Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 2, 2017

Facebook earnings rise, the Fed leaves interest rates unchanged, and more

1

Facebook beats expectations with more revenue per user

Facebook on Wednesday reported quarterly earnings that blasted past analysts' expectations thanks to strong mobile ad sales. The social network's earnings rose by 51 percent to $8.81 billion. Users spent more time viewing videos and photos, creating more space for ads and helping the company generate $4.83 per user, up from $3.73 a year earlier. Earnings per share reached $1.41 in the last quarter of 2016, beating analysts' average forecast of $1.31 per share. Mobile accounted for 84 percent of the company's ad revenue. Facebook added nearly 270 million users in 2016, reaching 1.86 billion monthly users. Its shares rose by 1 percent in after-hours trading.

2

The Fed leaves interest rates unchanged

Federal Reserve policy makers left interest rates unchanged, as expected, at the end of a two-day meeting on Wednesday. The meeting was the Federal Open Markets Committee's first since President Trump's inauguration. The Fed raised its target benchmark rate by a quarter point in December, just the second increase in more than a decade. Analysts have said the Fed is watching for potential impact from Trump's pro-business policies, as well as uncertainty over other matters, such as immigration and foreign policy. The Fed's post-meeting statement provided no clear indication of when to expect the next rate hike, although policy makers remained upbeat about the economy. The Bank of England also held a key interest rate unchanged at 0.25 percent on Thursday, as expected.

3

House starts effort to undo Obama-era regulations

House Republicans on Wednesday approved a proposal seeking to scrap regulations intended to prevent coal mining companies from dumping debris into streams. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) said the rule was meant to regulate coal miners out of business, not protect waterways. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said dropping the rule would "sicken and kill the very people Donald Trump falsely promised to help" in coal country. Republicans also voted to drop a rule requiring mining and drilling companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments. Republicans said they were just getting started reversing Obama administration regulations, and that they will move on to address rules on fracking, federal contracting, guns, and other matters.

4

Republicans suspend rules to push 2 Trump nominees through committee

Senate Republicans suspended committee rules to sidestep a Democratic delaying tactic and advance the nominations of Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of health and human services. Democrats boycotted the hearings to prevent a vote, which requires at least one member of both parties to be present. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended his committee's rule to allow the GOP members to sign off on the nominations and send them to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Democrats also boycotted an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to stall the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

5

U.K. lawmakers advance bill authorizing Brexit talks

British lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill authorizing the government to start negotiations to leave the European Union. The bill still faces more scrutiny in the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it becomes law. Prime Minister Theresa May has set a March 31 deadline for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which officially starts the two-year process of withdrawing from the EU. May said her government would publish a "white paper" on Thursday spelling out the details of the government's Brexit plan.

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