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story.lead_photo.caption This Nov. 29, 2018, photo shows credit card logos posted on a store's door in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Consumers borrow $22.1B in November

WASHINGTON -- Americans slowed their pace of borrowing slightly in November, but borrowing still grew by a robust $22.1 billion. Auto and student loans offset some of the decline in the category that covers credit cards.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that November's figure follows a $25 billion gain in October, which had been the biggest increase in 11 months. Economists had been forecasting more of a slowdown.

Consumer borrowing is closely watched for signs that households are still willing to take on new debt to finance purchases. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity.

Borrowing for auto and student loans rose $17.4 billion in November, up from a gain of $15.6 billion in October.

Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards slowed to a $4.8 billion increase, down from the $9.3 billion advance seen in October. The November credit card gain was the smallest since borrowing in this category had fallen slightly in September.

The overall November figure represented a 6.7 percent increase on a seasonally adjusted basis after a 7.6 percent rise in October. Consumer debt measured in the Fed's monthly report rose to a new record of $3.98 trillion.

-- The Associated Press

Verizon hails 4Q growth in subscribers

LAS VEGAS -- Verizon Communications Inc. added wireless subscribers for a seventh-straight quarter, reassuring investors that its growth remains strong.

The largest U.S. wireless carrier added 1.2 million regular monthly customers in the quarter, the biggest sales period of the year, according to preliminary fourth-quarter results released Tuesday. That matched the subscriber gains a year ago and helped send the shares on their biggest rally in more than two months.

"We've seen continued momentum, and we had an outstanding fourth quarter," Verizon's wireless chief, Ronan Dunne, said to investors Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Verizon disclosed the numbers ahead of a media push by Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg at the Consumer Electronics Show tech conference this week in Las Vegas. After Verizon's difficult venture into video streaming and online media, Vestberg plans to refocus on the wireless business -- including a push into fifth-generation technology, or 5G, which the company was demonstrating Tuesday at the conference.

Vestberg, who took over as CEO in August, started the restructuring last month with the elimination of 10,400 jobs through a buyout program. The staff reductions are part of a four-year, $10 billion cost-cutting effort.

-- Bloomberg News

9 Democrats to oppose offshore drilling

PORTLAND, Maine -- A group of nine Democratic lawmakers from coastal states say they will use their coming legislative sessions to try to block attempts at offshore drilling.

The lawmakers' announcement Tuesday comes as new and re-elected legislators are entering office. It's also about a year after President Donald Trump's administration announced plans to expand drilling. The state lawmakers say their bills will seek to limit the possibility of drilling off their coasts.

The lawmakers represent Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island. They say their respective states must do more to encourage renewable energy rather than fossil fuel extraction.

State legislatures are limited in what they can do to stop drilling beyond state waters, but the lawmakers say they're showing a united stand against the practice.

-- The Associated Press

California utility's credit rating slashed

NEW YORK -- Standard & Poor's slashed Pacific Gas and Electric's credit rating to junk status as the utility grapples with the political and financial fallout from costly and deadly wildfires in California.

The ratings agency cut the company's key rate five notches to "B" from "BBB-." Shares have been weighed down since November and took a sharp dive Monday on bankruptcy speculation.

The utility, California's largest, is contending with potentially crippling liability costs related to California's Camp Fire. No cause has been determined, but investigators are looking into the potential it was sparked by a malfunctioned line.

S&P says it could lower the rating "one or more notches over the next few months" if the company continues to face regulatory or financial turmoil.

-- The Associated Press

License-plate data firm sells for $445M

CHICAGO -- Motorola Solutions, known for providing technology to first responders and law enforcement agencies, has acquired a company focused on license-plate recognition technology.

Chicago-based Motorola Solutions paid $445 million in cash and equity to acquire VaaS International Holdings. The deal closed last week.

Motorola Solutions is betting on the platform's ability to help shorten response times for first responders and speed up police investigations, said Andrew Sinclair, corporate vice president and general manager of software enterprise.

The company has been working toward building an integrated suite of offerings for its customers -- like Microsoft's Office 365, but for crime-fighting data platforms, Sinclair said. The data VaaS collects could feed into the platforms Motorola Solutions already offers.

VaaS' technology uses license-plate reader cameras to provide vehicle location data to its clients. VaaS has two subsidiaries: Digital Recognition Network for commercial customers, and Vigilant Solutions for law enforcement. The data can be shared across law enforcement agencies and can be combined with police records.

-- Chicago Tribune

Amazon removes Koran-printed items

SEATTLE -- After receiving complaints of Internet merchants selling items that were offensive to Muslims, including doormats, bath mats, and other goods imprinted with verses from the Koran, Amazon has pulled dozens of items from its online marketplace.

The items were first flagged to the online retailer by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. The council said it received complaints about the items from members of the community, leading the group to alert Amazon. In a news release last week, the group said the products are offensive to Muslims because the scripture and other Islamic references "would be stepped-on or otherwise disrespected by customers."

Amazon began removing the items soon after the advocacy group registered the complaints.

-- The Washington Post

Business on 01/09/2019

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