The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity, a measure of economic output for each hour worked, fell 0.3% in the third quarter. The drop comes after two quarters of healthy gains.
Still, productivity has increased just 1.4% in the past year, about two-thirds of its long-run average. Weak productivity growth has been a hallmark of the current economic expansion, now in its 11th year. It is a key reason the overall economy has expanded more slowly than in previous expansions.
Greater productivity is a key ingredient in raising living standards. It enables companies to lift worker pay without raising prices on customers.
CVS gets a booster shot from Aetna, revenue soars
WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — CVS Health is reporting a 36.5% revenue surge in the first reporting period that includes its acquisition of Aetna, one of the nation’s largest insurers.
The drugstore chain and pharmacy benefits manager said Wednesday that net income ballooned to $1.53 billion, or $1.17 per share. When adjusted for one-time charges, per-share earnings were $1.84, easily topping the $1.77 that Wall Street had anticipated, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.
Revenue of $64.81 billion also breezed past projections of $63.03 billion.
CVS Health Corp. is raising per-share earnings guidance for the year from $6.89 to $7, to between $6.97 and $7.05.
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Judge rejects new federal health rule affecting abortions
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge in New York has struck down a rule letting health care clinicians object to providing abortions and other services on moral or religious grounds.
Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled Wednesday in Manhattan.
The ruling came after health organizations and others sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Others opposing the rule include women’s groups, organizations and states.
The rule let clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral and religious beliefs.
Engelmayer says his ruling came in three consolidated lawsuits. One consists of 19 states, the District of Columbia and three local governments.
Plaintiffs had argued that the rule was unconstitutional.
States say they’ll keep lawsuits against Purdue on hold
UNDATED (AP) — State attorneys general with pending lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners are asking a federal bankruptcy judge to give them more time to continue negotiating.
A temporary freeze on their lawsuits expires this week. On Wednesday, the judge is to decide whether to halt them or issue another temporary stay that could last for months.
In a filing earlier this week, about two dozen attorneys general said they are making progress in their talks with Purdue over the nation’s opioid crisis and want a six-week extension.
The states, along with the District of Columbia, opposed a tentative settlement the company reached in September with two dozen other states and many of the local governments suing it. Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection as part of that deal.
Bill addresses pensions, health care for miners, retirees
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is co-sponsoring a bill with West Virginia’s two U.S. senators and others aimed at preserving the pensions of about 92,000 retired coal miners and the health-care benefits of another 13,000 working miners.
Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced the bill Wednesday.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, says in the statement that he raised the issue of protecting miner pensions and health benefits with President Donald Trump this week, and is “committed to continuing to work with him and my colleagues” toward a solution.
The bill would transfer money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to prevent the insolvency of a 1974 miners’ pension plan, and add coal company bankruptcies from 2018 and 2019 to 2017 health-care legislation.
Walmart, Tesla settle lawsuit over fiery solar panels
NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart and Tesla have settled a lawsuit filed by the retail giant alleging that Tesla installed rooftop solar panels that caught fire.
Lawyers for both sides filed documents in New York Supreme Court discontinuing the legal action. The companies say in a joint statement that both sides have resolved issues raised by Walmart in the case.
In the lawsuit filed in August, Walmart said Tesla installed solar panels that went up in flames on seven of its store rooftops from 2012 to 2018, causing millions of dollars in damage.
The statement issued Wednesday says safety is a priority for both companies and they look forward to reactivating the systems.
The companies said in late August that they were working to resolve the dispute. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.
Former UAW executive charged in widening corruption probe
DETROIT (AP) — A retired vice president is the latest to be charged in a corruption scandal at the United Auto Workers union.
Joe Ashton is accused of getting thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a contractor who made watches for union members. The 58,000 watches are still in storage five years later.
Ashton was charged Wednesday with conspiracy. The case is filed in Detroit federal court as a “criminal information,” which means a guilty plea is expected. Ashton is the 13th person to be charged in a federal investigation of the UAW and auto companies.
The identity of his lawyer wasn’t immediately known.
