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Business Highlights: Average tax refunds fall, creating political flashpoint

🕐 4 min read

WASHINGTON (AP) — The average tax refund and the total amount of refunds issued are down for a second week. That has the potential to intensify a political flashpoint seized by Democrats as proof that the Republican-written tax law hurts the middle class. The average refund in the second week of the filing season ended Feb. 8 was $1,949, down 8.7 percent from $2,135 a year earlier, according to IRS data released Thursday. Total refunds to date are down 23 percent to $22.2 billion, from $28.9 billion last year.

Amazon dumps NYC headquarters and its promised 25,000 jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon says it will not be building a new headquarters in New York, a stunning reversal after a yearlong search. The online retailer has faced opposition from some New York politicians, who were unhappy with the tax incentives Amazon was promised. Amazon said Thursday it does not plan to look for another location, and will continue to build out offices in Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee.



Too big to sell: Airbus bids pained adieu to superjumbo A380

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Airbus is saying goodbye to the A380 superjumbo jet. The European plane maker says it will stop making the world’s biggest passenger jet in 2021 after struggling to sell it. Airbus says that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane and as a result “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.” The decision could hurt up to 3,500 jobs and already cost the plane maker 463 million euros ($522 million) in losses in 2018.


Humbug holidays: US retail sales drop 1.2 pct. in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales fell in December, posting the biggest drop since September 2009 and delivering more evidence that last year’s holiday sales fizzled unexpectedly. Even e-commerce suffered a big setback. The Commerce Department says December retail sales dropped 1.2 percent from November.


GE to downsize Boston headquarters, reimburse state $87M

BOSTON (AP) — General Electric is downsizing plans for its world headquarters in Boston. The company announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with Massachusetts to sell its waterfront property, which is partly owned by the state. GE says that following the sale, it will pay back $87 million the state spent in luring the company to move its headquarters from Connecticut.


US mortgage rates fall to 12-month low; 30-year at 4.37 pct

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week to a 12-month low, an enticement for prospective homebuyers in the upcoming season. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage declined to 4.37 percent from 4.41 percent last week. The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans eased to 3.81 percent from 3.84 percent.


UK’s May suffers embarrassing defeat on Brexit strategy

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing defeat by lawmakers in a vote that left her bid to secure a European Union divorce deal stuck between an intransigent EU and a resistant U.K. Parliament — with Brexit just six weeks away. The House of Commons voted by 303 votes to 258 against a motion reiterating support for May’s approach to Brexit — support expressed by lawmakers in votes just two weeks ago.


EPA too slow on limiting toxic chemicals, critics say

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will move toward setting safety limits for some highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water across the country. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday in Philadelphia released a plan for dealing with long-lasting substances called PFAS, which have been linked to health threats including cancer and decreased fertility. Environmentalists say the EPA hasn’t moved fast enough.


China, US open trade talks as Beijing says exports rebound

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese and U.S. negotiators have opened talks on resolving a vexing trade war as Beijing said its exports rebounded in January despite President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes. Trump said the negotiations will help decide whether he goes ahead on March 2 with more penalty tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Economists and business groups say Beijing is looking to persuade Trump enough progress is being made to push back his deadline.


Mixed finish for US stock indexes over weak retail sales

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes clawed most of the way back from an early slide Thursday to finish mostly lower, ending a four-day winning streak for the benchmark S&P 500 index. Losses in banks and retailers and consumer products makers offset gains in health care and technology stocks as investors weighed data showing retail sales slumped in December amid a disappointing holiday shopping season. The sell-off eased as traders reconsidered the data’s usefulness in forecasting future spending trends.


The S&P 500 index dropped 7.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,745.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 103.88 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,439.39. The Nasdaq composite edged up 6.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,426.95. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 2.16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,545.11.

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