ECONOMY

Retail sales rose modestly in November

U.S. retail sales increased less than expected in November as Americans cut back on discretionary spending despite a strong labor market, raising fears of a much faster slowdown in fourth-quarter economic growth than anticipated.

The report from the Commerce Department on Friday bucked a recent raft of fairly upbeat data on the labor market, housing, trade and manufacturing that had suggested the economy was growing at a moderate speed despite head winds from trade tensions and slowing global growth.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept interest rates steady and signaled that borrowing costs were likely to remain unchanged at least through next year amid expectations the economy would continue to grow modestly and the unemployment rate remain low.

Retail sales rose 0.2 percent last month. Data for October was revised up to show retail sales increasing 0.4 percent instead of climbing 0.3 percent as previously reported. November’s meager sales gains are at odds with reports from retailers of brisk business during the Thanksgiving period. Some economists believed the data would be revised higher when the government publishes December’s retail sales report in January.

— Reuters

PHARMACEUTICS

Cardiovascular drug Vascepa OK'd by FDA

Amarin Corp. won an expanded U.S. approval for its cardiovascular drug Vascepa, opening the market for the fish oil-based therapy to potentially millions more patients and perhaps giving the company a potent moneymaker.

The Food and Drug Administration said on Friday it had approved the drug as a secondary therapy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events among adults with elevated triglyceride levels, which can play a role in hardening the arteries. Vascepa’s active ingredient is the omega-3 fatty acid derived from fish oil.

“Patients must also have either established cardiovascular disease or diabetes and two or more additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” the agency said in a statement. “Patients are advised to continue physical activity and maintain a healthy diet.”

Vascepa was first approved in 2012 as a treatment for people with severely high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in their blood. Analysts at SVB Leerink estimated the new approval could increase the therapy’s potential patient population to 10 million, from about 600,000 currently.

Amarin shares were halted on Friday afternoon ahead of the announcement. To that point, the stock had surged some 77 percent this year.

The approval had been widely expected. In November, all 16 members of an FDA advisory panel supported selling the drug for reducing the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, agreeing that Vascepa was both safe and effective.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

Ford said on Friday it would recall 547,538 of its Ford Super Duty pickup trucks across the United States, Canada and Mexico, citing the risk of a post-crash interior fire. The second-largest U.S. automaker said the recall covers certain models between the years 2017 and 2019 with carpet flooring that could experience a post-crash interior fire. According to the statement, a front-seat-belt pretensioner that deploys during a crash could generate excessive sparks and possibly ignite a fire in affected vehicles.

Personal banking information for tens of thousands of Facebook workers in the United States was compromised last month when a thief stole several corporate hard drives from an employee's car. The hard drives, which were unencrypted, included payroll data such as employees' names, their bank account numbers and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, according to a Facebook staff email on Friday.

General Motors will invest $1.5 billion to make what it calls the "next generation" of midsized pickup trucks at its plant near St. Louis, the company's president said Friday. GM will use the money to upgrade its Wentzville Assembly and Stamping Plant in preparation for the new products, GM President Mark Reuss said. The company already produces the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups there.

— From news services