U.S. closes year with $666 billion deficit

The federal budget deficit rose to $666 billion in the just-completed fiscal year, a spike that comes as Republicans are moving to draft a tax code rewrite that promises to add up to $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the coming decade.

The sobering deficit numbers, released Friday by the Treasury Department and the White House budget office, followed Senate passage Thursday night of a 10-year budget plan that shelves GOP concerns on deficits and debt in favor of a tax overhaul.

Friday's budget figures represent an $80 billion jump over last year's $585 billion deficit, which itself was way up over the previous year's $438 billion.

The administration said the sour deficit report shows a need to pass the tax overhaul measure.

"These numbers should serve as a smoke alarm for Washington, a reminder that we need to grow our economy again and get our fiscal house in order," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said. "We can do that through smart spending restraint, tax reform and cutting red tape."

The White House in July revised its short-term deficit outlook significantly to warn of worsening deficits. Since then, a bad hurricane season has forced the government to spend billions in disaster relief.

— Associated Press


GE reports heavy
3rd-quarter losses

General Electric drastically cut expectations for the full year on Friday after third-quarter profit fell more sharply than expected on large restructuring charges.

In a conference call, new chief executive John Flannery called the results unacceptable. "It's also clear from our current results that we need to make some major changes with urgency and a depth of purpose." Flannery said Friday.

During the quarter, profit fell 9 percent to $1.84 billion, or 21 cents per share. Adjusted earnings came to 29 cents per share, far from the per-share earnings of 49 cents Wall Street had expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue jumped 14 percent to $33.5 billion, exceeding the $31.92 billion analysts had expected. Sales in the power unit, GE's biggest source of revenue, fell 4 percent. Sales and earnings in the transportation division were off by double-digit percentages.

The company has cut $1 billion in industrial costs this year. It plans more than $2 billion in cuts next year, double the original target, to go with at least $20 billion in divestments over the next year or two, Flannery said.

The company cut its full-year outlook to between $1.05 and $1.10 per share, down from a previous per-share outlook of $1.60 to 1.70 and the $1.54 per share analysts had been looking for, according to a poll by FactSet.

— Associated Press


Consumer Reports: Tesla rating 'positive'

Consumer Reports said Friday that electric automaker Tesla had apparently misunderstood the "average" reliability rating the magazine assigned to its Model 3 sedan this week, calling it generally "positive" for an all-new vehicle.

Tesla criticized the rating Thursday, saying that "it's important to note that Consumer Reports has not yet driven a Model 3, let alone do they know anything substantial about how the Model 3 was designed and engineered."

The rating for the lower-priced Model 3, aimed at giving the Silicon Valley automaker mass-market appeal, was part of magazine's annual survey of new vehicle reliability.

"Tesla appears unhappy that CR expects the new-to-market Tesla Model 3 to be of average reliability, which is generally a positive projection for any first model year of a car," the magazine said in a statement.

Consumer Reports said its rating was based on 2,000 consumer survey response about Tesla models. It also noted that its survey listed Tesla's Model S sedan as the magazine's top-rated car.

"As with all the cars we review . . . we will thoroughly test and evaluate the Model 3 with the same care and scrutiny we apply to all the cars we test just as soon as we can get one," the magazine said.


Also in Business

U.S. home sales rose slightly last month as the Houston housing market quickly recovered from Hurricane Harvey. Still, a shortage of available homes is thwarting many would-be buyers and limiting sales. The National Association of Realtors says existing-home sales increased 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million. That's the first increase after three months of declines. The median home price rose to $245,100, up 4.2 percent from a year ago.

Wells Fargo confirmed Friday three high-level foreign exchange executives and a currency trader have left the bank but would not say if they were fired. The bank, which has been through several investigations after a scandal over millions of fake accounts and another over auto insurance practices, has paid millions in fines and settlements, and investigations at the state and federal level are still pending.

Bitcoin soared to another milestone Friday, as the digital currency breached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to more than 500 percent. The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone while reaching a record high. The end-of-week rally is another sign that the threat of oversight won't damp enthusiasm for digital currencies.

From news reports