Tennessee American seeks applicants for environmental grants and other business news

Tennessee American funds local environmental projects

Tennessee American Water announced Thursday that applications are now being accepted for its 2023 Environmental Program.

Lori Stenzel, the water company's manager for water quality and environmental compliance, said the 2023 Environmental Grant Program "is a long-standing initiative that aims to support local organizations that share our environmental vision

"We are all responsible for protecting our community's water and watersheds, and this program is just one way we help our communities engage in this vital effort," she said.

Tennessee American offers funds for community-based environmental projects that improve, restore, or protect the watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies through partnerships. Last year, the company awarded $10,000 in grants to five organizations.

Information and application requirements can be obtained on the Tennessee American Water website, tennessseamwater.com, on the Environmental Grant Program section of the website.

Mortgage rates fall to four-month low

The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate fell this week to its lowest level since September, a potential boost to the housing market which has been in decline for nearly a year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 6.15% from 6.33% last week. A year ago the average rate was 3.56%.

The average long-term rate reached a two-decade high of 7.08% in the fall as the Federal Reserve continued to boost its key lending rate in its quest to cool the economy and tame inflation.

The big rise in mortgage rates during the past year has throttled the housing market, with sales of existing homes falling for 10 straight months to the lowest level in more than a decade.

Though home prices have retreated as demand has declined, they are still nearly 11% higher than a year ago. Higher prices and a doubling of mortgage rates have made homebuying much less affordable for many people, but recent rate declines could give some homebuyers new hope.

"Rates are at their lowest level since September of last year, boosting both homebuyer demand and homebuilder sentiment," said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "Declining rates are providing a much-needed boost to the housing market, but the supply of homes remains a persistent concern."

Ransonware attack closes KFC, Taco Bells in Britain

A ransomware attack forced the parent company of KFC and Taco Bell to close several hundred restaurants in the United Kingdom this week.

A government filing posted Thursday says the attack impacted information technology systems. Yum Brands said the attackers took company data, but that there is no evidence customer data was stolen.

Around 300 U.K. stores were closed for one day but are now operational, Yum said. There are more than 1,000 KFC and Taco Bell outlets in the U.K. and Ireland, according to company websites, yet it did not divulge which brands were impacted.

Ransomware is used to hold a target's data hostage until the attacker is paid, though it is not known if Yum paid any money in this case. Yum Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press Thursday.

The U.K. was the European country most targeted by observed ransomware attacks last month with 21, with Germany No. 2 with 11, according to the cybersecurity firm NCC Group.

The company said it alerted law enforcement and hired cybersecurity professionals to conduct an investigation. The company also took some systems offline and installed enhanced monitoring technology.

Truist Bank earnings rise in fourth quarter

Truist Bank, the Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant that operates the second biggest bank in Chattanooga, reported earnings of $1.20 a share for the quarter, compared with $1.13 a share in the same period a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting earnings of $1.24.

Stripping out merger-related costs from the merger of the former SunTrust and BB&T banks, adjusted earnings came to $1.30 a share.

"Fourth quarter results were strong, reflecting post-integration momentum and progress in many areas," Truist CEO Bill Rogers said. "Robust loan growth, significant margin expansion, and good cost discipline contributed to a 12% sequential increase in adjusted pre-provision net revenue. Credit quality remains strong reflecting our conservative credit culture and diverse business mix. We also delivered on our commitment to achieve positive operating leverage for the full-year 2022."