Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 5:52 PM
Business Highlights


Why economists see a stronger second half for 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Farewell and good riddance to the first half of 2011 _ six months that are ending as sour for the economy as they began.

Most analysts say economic growth will perk up in the second half of the year. The reason is that the main causes of the slowdown _ high oil prices and manufacturing delays because of the disaster in Japan _ have started to fade.

For an economy barely inching ahead two years after the Great Recession ended, the first half of 2011 can't end soon enough. Severe storms and rising gasoline prices held growth in January, February and March to a glacial annual rate of 1.9 percent.

The current quarter isn't shaping up much better. The average growth forecast of 38 top economists surveyed by The Associated Press is 2.3 percent.


High court to rule on FCC indecency policy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court will take up the First Amendment fight over what broadcasters can put on the airwaves when young children may be watching television.

The justices said Monday they will review appeals court rulings that threw out the Federal Communications Commission's rules against the isolated use of expletives as well as fines against broadcasters who showed a woman's nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC's "NYPD Blue."

The Obama administration objected that the appeals court stripped the FCC of its ability to police the airwaves.

The U.S. television networks argue that the policy is outdated, applying only to broadcast television and leaving unregulated the same content if transmitted on cable TV or over the Internet.

In a landmark 1978 decision, the court upheld the FCC's authority to regulate both radio and television content, at least during the hours when children are likely to be watching or listening. That period includes the prime-time hours before 10 p.m.


Can't ban violent video sales to kids, court says

WASHINGTON (AP) _ States cannot ban the sale or rental of ultraviolent video games to children, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting such limits as a violation of young people's First Amendment rights and leaving it up to parents and the multibillion-dollar gaming industry to decide what kids can buy.

The high court, on a 7-2 vote, threw out California's 2005 law covering games sold or rented to those under 18, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia, said, "Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply."

Scalia, who pointed out the violence in a number of children's fairy tales, said that while states have legitimate power to protect children from harm, "that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."


Los Angeles Dodgers file for bankruptcy protection

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Facing the painful prospect of stiffing players and employees, the Los Angeles Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court Monday, adding to off-the-field troubles that have hobbled one of baseball's most storied franchises and setting up another showdown with Major League Baseball.

Team owner Frank McCourt, upset that baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a multibillion-dollar TV deal last week, now hopes a federal judge will approve $150 million in financing to be used for daily operations and give him more time to seek a more favorable media contract. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

The move by a cash-starved McCourt comes just days before he was expected to miss team payroll Thursday and possibly be confronted with an MLB takeover. The filing also means it's unlikely a resolution over team ownership, a fight that began two years ago when McCourt and his ex-wife and former team CEO Jamie McCourt decided to divorce, will be found any time soon.


Consumer spending in May weakest in a year

WASHINGTON (AP) _ For the first time in a year, Americans have stopped spending more.

Consumer spending failed to budge from April to May, evidence that high gas prices and unemployment are squeezing household budgets. When adjusted for inflation, spending actually dropped 0.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

April's consumer spending figures were revised to show a similar decline when adjusting for inflation. It marked the first two-month decline in inflation-adjusted spending since April 2009.

Incomes rose 0.3 percent for the second straight month. But adjusted for inflation, after-tax incomes increased only 0.1 percent in May, after falling by the same amount in the previous month.


White House: `Significant' deal on debt possible

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama plunged into deadlocked negotiations to cut government deficits and raise the nation's debt limit as the White House expressed confidence Monday that a "significant" deal with Republicans can be reached. But both sides only seemed to harden their positions as the day wore on, with the White House insisting on some higher taxes as part of the package and the Republican leadership flatly refusing to consider them.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for about 30 minutes at the White House, a straightforward session that only set the stage for an evening meeting of Obama, Biden and Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama reported out of the morning session that "everyone in the room believes that a significant deal remains possible." But Carney affirmed that Obama will only go for a deficit-reduction plan that includes both spending cuts and increased tax revenue, a so-called balanced approach that Republicans say would never get through Congress based on the tax hikes.


Nike's 4th-quarter profit jumps 14 percent, shares soar

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Nike Inc.'s fourth-quarter net profit rose 14 percent to beat expectations as the company's sales improved around the globe.

The world's largest athletic shoe company reported Monday that it earned $594 million, or $1.24 per share, for the quarter. That's up from the $522 million, or $1.06 per share, it earned in the same quarter last year.

Nike's revenue rose 14 percent to $5.77 billion

The results handily beat the $1.16 per share on revenue of $5.53 billion that analysts polled by FactSet were anticipating. The news sent shares of the company soaring in after-hours trading.


Fitch downgrades Best Buy credit rating

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fitch Ratings on Monday cut its long-term default rating on electronics retailer Best Buy Co. by two notches to the lowest investment-grade rating. The agency cited weak sales trends at established stores, tough competition and a battle for market share as more shoppers buy electronics online or at discount retailers.

Fitch also noted that Best Buy is facing a consumer pressured by high unemployment and housing costs and rising gas prices. The agency lowered the rating to "BBB-" from "BBB+" with a stable outlook. As of May 28, Best Buy had $2.1 billion of debt outstanding.


By The Associated Press(equals)

Signs that a widespread European debt crisis could be averted helped send stocks up Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 108.98 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 12,043.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11.65, or 0.9 percent, to 1,280.10. The Nasdaq composite index rose 35.39, or 1.3 percent, to 2,688.28.

Benchmark oil for August delivery fell 55 cents to settle at $90.61 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for August delivery rose 87 cents to $105.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading in July contracts, heating oil rose 1.25 cents to $2.7814 a gallon while gasoline rose 2.85 cents to $2.7444 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 2.7 cents to $4.256 per 1,000 cubic feet.