Farm income falls across rural states

Farm finances deteriorated across a swath of agricultural states during the summer and early fall, despite the Trump administration’s second round of trade aid payments and slightly higher prices, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reported Thursday.

The report underscores the mounting economic pressure on a key part of President Trump’s constituency as he confronts a reelection campaign and impeachment struggle while undertaking negotiations with Beijing on a partial trade deal that could provide relief from retaliatory tariffs hitting American farmers. The trade talks have bogged down as Trump seeks assurances that Beijing will deliver on commitments on agricultural purchases.

Farm income fell in the third quarter from a year ago in each of the seven rural states covered by the Kansas City Fed, according to its survey of agricultural credit conditions. The report cited the trade war, volatile crop prices and disruptions at a major beef processing facility.

Bankers contacted by the Fed said the drop in farm income was sharper than they expected going into the summer. Respondents expect income to decline further and credit conditions to worsen in the coming months despite trade aid payments. The USDA started issuing payments from its 2019 trade aid program in August.

— Bloomberg News


Ford plans Mustang electric crossover

Ford, which pioneered the racy pony-car body style 55 years ago, will use the Mustang name and insignia on an electric crossover utility vehicle coming next year.

The automaker said it’s expanding the Mustang stable for the first time with a model that will lead its charge in the electric-vehicle market dominated by Tesla. The battery-powered Mustang Mach-E will be unveiled Sunday at an event preceding the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Ford is spending $11 billion to roll out 40 electric and hybrid vehicles by 2022. It’s employing a strategy of electrifying its icons, first with the Mustang electric crossover and then with hybrid and battery-electric versions of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck. The automaker aims to show its EVs can be fast and tough and aren’t just so-called compliance cars intended to meet stringent environmental regulations.

Ford is beginning its pivot toward electrification by closing a 46-year-old engine factory in suburban Detroit that produces big V8 engines for the Mustang Shelby GT350. The United Auto Workers, now voting on a new contract with the automaker, is concerned the switch from gasoline to battery power endangers employment of 35,000 union members.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

IBM said on Thursday it will launch a new weather forecasting system that will be able to predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance and cover parts of the world that have not had access to such detailed data. Demand for very precise and quicker weather forecasts has grown as more extreme conditions increase due to climate change and as more variable renewable energy goes to the grid.

Houlihan's Restaurants may become the latest chain of eateries scooped up out of bankruptcy by billionaire Tilman Fertitta. The casual dining company filed for Chapter 11 protection in Delaware along with more than 30 affiliates. But Landry's — the Houston-based restaurant group that operates Joe's Crab Shack, Rainforest Cafe and Morton's steakhouses — has already offered to pay $40 million for the business and to assume certain liabilities, court documents show. Houlihan's listed about $80 million in assets and $77 million of liabilities.

Walmart raised its annual outlook on Thursday as a robust economy boosted purchases at its stores and website and the retailer picked up market share in food and other groceries. The world's largest retailer posted better-than-expected earnings, comparable sales and e-commerce growth in its largest market during the third quarter. It has now posted a more than five-year streak of U.S. growth, unmatched by any other retail chain.

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Commerce Department releases retail sales data for October.

— From news services