Business Digest: U.S. home construction fell 9% in September


U.S. home construction fell 9% in September

WASHINGTON — Homebuilders pulled back on construction for a second straight month in September, with a plunge in apartments offsetting gains in single-family homes. Building activity was weak in all parts of the country except the Midwest.

Construction tumbled 9 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the slowest pace in 18 months. Construction had fallen 5.6 percent in August.

The weakness last month reflected a 38 percent drop in construction of apartments, which overshadowed an 8.1 percent rise in single-family construction.

Despite the two months of declines, home construction has been one of the bright spots in the economy this year. Builders have been scrambling to keep up with rising demand amid continued strong job gains and low mortgage rates.

The September performance was weaker than expected. Analysts had been forecasting a rebound. But they noted that the smaller apartment segment of construction is often volatile from month to month.


Starbucks to double stores in China in 5 years

Starbucks is pushing ahead with its expansion into mainland China, saying Wednesday it’s on track to have 5,000 stores by 2021, more than doubling the number of its coffee shops in the country.

The Seattle-based coffee chain is looking to China to fuel its growth. It’s grown rapidly since opening its first Chinese store in 1999, though famously suffered a misstep nearly a decade ago when protests over a shop inside the Forbidden City led to it being closed. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said China could one day surpass the U.S. as the chain’s largest market. There are about 13,000 Starbucks stores in the United States.

Among chain coffee shops, Starbucks had a 74 percent market share in mainland China in 2015, according to market research company Euromonitor. Chinese customers spend more time in Starbucks shops and are buying more food than Americans, Schultz said.


Harley-Davidson to lay off 5% of workforce

MILWAUKEE — Harley-Davidson Inc. says it expects to lay off about 225 salaried employees by the end of the year to cut costs amid a sluggish U.S. motorcycle market.

The cuts amount to about 5 percent of the company’s workforce. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that about 70 contractors also will be affected.

The company says it will incur up to $25 million in employee separation and reorganization costs as it cuts production and reduces workers.

Harley-Davison has 1,024 salaried employees at its Milwaukee headquarters and 3,246 salaried employees worldwide. The company has not disclosed where the job cuts will take place.


Yahoo asks feds to clear up surveillance reports

Yahoo is asking the government to clear the air regarding reports that it scanned incoming user email for the feds.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Yahoo searched hundreds of millions of emails for specific information at the government’s request, raising concerns about secret government surveillance programs. Yahoo called the Reuters story “misleading” and declined to comment on a subsequent New York Times story.

Yahoo says that while it can’t respond in detail to these stories, the government can. In a letter to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, it asks the government to confirm whether it issued such an order, to declassify the order if it exists and to make a public comment that clarifies the situation.

A national-intelligence spokesman says the agency will reply to Yahoo.

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