Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2011 6:04 PM
Business Highlights

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Obama expresses concern about slowing economy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With few options at hand and his poll numbers sagging, President Barack Obama expressed concern Tuesday about the sudden slowdown in the economy but said he is not worried about a second recession and the nation should "not panic."

The president spoke about the new economic trouble in detail for the first time since a report late last week showed job growth had slowed sharply in May. He tried to reassure Americans worried about high unemployment and expensive gas that the nation is on a slow, if not steady, path to recovery.

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Bernanke: Economy slowing but faster growth ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted Tuesday that the job market and the economy have weakened in recent weeks. But he said that's mainly because of higher gas prices and the Japan crises _ factors that should ease in coming months_ and predicted growth would strengthen later this year.

Bernanke made no mention of any new steps the Fed might take to boost the economy. The Fed's $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program is ending this month. The program was intended to keep interest rates low to strengthen the economy. But critics said it raised the risk of high inflation.

The Fed chairman said the economy still needs the benefit of low interest rates. The Fed is scheduled to meet in two weeks and is widely expected to keep those rates at record lows.

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AP analysis: Economic stress at 2-year low

The nation's economic stress fell to a two-year low in April, thanks to the strongest private-sector hiring in five years and a dip in bankruptcy filings, according to The Associated Press' monthly analysis.

The improved picture for jobs and bankruptcy filings offset a slight rise in foreclosures.

The easing of stress was felt most in Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states. But conditions brightened throughout the country: More than 90 percent of the nation's 3,141 counties were better off in April than in March.

Counties with heavy concentrations of workers in farming, retail and tourism benefited in particular. By contrast, counties with many workers in education and mining suffered the sharpest increases in stress.

The AP's Stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signifies more economic stress. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. By that standard, about a quarter of the counties were stressed in April, down from about a third in March.

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Consumers borrowed more for 7th straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans borrowed more money in April for the seventh straight month, but they cut back on using their credit cards.

Consumer borrowing rose by nearly $7.2 billion, fueled by greater demand for school and auto loans, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. A category that measures credit card use fell for the second time in three months. It has risen only twice since August 2008, the height of the financial crisis.

The 3.1 percent overall increase pushed consumer borrowing to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $2.43 trillion, just above the nearly four-year low of $2.39 trillion hit in September.

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Companies pulled back on job postings in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses advertised fewer jobs in April than the previous month, a sign that hiring could slow further in the coming months.

Employers posted 3 million job openings, down from 3.1 million from March, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Job openings have been stuck at about 3 million for three months.

Job growth slowed sharply in May, according to the monthly employment report released Friday. Employers added a net total of only 54,000 positions, down from an average of 220,000 per month in each of the previous three months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent from 9 percent. That report raised concerns among many analysts that without more jobs, the economy will remain anemic for much of this year.

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OPEC split over increasing oil production

VIENNA (AP) _ Mideast turmoil, a faltering world economy and divisions on whether to raise crude production promise to make Wednesday's OPEC meeting one of the more volatile in recent history.

In the end, the 12-nation group will probably opt to increase output levels to reduce international concerns about the high price of oil. But some influential members are looking to raise the cost of crude.

Indirectly endorsing lower prices, Angolan Oil Minister Jose Maria Bothelo de Vasconselos told reporters Tuesday his country could accept an OPEC decision to raise output targets, "if the market needs more oil." Iraqi oil minister Abdul-Karim Elaibi differed, saying a price of between $100 and $120 a barrel is "reasonable."

That level is at or above present prices and is considered too high by major oil-consuming countries struggling with their economies. And it goes against efforts by OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia to push prices downward.

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Hovnanian Enterprises' loss grew in fiscal 2Q

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. says its loss more than doubled in its fiscal second quarter, as home orders fell sharply and the homebuilder booked higher land-related charges.

New homes orders dropped 17 percent compared with a year ago, when federal tax credits helped spur sales.

Hovnanian, based in Red Bank, N.J., said Tuesday it lost $72.7 million, or 69 cents a share, for the three months ended April 30. That compares with a loss of $28.6 million, or 36 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Sales tumbled to $255.1 million from $318.6 million the year before.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected a loss of 53 cents a share on revenue of about $265 million.

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Ford sets goal to expand sales in Asia

DETROIT (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that it wants to expand its global sales by 50 percent by the middle of this decade, mostly through growth in Asia.

The company aims to sell 8 million vehicles in the next five or six years, up from 5.3 million last year. It wants more than one-third of its sales to come from its Asia Pacific and Africa region by 2020. That's double the 838,000 cars and trucks sold in that region today.

Ford's Asia Pacific region includes China, India, Australia, South Africa and Japan, where it controlled 2.4 percent of sales last year.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 19.15 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 12,070.81. The Standard and Poor's 500 dipped 1.23, or 0.1 percent, to 1,284.94. The Nasdaq composite shed 1, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,701.56.

Benchmark crude for July delivery added 8 cents to settle at $99.09 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil rose 5.96 cents to settle at $3.0770 per gallon and gasoline futures gained 4.2 cents to settle at $2.9919 per gallon. Natural gas added less than a penny to settle at $4.831 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude, which influences the price of oil imported by refineries in the Northeast, rose after Goldman Sachs reported a decline in supplies from the North Sea, where Brent is produced. Brent rose $2.30 to settle at $116.78 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.