By Caroline Humer and Clarece Polke NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Thursday took their first steps to crack down on e-cigarettes and cigars, increasingly popular among American youth, and banned sales to anyone under age 18 in hopes of preventing a new generation from becoming hooked on nicotine. The Food and Drug Administration's action brought regulation of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco in line with existing rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. Wall Street analysts expect the regulation to herald a new wave of consolidation led by big tobacco companies.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China's biggest e-commerce company, said fourth-quarter sales rose 39 percent after its core online shopping business grew, but profit fell for the first time as it spent on ventures like food delivery. Net income excluding extraordinary items, Alibaba's preferred measure for earnings, shrank 1.4 percent to 7.6 billion yuan from the previous year, as the company continued to invest heavily in new but shakier businesses. Its online finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, one of founder Jack Ma's crown jewels in his e-commerce empire, recorded a net loss in the quarter.