Ramadan rush: Mega-rich shoppers descend on London
LONDON (AP) — Before the fast, let there be a shopping feast.
From Harrods in Knightsbridge to the glittering diamond stores in Mayfair, London has long attracted big spenders. But every year around the holy month of Ramadan, which starts this weekend, a wave of spectacularly rich Middle Eastern shoppers arrives and takes retail therapy to a whole new level — complete with an entourage of bodyguards, chauffeurs, and Gulf-registered Rolls-Royces and Ferraris flown in just for the occasion.
Retailers call the boost in business the Ramadan Rush: A hugely lucrative and fast-growing market driven by wealthy Arabs who travel to Britain to escape the desert heat and indulge in buying luxury gifts before flying home for a month of fasting and increased religious observance. Another surge takes place during the Eid holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Web sites can take some hassle out of car-buying
DETROIT (AP) — Want to take some of the stress and mystery out of the car-buying process? Get on the Internet.
Auto Web sites — once filled mostly with reviews and advice — are getting more sophisticated, connecting potential buyers with dealers and offering instant price guarantees. Some let buyers estimate their trade-in values and turn in credit applications online. One company even lets buyers complete the entire sale online and get cars delivered to their door.
The Internet lets shoppers enter a showroom armed with the same information as a dealer, said Chantel Lenard, Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. marketing director. Sites let buyers configure their vehicles, see what others paid and estimate the trade-in value of their current car or truck. They could even walk into a dealership with a price locked in.
Sponsorship of gay pride parades on the rise
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In between muscular men in speedos gyrating to thumping dance music and drag queens decked out in formal gowns, Salt Lake City's gay pride parade also featured a few, more conventional participants: Some of America's most well-known companies.
From Starbucks to eBay to Macy's, the increasing visibility of corporations at the parade in Utah and at others across the country in recent years comes as same-sex marriage bans fall in the courts and polls show greater public acceptance of gay marriage.
In that climate, companies are finding that the benefits of sponsorship outweigh the risks of staying away, giving them a chance to make a statement in support of diversity and use it to help recruit and retain top talent who want to work for a business that supports LGBT rights.
Ukraine signs historic EU pact, snubbing Russia
BRUSSELS (AP) — Over Russia's objections, Ukraine's new president on Friday signed a free-trade deal binding his country more closely to Western Europe, sealing the very agreement that triggered the bloodshed and political convulsions of the past seven months.
Russia, meanwhile, fended off for the time being a new, more crippling round of Western sanctions over its intervention in Ukraine, where a fragile cease-fire between government forces and pro-Moscow separatists in the east expired Friday night with no immediate word from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on whether he would extend it.
Hawaii at center of battle over aquarium fish
HONOLULU (AP) — The waters off Hawaii's largest island are home to a half-million brightly colored tropical fish that are scooped up into nets each year and flown across the globe into aquariums from Berlin to Boston.
Scientists say the aquarium fishery off the Big Island is among the best managed in the world, but it has nevertheless become the focus of a fight over whether it's ever appropriate to remove fish from reefs for people to look at and enjoy.
Activists have launched a campaign to shut down the buying and selling of fish for aquariums, saying the practice from Hawaii to the Philippines is destroying coral reefs.
Stocks notch tiny gains, but still end week lower
NEW YORK (AP) — Summertime settled into Wall Street on Friday as major stock indexes drifted slightly higher going into the weekend. The listless day of trading left the stock market with a tiny loss for the week, its second this month.
A handful of corporate results drove trading in some big names. Warnings of weaker earnings pushed DuPont down, while stronger results pushed Nike up. But the overall market was essentially flat.
That could change quickly. Turmoil in the Middle East could easily rattle U.S. markets, especially if the fighting in Iraq drives oil prices too high. Rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia also remain a concern.
Steady job growth boosts US consumer confidence
WASHINGTON (AP) — Strong job growth lifted U.S. consumer confidence this month, as Americans looked past the economy's dismal first quarter performance.
The University of Michigan said Friday that its index of consumer sentiment rose slightly to 82.5 in June from 81.9 in May. That is still below April's reading of 84.1, which had been the highest in almost a year.
Confidence "has remained largely unchanged for the past six months," said Richard Curtin, an economist at the University of Michigan and director of the survey. "This was remarkable" given that the economy shrank in the first quarter.
Still, the survey was mostly conducted when the government had estimated that the economy contracted at a 1 percent annual rate in the first quarter. On Wednesday, that estimate was revised much lower, to show a contraction of 2.9 percent.
Michaels has tepid return to public markets
NEW YORK (AP) — Michaels had a tepid return to the stock market Friday, its shares going back and forth between small gains and declines.
The arts and crafts store operator's shares closed up 2 cents to $17.02 in trading on the Nasdaq, after falling as much as 2 percent earlier.
The lackluster response shows investors are wary of retailing and the fragmented $30 billion arts and crafts industry. The last IPO from a major retailer was The Container Store Group Inc., which made its debut late last year. Its shares have fallen 19 percent and closed at $29.41 Thursday.
The IPO comes amid a market rush. It's the third-busiest week for IPOs since 2000, according to IPO investment adviser Renaissance Capital.
FDA approves inhalable diabetes drug Afrezza
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a long-delayed inhalable diabetes medication to help patients control their blood sugar levels during meals.
The FDA cleared MannKind Corp.'s drug Afrezza, a fast-acting form of insulin, for adults with the most common form of diabetes that affects more than 25 million Americans. The approval decision comes more than three years after the agency first asked MannKind to run additional clinical studies on the drug.
Encana to sell Bighorn assets for about $1.8B
Energy producer Encana has agreed to sell its Bighorn holding in Canada for about $1.8 billion to another Canadian company, the privately held Jupiter Resources.
Encana said Friday the sale includes about 360,000 acres of land in Canada with total net proved reserves of about 1.1 trillion cubic feet equivalent, mostly natural gas. It also includes Encana's working interests in all pipelines, facilities and service arrangements.
Airlines checking engine bolts on Embraer jets
DALLAS (AP) — Brazilian plane maker Embraer is telling airlines to inspect pins or bolts that hold the engines on its twin-engine E190 regional jet.
An Embraer spokeswoman said Friday that the company sent a service bulletin to airlines as a preventive measure, and called the action routine. The company declined further comment.
Virgin Australia grounded several of its Embraer E190s this week after discovering a problem with bolts that hold the engines to pylons that are attached to the wings, prompting Embraer to issue a worldwide alert, according to published reports in Australia.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones Industrial average ended up five points, just 0.03 percent, at 16,851 on Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up three points, or 0.2 percent, at 1,960. The Nasdaq composite rose 18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,397.
The Dow and S&P 500 ended the week slightly lower. The Nasdaq gained.
Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery edged 10 cents lower to close at $105.74 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark used to price international oils used my many U.S. refineries, rose 9 cents to close at $113.30 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.3 cents to close at $3.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.1 cents close at $4.39 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 1.6 cents to close at $3 a gallon.