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Talking Points

Block Island ferry company seeking to purchase new boat

A ferry boat heads to Point Judith, R.I., from Block Island.
A ferry boat heads to Point Judith, R.I., from Block Island.Bill Greene/Globe Staff/File 2008

TRANSPORTATION

Block Island ferry decides it needs a bigger boat

The company that runs the year-round ferry to Block Island wants to purchase a boat that will carry twice as many passengers. Interstate Navigation is seeking state permission to expand its ferry operation with the new 500-passenger ship. The boat would cost $10.5 million and would replace the current 250-passenger ferry. Ferry service to Block Island is tightly regulated by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, which needs to sign off on Interstate’s plan to borrow $8.5 million for the new boat. The division has scheduled a meeting for Thursday morning at its offices in Warwick. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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AIRPORTS

French company buys Gatwick Airport in Britain

Vinci SA agreed to acquire control of Gatwick Airport for $3.7 billion as the French construction company jumped on the chance to add a major London hub to its aviation portfolio. The purchase of a 50.01 percent stake in the world’s second-busiest single-runway airport from a group of investors including sovereign wealth funds from Abu Dhabi and Australia will be financed with pound-denominated debt, Vinci said Thursday. Existing shareholder Global Infrastructure Partners will manage the remaining holding. With 45.7 million passengers in 2018, Gatwick will become the largest airport in Vinci’s global network that spans Brazil to Sweden. Gatwick has been under pressure due to intensifying competition from London’s other airports and lost out to Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub, in a contest to win government backing for the construction of a new runway.
— BLOOMBERG NEWS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Instagram briefly changes scrolling method

Instagram briefly changed how users moved through their feeds Thursday morning, forcing them to swipe left or tap through horizontally rather than scroll vertically. On Twitter, Instagram users immediately expressed disappointment with the app’s new feature. The update appeared to affect iPhone users but not those with Android smartphones or those using the app on a desktop computer. The feature was quickly reversed. In a series of tweets, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, explained that the update was mistakenly released to too many people. — NEW YORK TIMES

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TECHNOLOGY

Sony to boost production of camera chips for smartphones

Sony Corp., the biggest maker of camera chips used in smartphones, is boosting production of next-generation 3-D sensors after getting interest from customers including Apple Inc. The chips will power front- and rear-facing 3-D cameras from several smartphone makers in 2019, with Sony kicking off mass production in late summer to meet demand, according to Satoshi Yoshihara, head of Sony’s sensor division. Sony’s bullish outlook for 3-D cameras provides much needed optimism to the global smartphone industry, which is suffering a slowdown as consumers find fewer reasons to upgrade devices. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

Consumer confidence falls in December

US consumer confidence tumbled this month as Americans began to worry that economic growth will moderate next year. But consumer spirits are still high by historical standards. The Conference Board, a business research group, said Thursday that its consumer confidence index fell to 128.1 in December, down from 136.4 in November and the lowest since July. The index measures consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months. Both fell in December. Consumers’ expectations for the future dropped to the lowest level since November 2016. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

E-COMMERCE

Laundry detergent changes to make it easier to deliver

Amazon’s rise is forcing laundry detergents to shrink. Soap makers Tide and Seventh Generation have introduced redesigned laundry detergents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas. They’re making the changes to please Amazon and other online stores: Lighter packaging means retailers will pay less to ship the detergent to shoppers’ doorsteps, making each sale more profitable. For consumers, the new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking. The challenge, however, is getting online shoppers to buy detergent that looks nothing like the heavy bottles they are used to. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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MORTGAGES

Rates fall this week

Long-term mortgage rates declined this week, offering slight relief to would-be home buyers after the stock market tumbled. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.55 percent from 4.62 percent last week. Rates averaged 3.99 percent a year ago. The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate loans dropped to 4.01 percent from 4.07 percent. Still, that average is above its 3.44 percent level a year ago. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRAVEL

Former employee of Disney Cruise Line sues over alleged discrimination

A middle-aged male former labor analyst at Disney Cruise Line claims his younger female manager created a hostile work environment by bullying him about his age, bragging about sleeping with married men in the office, and passing him over for promotions, according to a federal lawsuit. Anthony McHugh claims in a lawsuit filed last month that his former female manager discriminated against him because of his sex and age, a scenario that legal experts say is rare, given the genders of the employee and supervisor. The unidentified female supervisor called McHugh a name in front of staff, moved his office to a windowless space, wouldn’t provide him with an iPhone or tablet, as she did for staff younger than 40, and passed him over for promotions even though he says he was more senior and qualified, the lawsuit said. Disney Cruise Line said in a statement that the claims are without merit and ‘‘we will respond to them in court.’’ The Florida-headquartered cruise line is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Co. and operates four ships. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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E-COMMERCE

India tightens rules for foreign e-commerce platforms

India has tightened rules regarding how foreign e-commerce platforms are allowed to sell goods in one of the fastest-growing online markets, a potential blow to companies like Amazon.com and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart. Online marketplaces must treat all vendors equally by providing the same terms, the trade ministry said Wednesday. In practice, this means barring e-commerce companies from forcing a seller to feature products exclusively on their platforms and limiting ownership or control over the marketplace’s inventory. This could mean that platforms such as Amazon and Walmart may not offer their own goods — such as the Echo smart speaker — at heavy discounts, and will be forced to allow rivals the opportunity to sell previously proprietary products. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

EMPLOYMENT

Jobless claims fall for the third time in four weeks

Filings for unemployment benefits decreased for the third time in four weeks, hovering near an almost five-decade low that reflects a robust job market. Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 216,000 in the week ended Dec. 22, matching the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists and following a revised reading of 217,000 for the prior week, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, fell to a six-week low. — BLOOMBERG NEWS