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TALKING POINTS

Municipal power companies looking to hydropower

Jacques Boissinot

ENERGY

Municipal power companies looking to hydropower

Municipal utilities in three New England states are plugging into hydropower in a big way, with a contract to buy 200 million kilowatt-hours per year of electricity from FirstLight Power’s two dams on the Connecticut River in Montague, just east of Greenfield. That’s the equivalent to the total annual power consumption of about 23,000 homes. Energy New England brokered the deal on behalf of 21 municipal electric utilities to buy electricity from the Turners Falls and Cabot plants. FirstLight CEO Alicia Barton said the deal ensures that the plants will continue to operate for the next 10 years, and reduce the carbon emissions for the participating communities. The Cabot station is Massachusetts' largest conventional hydroelectric facility, with 62 megawatts of generating capacity, or enough for 50,000 homes, while Turners Falls, just upstream of Cabot, generates up to 6 megawatts. — JON CHESTO

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THINK TANKS

Portnoy named chair of Pioneer Institute’s board

Adam Portnoy, the chief executive of Newton-based real estate investment firm RMR Group, has been named the new chair of Pioneer Institute’s board of directors, taking over for longtime board member Stephen Fantone. Portnoy joined the 21-member board of the Boston-based, free market-leaning think tank in 2018. Pioneer employs a full-time staff of nine people, along with contracts with a number of fellows. The nonprofit organization plays an influential role in state policy making, often taking fiscally conservative and contrary viewpoints. Its revenues in the fiscal year that ended in September totaled $3.3 million, with funding from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. — JON CHESTO

AVIATION

JetBlue latest to open up blocked seats

JetBlue will join other major US carriers in opening up previously blocked seats, citing increased evidence that cabins are safer from the spread of coronavirus than many indoor environments. Starting Jan. 8, the airline will make all seats available for sale, JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty told employees in a memo Thursday. It joins Southwest, which will free up seats after November, and Delta, which plans to make all seats available after Jan. 6. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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ECONONY

Consumer prices flat in October

US consumer prices were unchanged in October, the lowest reading in five months and an indication that a price spike over the summer is beginning to fade as coronavirus cases begin to spread. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the flat reading in October followed a gain of 0.2 percent in September. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, also showed no changed in October, another indication that inflation remains well-behaved. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Germany launches probe into WhatsApp

Facebook’s WhatsApp and other messaging services will be investigated by German regulators, who will check how they handle users' personal information and whether being able to send messages between different providers could boost privacy. Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said on Thursday it opened a sector inquiry into messenger services, citing possible violations of consumer protection law. It said the probe may also help regulators “gain insight” into whether enabling apps to send messages to each other could prompt users to choose services that do more to protect privacy. WhatsApp is the most used messaging app for Germans using Android devices with more than 7 million daily users, according to Statista. Facebook’s Messenger follows with 2.8 milion daily users and Microsoft Corp.'s Skype has some 1.8 million daily users. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

TRANSPORTATION

European company to rent scooters and bikes across the continent

Bolt Technology, Europe’s number one rival to ride-hailing giant Uber, plans to invest more than 100 million euros ($118 million) next year to expand its fleet of rentable electric scooters and bicycles across the continent, even as governments clamp down on personal mobility to battle the pandemic. Bolt Technology OU wants to boost its network to 130,000 scooters and bikes in more than 100 European cities following a 100 million-euro funding round in May. The expansion includes first-time inroads into countries like Germany and the UK. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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MORTGAGES

Rates rise a bit but still at record low levels

Long-term mortgage rates rose this week. They remain at historically low levels, now around a percentage point below a year ago. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year benchmark loan increased to 2.84 percent from 2.78 percent from last week. By contrast, the rate averaged 3.75 percent a year ago. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 2.34 percent from 2.32 percent. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

SKIN CARE

Maker of Banana Boat sunscreen sees sales jump during pandemic summer

Edgewell Personal Care Co. jumped after the maker of Banana Boat sunscreen reported strong demand for skin-care products during the warmer months of the pandemic. With the coronavirus keeping people outdoors and away from crowded places, the company benefited from an “extended sun-care season,” according to chief financial officer Daniel Sullivan. Along with heavy demand for Wet Ones sanitizing wipes, that helped drive sales in the skin-care division up 15 percent in the fourth quarter, the company said. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

REAL ESTATE

Prices jump across US, particularly in Pittsfield

Prices for single-family homes across the United States increased 12 percent in the third quarter, the biggest annual jump in seven years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Prices rose from a year earlier in all 181 metropolitan areas measured by the group, and 117 regions had double-digit gains, compared with only 15 in the second quarter, according to a report Thursday. Fairfield County, Connecticut — home of tony enclaves like Greenwich, as well as Bridgeport, one of the state’s poorest cities — had the biggest increase in prices, with 27.3 percent. Following were Crestview, Fla.; Pittsfield; Kingston, N.Y.; Atlantic City, N.J.; and Boise, Idaho. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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COSMETICS

Revlon exchanges debt, avoids bankruptcy

Revlon says it got enough support from investors to close its debt exchange and pay down remaining obligations, eliminating the potential for a bankruptcy filing in the near future. The cosmetics company said in a statement Thursday that bondholders agreed to exchange about 69 percent of the company’s $343 million of bonds due 2021. Revlon had to come up with a way to pay down or otherwise eliminate the the debt by Nov. 16 to avoid triggering a cascade of other obligations coming due. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

MEAT

Coalition says top suppliers lax in preventing infectious disease outbreaks

Some of the top meat suppliers aren’t doing enough to prevent infectious disease outbreaks, underscoring the need to improve measures from biosecurity to animal welfare, a $25 trillion investor coalition said. About three-quarters of the 60 largest publicly traded suppliers of meat, dairy, fish, and eggs were deemed high risk when it comes to containing potential future zoonotic diseases, an analysis from Fairr shows. More than half of the companies scored high risk on criteria including the use of antibiotics, working conditions, and animal welfare, the London-based group said. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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