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit dropped to the lowest level in nine months in November as exports fell to a nearly four-year low.

The November deficit fell 5 percent to $42.4 billion, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

Exports contracted 1.6 percent to $182.2 billion, the smallest monthly total since January 2012.

Imports were also down, shrinking 1.7 percent to $224.6 billion.

The import declines this year reflect the big drop in global oil prices.

American manufacturers have been hurt by a strong dollar, which makes their products more expensive on overseas markets.

They are also contending with economic weakness in some of their biggest export markets including Europe and China.

With just one month left in 2015, the deficit totaled $488 billion for the year, 5 percent higher than the same period in 2014.

Business & Labor at a glance

Local banks’ stocks unchanged

Local bank stocks held steady Monday in the first day of trading in 2016. Cortland Bancorp remained at $15.90 a share, and First Niles Financial stood pat at $9 a share.

Nov. construction spending falls

WASHINGTON – U.S. construction spending fell in November for the first time in 17 months, reflecting weakness in spending on hotel and other private nonresidential construction and government projects.

Construction spending dipped 0.4 percent in November following a 0.3 percent increase in October, the Commerce Department reported Monday. It was the first decline in activity since a 0.7 percent dip in June 2014.

Fidelity dumps AmEx for its card

NEW YORK – Fidelity is switching partners for its cash back credit card, dumping American Express and Bank of America for Visa and U.S. Bank.

The move is another loss for American Express Co., coming nearly a year after warehouse store operator Costco said it would end its exclusive partnership with the credit card company.

AmEx representative Keri Buster said the Fidelity cards are a small part of the company’s business, accounting for less than 1 percent of its billings. Bank of America said it agreed not to renew the partnership because it has been moving away from providing services for credit cards of financial institutions.

The new Fidelity card will continue to earn cardholders 2 percent in cash on every $1 spent, which can be deposit into Fidelity’s checking or retirement accounts. Fidelity is a major provider of retirement accounts and other financial services.