GM's Barra takes role as chairwoman
General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra is taking on the added role of chairwoman at the nation's largest automaker. The company's directors Monday unanimously elected her to lead the board, effective immediately. She will replace former Cummis Diesel Chairman and CEO Theodore Solso, who will stay on as the board's lead independent director, the company said Monday in a statement. Barra, 54, took over as CEO in January of 2014, becoming the first woman to lead a major global automaker. Her appointment came shortly before GM became embroiled in a scandal over faulty small-car ignition switches. But she led GM through the crisis and a related series of embarrassing safety recalls. Barra replaced Dan Akerson, a former telecommunications and private equity executive, who also held the chairman and CEO roles before leaving GM.
Construction spending falls in November
U.S. construction spending fell in November for the first time in 17 months, reflecting weakness in spending on hotel and other private nonresidential construction and government projects. Construction spending dipped 0.4 percent in November following a 0.3 percent increase in October, the Commerce Department reported Monday. It was the first decline in activity since a 0.7 percent dip in June 2014. Home construction increased 0.3 percent but nonresidential construction was down 0.7 percent, reflecting declines in a variety of categories including hotels, shopping centers and manufacturing plants. Government construction was also down in November, declining by 1 percent, the third straight drop. State and local spending fell 0.4 percent and the smaller federal category dropped 7.2 percent. Construction, fueled by gains in housing, has been a positive for the economy and analysts look for further support in 2016.
Fidelity switches to Visa, U.S. Bank
Fidelity is switching partners for its cash back credit card, dumping American Express and Bank of America for Visa and U.S. Bank. The move is another loss for American Express Co., coming nearly a year after warehouse store operator Costco said it would end its exclusive partnership with the credit card company. American Express representative Keri Buster said the Fidelity cards are a small part of the company's business, accounting for less than 1 percent of its billings. Bank of America said it agreed not to renew the partnership because it has been moving away from providing services for credit cards of financial institutions. The new Fidelity card will continue to earn cardholders 2 percent in cash on every $1 spent, which can be deposited into Fidelity's checking or retirement accounts. Fidelity is a major provider of retirement accounts and other financial services.
Economists forecast recession for Brazil
Brazil's economy will contract more than previously forecast and is heading for the deepest recession since at least 1901 as economic activity and confidence sink amid a political crisis, a survey of analysts showed. Latin America's largest economy will shrink 2.95 percent this year, according to the weekly central bank poll of about 100 economists, vs. a prior estimate of a 2.81 percent contraction. Analysts lowered their 2016 growth forecast for 13 straight weeks and estimate the economy contracted 3.71 percent last year. Brazil's policymakers are struggling to control the fastest inflation in 12 years without further hamstringing a weak economy.
Businessman, philanthropist dies at 85
Businessman and philanthropist Ted Stanley, who made one of the largest private donations for scientific research, has died, his son said Monday. Ted Stanley, who was 85, made a fortune selling collectibles, beginning with a series of medals commemorating the moon landing in 1969. His Norwalk, Conn.-based company, MBI, specializes in marketing consumer products. In 2014, Stanley committed $650 million to the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center in Cambridge, Mass., for the study of psychiatric disorders. The cause was embraced by Stanley and his late wife, Vada Stanley, after their son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was in college in 1988.