Tech, banks dip day after big rally

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks finished lower Thursday after an afternoon rally faded away. Banks and technology companies fell after the market pulled off a huge rally from the previous day.

Financial stocks slipped as interest rates again edged lower. Crude oil prices climbed after they briefly dipped under $50 a barrel. The rebound helped energy stocks trade higher. Health care companies, which have climbed over the last month, continued to do better than the rest of the market.

The Federal Reserve released minutes from its meeting in early November, when officials expressed concerns about a variety of threats to the economy, including the impact of tariffs, slowing global business activity and tightening financial conditions amid falling stock prices. The assessment was in line with comments Wednesday from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

"That's what the Fed is trying to put out there, is they haven't gotten carried away with rate increases," said Thomas Martin, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. "The market wants to see ... that they are going to be gradual."

Consumer spending up strong 0.6%

WASHINGTON — Consumers boosted their spending in October at the fastest pace in seven months, while their incomes rose by the largest amount in nine months. Both are good signs for future economic growth.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose a sharp 0.6 percent last month. It was the biggest increase since a similar gain in March and was three times faster than the 0.2 percent September performance. Incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, were up 0.5 percent in October, a significant pickup from a 0.2 percent September gain.

A key gauge of inflation tied to consumer spending posted a 2 percent rise in October compared to a year ago, hitting the 2 percent annual target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve.

Pending home sales sink in Oct.

WASHINGTON — Pending home sales sank in October, as higher mortgage rates have worsened the affordability of home ownership and dampened enthusiasm among would-be buyers.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its pending home sales index fell 2.6 percent last month to 102.1. The index based on contract signings has tumbled 6.7 percent from a year ago.

The housing downturn has corresponded with a jump in mortgage rates that began last year after President Donald Trump's tax cuts led to higher budget deficits and interest rates charged on U.S. Treasury notes. Further fueling the increase mortgage rates was a decision by the Federal Reserve to reduce the size of its balance sheet and raise a short-term rate for loans between banks.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate charged for a 30-year mortgage was 4.81 percent this week, up from 3.9 percent a year ago.

Contract signings dropped most sharply in the West, but they also declined in the Midwest and South. The index increased in the Northeast.

Pending sales are a barometer of home purchases that are completed a month or two later, so the October index suggests that sales will possibly decline through December.

Deutsche offices searched in tax case

BERLIN — German authorities searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and other offices on Thursday on the suspicion bank employees helped clients set up offshore companies in tax havens to launder hundreds of millions of euros, in an investigation brought about from an analysis of online document leaks.

Frankfurt prosecutors' spokeswoman Nadja Niesen said the investigation was focused on two Deutsche Bank employees, aged 50 and 46, and possibly other not-yet identified suspects.

Some 170 prosecutors, state police, national police and tax investigators were involved in the morning searches of six buildings in Frankfurt, and in nearby Eschborn and Gross-Umstadt, Niesen said.

The investigation was launched after evaluation of the explosive Panama Papers tax haven revelations and the previous Offshore Leaks report of offshore bank accounts, she said. The analysis "gave rise to suspicion that Deutsche Bank was helping clients set up so-called offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there from Deutsche Bank accounts" without the bank reporting it.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers are alleged to have transferred some 311 million euros to one such company set up in the British Virgin Islands, she said. The suspects are accused of failing to report the suspicious transactions even though there was "sufficient evidence" to have been aware of it.

Bayer cuts 12,000 jobs, many at home

BERLIN — German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG says it's cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide as it seeks to reduce costs.

The Leverkusen-based company said Thursday that details of the cuts to its 118,200-strong workforce would be worked out in coming months but that "a significant number" of the reductions would come in Germany.

Bayer acquired U.S. seed and weed-killer maker Monsanto Co. this year. It says with the "synergies expected from the acquisition of Monsanto" and other efficiency and structural measures, including the job cuts, "Bayer anticipates annual contributions of 2.6 billion euros from 2022 on."

The company says a portion of the funds will be used to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in its divisions.

Unilver CEO to retire this year

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Paul Polman, CEO of consumer products multinational Unilever, owner of well-known brands such as Dove soaps and Lipton tea, is retiring at the end of the year.

The Anglo-Dutch company announced Polman's retirement on Thursday and said he will be succeeded from Jan. 1 by Alan Jope, currently president of Unilever's beauty and personal c are division.

The announcement comes months after Unilever, under pressure from shareholders, reversed a decision to consolidate its headquarters in Rotterdam. The company has two head offices, in the Dutch city and in London. Polman will help Jope settle into his new role during the first half of next year.

Advance Auto is moving its HQ to NC

RALEIGH — Advance Auto Parts Inc. is moving its headquarters from the Virginia city that was its home for nearly 90 years to North Carolina's tech-heavy capital city, the company announced this week.

The parts retailer plans to continue employing about 600 employees in Roanoke, Va., but the headquarters move and expansion in Raleigh were prompted by the relative ease in attracting computer-savvy talent as the company broadens its online presence, CEO Tom Greco said.

The move adds about 435 jobs in Raleigh, most of them focused on data analytics, Internet commerce and other computer technology roles. The jobs must pay an average of $96,000 a year and Advanced Auto Parts must maintain more than 700 positions already in North Carolina in return for an $11 million package of state and local incentives approved Wednesday.

Advance Auto Parts had split corporate and support operations between Roanoke and Raleigh for four years after buying Raleigh-based General Parts International Inc. The majority of Advanced Auto's top executives were already based in Raleigh, Greco said. North Carolina kept the combined company's corporate operations in Raleigh in 2014 with more than $17 million in tax breaks.

Advance Auto Parts started as a variety-store chain in Roanoke in the 1930s and became a specialty auto parts chain in the 1970s under Nicholas Taubman, who succeeded his father as top executive. It now operates nearly 5,000 stores.

Lyft buys bike sharing business Motivate

NEW YORK — Lyft has completed its acquisition of Motivate, the nation's largest bike-sharing company.

The deal is part of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company's goal of offering an array of transportation options within one app and reducing individual car ownership. Financial details were not disclosed.

Motivate operates bike-share systems in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and elsewhere. Last year, 80 percent of bike-share rides in the U.S. were on Motivate bikes.

Caroline Samponaro, head of bike, scooter and pedestrian policy for Lyft says the company plans to invest $100 million in New York to triple its bike fleet there to 40,000 and double the footprint of the system.

Rival Uber acquired bike sharing company Jump Bikes earlier this year. Uber also invested in Lime, a bike and scooter-sharing company.

Alexa ties into Big Mouth Billy Bass

DALLAS — Kitsch and high-tech are linking up just in time for Christmas.

Big Mouth Billy Bass is programmed to respond to Alexa voice commands through a compatible Amazon Echo device. That means the singing and talking fish will lip synch to Alexa's responses and will dance to songs from Amazon music. When it's first plugged in, it will respond "Woo-hoo, that feels good!"

Gemmy Industries product development vice president Steven Harris says "this is not your father's Big Mouth Billy Bass." But like the original, it includes the song "Fishin' Time" and can be mounted on the wall or on an easel.

Big Mouth Billy Bass was first sold in 1999. A developer first connected it to Alexa in 2016. The new version will be released Saturday for $39.99.

Wire reports