Ashton was a powerful official who headed the UAW’s General Motors department. He also was a member of the GM board.
UAW President Gary Jones was placed on paid leave last weekend after a key ally was charged.
Keystone line to remain closed until corrective action taken
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal regulators have ordered the Keystone pipeline to remain shut down until its Canadian owner takes corrective action aimed at determining the cause of a breach that leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in northeastern North Dakota.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order Tuesday to TC Energy. The action comes one week after the pipeline leak was discovered and affected about 22,500 square feet (2,090 square meters) of land near Edinburg.
The order requires the company to send the affected portion of the pipe to an independent laboratory for testing.
TC Energy says it has about 200 people are at the site “focused on clean-up and remediation activities.”
Regulators say about 252,000 gallons of crude oil has been recovered.
Group says political misinformation on the rise on Facebook
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An advocacy group tracking misinformation says it has found an increase in fake political news shared on Facebook ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
The group, Avaaz, said Wednesday that it found that viral misinformation is still being spread on the social network despite measures the company has put in place since the 2016 elections. The researchers tracked the 100 most widely shared false news stories between Jan. 1 and Oct. 1 this year. The stories they tracked had all been fact-checked and debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners, which include The Associated Press.
The group found that, collectively, the fake stories were posted more than 2.3 million times. It found that most of the false news sources were individual users or non-official political pages.
Apple launches new privacy website, but policies unchanged
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple is expanding its website on privacy with more explanations about its commitments, though its policies and practices aren’t changing.
The new site Wednesday is part of Apple’s ongoing push to distinguish itself from data-hungry, advertising-fueled rivals such as Google and Facebook.
Apple’s privacy website is mostly a users’ guide with papers on how to prevent apps and other third-party services from unnecessarily tracking users’ location and behaviors.
Many of the new privacy enhancements were announced earlier as part of Apple’s iOS 13 software update for iPhones. Changes include the ability to sign in to third-party services with an Apple ID account rather than Facebook’s or Google’s, plus more notices and warnings about apps tapping location data.
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American Airlines CEO upbeat about return of Boeing Max jets
UNDATED (AP) — American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says his airline is feeling more confident that its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets will soon be approved to fly again.
Boeing expects U.S. safety regulators to approve the plane’s return to service by year end, and Parker says that sounds like a reasonable estimate based on conversations with regulators.
Parker said Wednesday that when the Max is allowed to fly, “we will be ready.”
American is already selling flights on Max jets as early as Jan. 15.
Boeing Max jets have been grounded worldwide after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. American had 24 Maxes when they were grounded in March.
Germany’s Lufthansa cancels 1,300 flights because of strike
BERLIN (AP) — Lufthansa is canceling around 1,300 flights on Thursday and Friday because of a planned strike by a union representing cabin crew in Germany.
The UFO union has called members out on a 48-hour strike starting at midnight. It is part of a bitter dispute with Germany’s biggest airline about pay and the union’s legal status.
Lufthansa said Wednesday it is putting together a special flight plan and passengers will be able to check their flight’s status on its website .
It said that it will be able to operate 2,300 of Thursday’s 3,000 planned flights and 2,400 of those planned for Friday. Around 180,000 passengers will be affected by cancelations.
A Frankfurt court earlier Wednesday rejected an attempt by Lufthansa to block the strike. Lufthansa said it would appeal.
Ivanka Trump in Morocco to promote women’s empowerment
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — White House adviser Ivanka Trump has arrived in Morocco to promote women’s economic empowerment in the North African country.
President Donald Trump’s daughter was welcomed by Princess Lalla Meryem and Morocco’s foreign minister Wednesday during an airport meeting in the capital of Rabat.
During the three-day visit, Ivanka Trump will promote the U.S. government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative.
Launched in February, the program aims to help 50 million women in developing nations advance economically over the next six years.
Ivanka Trump is traveling with Sean Cairncross, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corp., an independent U.S. foreign aid agency that’s working with the Moroccan government to promote economic growth, reduce poverty and strengthen institutions.
The trip comes after Morocco updated land rights laws that critics say shortchange women.