The daily business briefing: December 7, 2018

Harold Maass
Power plants on a cold day
Lukas Schulze/Getty Images
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Economy added 155,000 jobs in November, solid but below expectations

U.S. employers added 155,000 non-farm jobs in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, continuing months of solid hiring but falling short of expectations. Economists polled by MarketWatch on average had forecast a gain of 190,000 jobs. Unemployment remained at 3.7 percent for the third straight month, a 49-year low. Hourly wages rose by 0.2 percent to $27.35 an hour, leaving the 12-month rate of hourly wage gains unchanged at a nine-year high of 3.1 percent. The solid numbers came despite warning signs of slowing growth and concerns over trade tensions. Hiring got a boost from higher-than-usual holiday hiring as retailers prepare for what they expect to be a strong season. [MarketWatch, CNN]


EPA to reverse Obama-era coal emissions rule

President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency plans to reverse a 2015 Obama administration requirement that new coal-fired power plants have expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, announced Thursday. Wheeler said the Trump administration was removing "unfair burdens" on energy providers to "keep energy prices affordable and encourage new investments in cutting-edge technology that can then be exported around the world." Environmentalists criticized the move, which came as leaders from 200 countries meet in Poland to discuss reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said the administration was trying to push its "backwards and false narrative about reviving coal at the expense of science, public safety, and reality." [NPR]


Stocks make dramatic swings on fears of trade war and slowing growth

U.S. stock markets plunged early Thursday on fears of renewed U.S.-China trade tensions and slowing economic growth, but the three main U.S. indexes bounced back and closed with narrower losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by as much as 784 points, or 3.1 percent, before clawing back to close down by just 78 points, or 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 closed down by 0.15 percent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq managed to close up by 0.4 percent. Investor spirits got a lift from upbeat comments about the economy's health by financial leaders, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and IMF leader Christian Lagarde. Futures had been down early Friday but turned positive after a weaker-than-expected jobs report eased concerns about future Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. [The Washington Post, CNBC]


Mortgage rates slide along with stocks and oil prices

The ongoing stock-market slide and falling oil prices helped drive U.S. long-term mortgage rates down this week, extending three weeks of falling rates as investors seek security in long-term bonds. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 4.75 percent from 4.81 percent last week. The average points, extra fees most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates, remained unchanged at 0.5 point. The rate decline "is a welcome relief to prospective homebuyers who have recently experienced rising rates and rising home prices," Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said. Still, home borrowing rates remain significantly higher than a year ago, when the benchmark rate was 3.94 percent. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]


Senate confirms Kraninger to head consumer finance watchdog

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kathy Kraninger to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kraninger replaces acting director, Mick Mulvaney, who also serves as the White House budget chief and is Kraninger's current boss. President Trump's new pick for the job will give the watchdog agency, which is reviled by Republicans and banks, a business-friendly leader. The Obama administration established the CFPB after the global financial crisis to oversee the way banks handle financial products such as mortgages, credit cards, and payday loans. Democrats opposed Kraninger in the 50-49 confirmation vote, saying she lacked experience in consumer finance. [The Washington Post]