Business Briefs: Sen. Corker says debt is biggest threat to U.S.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., addresses the Rotary Club of Chattanooga at the Chattanooga Convention Center in August 2017.

Sen. Corker says debt is biggest threat

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday "the greatest threat to our nation is our inability to get our fiscal house in order."

As the federal debt topped $20 trillion, Corker said "it is absurd that Washington continues to turn a blind eye to the dangerous crisis staring us in the face." The debt threat is more severe than either what ISIS terrorists or North Korea present to the United States, Corker said.

"We are now $20 trillion in debt and that number will double in the next 10 years unless we have the courage to put a fiscal straitjacket on Congress," Corker said.

Banks lead stocks to more record highs

Stocks climbed to more record highs on Wall Street, led by big gains in banks.

Banks were benefiting from higher bond yields Tuesday, which allow them to charge higher interest rates on loans. Bank of America gained 2.5 percent and Wells Fargo rose 1.8 percent.

Chemicals company DowDuPont jumped 2.5 percent after it made changes to its breakup plans. Apple slipped after announcing its new lineup of iPhones.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,496.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 61 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,118. The Nasdaq composite increased 22 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,454.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.17 percent.

Senate confirms Hassett to head economic council

The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's choice to head the Council of Economic Advisers.

The vote was 81-16 on Tuesday for Kevin Hassett, a tax expert at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute think tank. Hassett has served as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of three GOP candidates - George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain.

Hassett was a consultant to the Treasury Department during the administrations of Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton. He also was a senior economist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board.

Hassett takes the post as the Trump administration and congressional Republicans press ahead on their top priority, overhauling the nation's tax code.

Tennessee linemen head south for repairs

More than 90 electric cooperative lineworkers from Tennessee, including 12 from the Chattanooga area, are headed to Florida and Georgia to restore power to those affected by Hurricane Irma.

Tennessee crews have been making plans since last week, but co-ops were hesitant to commit crews until the remnants of Hurricane Irma moved through Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. With the storm passed, some crews have already left and others are making final preparations to leave for hard-hit Florida and Georgia.

"Eleven electric cooperatives in Tennessee are sending personnel and equipment to Florida and Georgia to assist electric cooperatives impacted by this incredible storm," said David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

Crews from Tennessee are joining some 5,000 electric cooperative workers from 25 states who are converging this week on the hurricane's impact zone.

Irma delivers blow to Florida farmers

Hurricane Irma delivered a serious punch to Florida agriculture, but producers and officials have only barely begun to assess the damage to the state's citrus, sugar cane and vegetable crops.

With power and communications still out across much of Florida, officials say getting a full picture of Irma's impact is going to take weeks - but they expect it will be significant.

What remains unknown: Exactly how much damage the crops suffered, how much producers might recover from crop insurance, and how much more people might pay for their morning orange juice.

Mark Hudson of the National Agricultural Statistics Service says agents have just started evaluating the losses, if they can even get out into the field.

Regulators to review Fox bid for Sky TV

The British government is referring Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.'s bid for satellite broadcaster Sky to its competition regulator, in a blow to Rupert Murdoch's takeover plans.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told lawmakers Tuesday she intended to refer the takeover to the Competition and Markets Authority because of concerns that the deal might concentrate too much power in one company's hands. Twenty-First Century Fox said it was "disappointed" by the decision.