FTC seeks to block Sysco-US Foods merger

Antitrust regulators are challenging the $3.5 billion sale of US Foods to Sysco, saying the deal would hurt customers by reducing competition between food supply companies. Sysco Corp. agreed to buy US Foods in December 2013, saying they would create a company with $65 billion in annual revenue. But they can't complete the deal without approval from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC filed a complaint to block the deal, saying Sysco and US Foods are by far the largest companies in their industry and would have a "dominant" position in the marketplace. The agency said the combined company would likely lead to higher prices for customers like restaurants, hospitals, hotels and schools. Sysco said it will contest the FTC's complaint.

Judge rules against American Express

American Express violated U.S. antitrust laws by barring merchants from asking customers to use one credit card over another, a federal judge ruled. The case was a major blow to American Express, who argued that its policies kept it competitive against the larger payment networks of Visa and MasterCard and their bank partners. American Express plans to appeal the decision. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in his ruling that American Express nondisclosure policies harmed competition and prevented merchants from trying to lower their credit card processing costs. He also said AmEx's policies kept consumers unaware how much using their credit cards cost merchants, which required merchants to pass along those costs in the form of higher prices.

McDonald's to bring back Chicken Selects

McDonald's Corp. is bringing chicken tenders back to its menu next month in a move that's rippling through the poultry industry. The item, called Chicken Selects, will begin appearing at U.S. restaurants for at least a limited time in early March, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said, confirming speculation in the industry. The product, made with fried strips of tenderloin chicken meat, was last sold in 2013 after more than a decade on the menu. For the poultry business, the move is easing concerns about an oversupply of chicken in the United States. It also underscores how much clout McDonald's has with suppliers: Though the company is mired in a sales slump and shaking up its leadership, it can still sway the meat industry with a single menu item.

Average 30-year mortgage rates rise again

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates have risen for a second straight week yet remained near historically low levels. Mortgage company Freddie Mac said the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage jumped to 3.76 percent from 3.69 percent last week. The average rate is still at its lowest level since May 2013. The rate for the 15-year loan, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, increased to 3.05 percent from 2.99 percent last week. A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.33 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.35 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, which were meant to hold down long-term rates.