World Bank cuts global economic forecast
The World Bank, citing stagnation in Europe and Japan and a slowdown in China, downgraded its forecast for the global economy this year. It also reported that world economic growth came in below expectations in 2014. The bank predicts the world economy will expand 3 percent this year, up from 2.6 percent in 2014. Last June, World Bank economists had forecast 3.4 percent global economic growth this year and 2.8 percent last year. "The recovery has been sputtering in the euro area and Japan as legacies of the financial crisis linger. … China, meanwhile, is undergoing a carefully managed slowdown," the bank said in the first of its twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects reports for 2015. Plunging oil prices and stronger growth in the United States are expected to help boost global growth in 2015.
MetLife challenges 'too big to fail' ruling
In the first legal challenge to a U.S. body that arose from the financial crisis, MetLife is challenging its designation by regulators as a potential threat to the financial system. MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. insurance company by assets, announced that it is taking the government to court to appeal its assessment by the Financial Stability Oversight Council as "systemically important." That means regulators believe MetLife is so big and entwined with the financial system that it could threaten the economy if it collapsed. The oversight council, a group of top federal regulators created by the 2010 Wall Street overhaul law to monitor the financial system, decided last month to label MetLife as systemically important. The designation brings stricter government oversight and, MetLife says, exorbitant costs.
Pizza Hut adds gluten-free offerings
Pizza Hut, one of the world's largest pizza purveyors, is adding gluten-free pizza to its lineup this month. Customers will be able to order 10-inch cheese-only and pepperoni pizzas made with dough supplied by Udi's, a gluten-free baking company owned by Boulder Brands. Customers who merely want to limit gluten, a protein composite found in wheat and some other grains, in their diet can create their own pizzas from a broader range of toppings baked on Udi's dough. Restaurant chains are scrambling to introduce gluten-free menu items to meet rising demand. Some 2 million people in America have celiac disease, a digestive disorder that makes it impossible to tolerate gluten, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many more have what is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity — and still others follow a gluten-free diet because it tends to help control weight gain.
AirTran goes out in a blaze of timeliness
AirTran Airways topped all U.S. airlines in the latest rankings for on-time arrivals, knocking off perennial winner Hawaiian Airlines. The bad news for passengers who love punctuality: You can't fly on AirTran anymore. The low-fare carrier flew its last revenue flight on Dec. 28 and has been folded into Southwest Airlines, which bought AirTran in 2011. The U.S. Department of Transportation said that 80.6 percent of domestic flights on the 14 biggest airlines arrived within 14 minutes of schedule in November. That was better than October's 80.0 percent on-time rate, but down from 83.5 percent in November 2013. AirTran posted a 90.4 percent rating, and Hawaiian was second at 89.4 percent. Among the four largest airlines, Delta performed best at 86.6 percent.
Job openings are highest in nearly 14 years
Job openings climbed in November to the highest level in almost 14 years as the strengthening U.S. economy fueled demand for labor. The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 142,000 to 4.97 million in November, the most since January 2001, a report from the Labor Department showed. The pace of hiring cooled and fewer Americans quit their jobs. Gains in hiring, waning dismissals and rising confidence underscore a vibrant labor market that in 2014 marked its strongest performance since 1999. Tuesday's data, among the gauges watched by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, will help policymakers assess the progress on employment and growth as they consider raising interest rates.
Amber Alerts will be sent out by Facebook
Facebook Inc. is introducing Amber Alerts to its mobile and desktop platform, the social network announced. Amber Alerts, a broadcast emergency response sent out by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, are traditionally delivered by radio stations, television stations, cable TV and as text-based notifications to cellphones in targeted areas. Facebook's partnership with the center won't replace this; instead, it will be another way for the alerts to reach people. Similar to the text-based Amber Alerts, a Facebook alert will include any available information, such as a description of the missing child and suspected abductor and a license plate number. The alerts will also reach people only in targeted areas.