Business briefing

The daily business briefing: November 30, 2017

Yellen tells Congress the economy is gaining strength, Snap unveils its Snapchat redesign, and more

1

Yellen says economic expansion gaining steam

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told a congressional committee on Wednesday that the U.S. economic expansion had broadened and strengthened, boosting expectations that the Fed will raise interest rates at its December meeting. Yellen told the Joint Economic Committee that the growth should continue. "Economic growth appears to have stepped up from its subdued pace early in the year," she said. "Moreover, the economic expansion is increasingly broad, based across sectors as well as across much of the global economy." Jerome Powell, President Trump's pick to succeed Yellen when her term ends in February, also said in his confirmation hearing this week that he expected the year's third interest-rate hike in December as the central bank eases back on policies it used to help lift the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

2

Snap unveils a major Snapchat redesign

Snap on Wednesday unveiled its biggest-ever redesign of its Snapchat messaging app, hoping to revive growth that has sagged since it went public in March. The new design still opens with a camera but draws a clearer line between content from friends and publishers. Users can swipe right to see stories from publishers and creators, as well as community-curated posts, or swipe left to see a Friends page with their own chats and Snapchat stories. "One of the complaints we've heard about social media is that photos and videos from your friends are mixed in with content from publishers and creators and influencers," Evan Spiegel, Snap's CEO, said in a statement. "But your friends aren't content, they're relationships."

3

Judge scolds Uber for withholding information in trade secrets case

Judge William Alsup scolded Uber lawyers Wednesday for withholding evidence in its trial over the alleged theft of trade secrets from Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent Alphabet. Alsup rescheduled the trial a day before jury selection was supposed to begin, pushing its start to Feb. 5 and heard two days of testimony on a wave of last-minute evidence on such things as a letter and email with damning claims and a $4.5 million payment to an Uber employee threatening to become a whistleblower. "I have never seen a case where there were so many bad things done like Uber has done in this case," Alsup said. An Uber lawyer said the ex-employee's incriminating letter was "clearly extortionist."

4

Retail group says holiday spending off to 'robust' start

The National Retail Federation on Wednesday said spending has so far been "robust" this holiday season, repeating its forecast that sales will rise by 4 percent. More than one-third of shoppers surveyed by the industry association expected to have completed their holiday shopping over the five days of Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. Black Friday discounts were slightly smaller at major retailers, down to 45 percent on average from 48 percent last year. "Shopper are looking for deals, but there wasn't significant price slashing," said Ryne Misso, Market Track's director of marketing. Amazon said Wednesday that Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever, although it didn't give a sales figure.

5

Dow takes a shot at 24,000 mark

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose early Thursday, putting it in position for a potential jump above the 24,000 milestone for the first time. Major tech stocks were poised for a rebound after their Wednesday decline. Dow futures gained 0.4 percent, while S&P and Nasdaq-100 futures were up by 0.3 percent before Thursday's open. The Dow gained 0.4 percent on Wednesday while the S&P edged down and the Nasdaq fell by 1.3 percent. Bitcoin surged again, rising above $11,000 for the first time in its sixth straight day hitting record highs, before plunging back below $10,000 in a sign of volatility that stoked concerns of a bubble that could burst.

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