Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Jun 01, 2012 6:13 PM
Business Highlights


Danger sign for US economy: Job growth disappoints

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The American economy may be headed for trouble again.

Employers in the U.S. added only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year and not even close to what economists expected. For the first time since June, the unemployment rate rose, to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.

It was the third month in a row of weak job growth and further evidence that, just as in 2010 and 2011, a winter of hope for the economy has turned to a spring of disappointment.


Dismal job market pushes Dow into 275-point plunge

The stock market suffered its worst day of the year Friday after a surprisingly weak report about hiring and employment cast a shadow over the U.S. economy. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 275 points.

Traders stampeded into the safety of bonds, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to a record low. Fearful investors bought gold, driving the price up by $50 an ounce, and concern about a global economic slowdown drove the price of oil to its lowest since October.

It was the Dow's steepest one-day drop since November.


Gas prices are silver lining as economy weakens

There's some good news behind the discouraging headlines on the economy: Gas is getting cheaper. It's dropped to $2.99 in some parts of South Carolina and could soon fall below $3 in a handful of other southern states.

A plunge in oil prices has knocked more than 30 cents off the price of a gallon of gas in most parts of the U.S. since early April. The national average is now $3.61. Experts say it could drop to at least $3.40 before Labor Day.

If Americans spend less filling their tanks, they'll have more money for discretionary purchases. The downside? Lower oil and gas prices are symptoms of weakening economic conditions in the U.S. and around the globe.


Easier credit, new models keep US auto sales solid

DETROIT (AP) _ Easier credit, hot new cars and falling gas prices kept Americans buying cars at a solid pace in May despite bad economic news.

But sales could stumble in June as people weigh troubling headlines, like Friday's report that U.S. unemployment rose for the first time in 11 months.

Car sales usually hew closely to the performance of the stock market and to consumer confidence numbers. But in May, they were strong, even though confidence was wobbly and the stock market had its worst month in two years.


Wal-Mart CEO says company committed to compliance

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Mike Duke said Friday that the retailer is committed to integrity in the wake of recent bribery allegations in Mexico.

Duke joined other executives including chairman Robson Walton, the son of founder Sam Walton, at the company's annual meeting on Friday in pledging that Wal-Mart will get to the bottom of the allegations.

This comes after the world's largest retailer said that it will overhaul its compliance program and expand its internal investigation into the accusations to other countries.


US consumer spending up 0.3 percent in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Consumer spending edged up modestly in April but personal income growth was the slowest in five months, raising concerns about the ability of Americans to keep spending in the future.

Consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in April following a revised 0.2 percent gain in March, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Americans' income grew 0.2 percent in April, the poorest showing since incomes fell 0.1 percent in November. The April gain was just half the 0.4 percent in March rise.


US factory activity grew more slowly in May

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. manufacturing grew more slowly in May, hampered by weaker hiring and declining production. But a measure of new orders rose to a 13-month high, suggesting factory activity will pick up in June.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Friday that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 53.5 in May, down from a reading of 54.8 in April. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.


General Motors to shift white-collar pensions to annuity

DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors Co. will change the way it makes pension payments to white-collar retirees, shoring up its finances by offering buyouts and shifting liabilities to an annuity.

The moves will unload $26 billion in pension liabilities from the Detroit automaker's books, and experts say the changes are likely the start of a trend as companies with defined benefit pension plans try to cut risk and administrative costs.

GM said Friday that it will offer 42,000 retirees a lump-sum of cash if they agree to stop taking monthly benefits. For the rest of the 118,000 U.S. salaried retirees and spouses, GM will buy a group annuity that will make monthly payments starting in 2013.


Google adds feature to help China searchers

BEIJING (AP) _ Google has fired a new salvo in a censorship battle with Beijing by adding a feature that warns users in China who enter search keywords that might produce blocked results and suggests they try other terms.

Google's announcement Thursday described the change as a technical improvement and made no mention of Beijing's extensive Internet controls. But it comes after filters were tightened so severely in recent weeks that searches fail for some restaurants, universities or tourist information. Authorities were trying to stamp out talk about an embarrassing scandal over the fall of a rising Communist Party star.

Google Inc. closed its China-based search engine in 2010 because of government censorship. Mainland users can see its Chinese-language site in Hong Kong but the connection breaks if they search for sensitive terms.


Executive predicts data-only phone plans in 2 years

NEW YORK (AP) _ The CEO of AT&T Inc. said Friday that cellphone plans that count only data usage are likely to come in the next two years. In that case, phone calls and texts would be considered just another form of data.

Randall Stephenson didn't say AT&T has such a plan in mind, but he suggested that someone in the industry will likely offer one.

Analysts see such plans as a logical extension of trends in wireless technology. Smartphones with data service can already be used for Internet phone calls and texting through services like Skype.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average closed down 274.88 points, or 2.2 percent, at 12,118.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 32.29 points, or 2.5 percent, to 1,278.04. The Nasdaq dropped 79.86, or 2.8 percent, to 2,747.48.

West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for oil in the U.S, fell $3.30, or 3.7 percent, to finish at $83.23 per barrel, the lowest price since early October. Brent crude, which is used to price international oil, lost $3.44, or 3.4 percent, to end at $98.43 per barrel, its lowest price since January 2011.

Heating oil fell 7.53 cents to finish at $2.628 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 6.59 cents to end at $2.657 per gallon and natural gas dropped 9.6 cents to finish at $2.326 per 1,000 cubic feet.