A labor group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products says once-oppressive working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime that employees work. The audit released Thursday by the Fair Labor Association represents the final assessment in a process that started last year at plants run in China by Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn. Reports depicting the Foxconn plants as inhumane sweatshops prompted Apple Inc. to hold its foreign contractors to higher standards.
The global airline industry expects its profits to jump to a record next year, helped by falling jet fuel prices, rising travel demand and cost-cutting. The International Air Transport Association said Thursday it forecasts a profit of $19.7 billion — well above the $12.9 billion expected this year and the $7.4 billion made in 2012. But the Geneva-based group, which represents 240 airlines, or 84 percent of total air traffic, said that margins are dropping and that next year’s profit would amount to a little less than $6 per passenger.
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. shares jumped in initial trading Thursday as the company returned to the market in the largest hotel IPO ever. The hotelier was taken private in 2007 by the Blackstone Group. It returned as a publicly traded company Thursday, raising $2.35 billion in its offering of 117.6 million shares at $20 each. That tops the total payoff of $2.1 billion generated by Twitter’s IPO last month.
Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages eased slightly this week, remaining near historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.42 percent from 4.46 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan dipped to 3.43 percent from 3.47 percent.