Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2015 6:00 PM

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Working 9-to-5 becoming a less popular way to make a living

NEW YORK (AP) — If you want an income, or you're an employer looking for help, it may be time to scrap the idea of the traditional 9-to-5 arrangement.

For workers, it's become easier and less risky to go solo. Affordable health insurance plans, which kept many workers shackled to traditional jobs, are more accessible because of the Affordable Care Act. And companies are increasingly open to hiring freelancers and independent contractors. Many say independent workers bring fresh ideas without the long-term commitment.

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ECB says stimulus is helping economy, pushing up inflation

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said the bank's 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) stimulus program is supporting the eurozone's modest recovery as the money works its way through the financial system to the real world of businesses and consumers.

Draghi was cautiously upbeat about the prospects of the 19-country currency union at a news conference Wednesday after the bank's latest policy meeting.

The ECB raised its inflation forecast for this year from zero to 0.3 percent, a sign the region is less at risk of suffering a long-term drop in prices that can cause the economy to stagnate.

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What next for Greece? A look at its options in coming days

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's bailout talks are going down to the wire.

The country faces debt repayments this month — starting Friday — and it is not clear how much of them it has money left to cover.

A default could lead Greece out of the euro, the currency used by 19 of the European Union's 28 members. A country has never left the euro before, so such an event would put Europe and the global economy in uncharted waters.

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Tech Tips: Your guide to the myriad phone-upgrade options

NEW YORK (AP) — Upgrading your phone is no longer as simple as paying $100 or $200 and extending your service contract by two years.

Phone companies have been shifting away from contracts and trying to get you to pay full price — $600 to $700 for a high-end phone. Installment plans are available, along with a leasing option from Sprint.

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Survey: US business hiring picks up in May to 201,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies stepped up hiring in May, a private survey found, evidence that employers remain confident in the economy even after it contracted at the start of the year.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 201,000 jobs last month, up from just 165,000 in the previous month. April's increase was the smallest in a year and a half.

The figures suggest that the economy is recovering after it shrank at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter. On Friday, the government will issue its official jobs report for May. Economists forecast it will show that employers added 227,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate remained 5.4 percent.

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Growth in US services firms slowed in May to 12-month low

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service firms grew in May at the slowest pace in a year, as both new orders and hiring slipped.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its services index fell to 55.7 in May from 57.8 in April. Still, any reading over 50 indicates that services firms are expanding.

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US trade deficit drops sharply in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit declined sharply in April as exports posted a modest gain and imports fell, raising hopes that trade's drag on economic growth will ease in the current quarter.

The April deficit tumbled 19.2 percent to $40.9 billion after surging to $50.6 billion in March, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The March deficit, which was revised down from an initial estimate of $51.4 billion, was the highest since January 2012.

The big surge in the deficit reduced overall economic growth by nearly 2 percentage points in the first quarter, sending gross domestic product into negative territory.

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Fed sees moderate economic growth around country this spring

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy was growing at a moderate pace in most regions of the country in April and May, as consumers ramped up spending at retailers and auto dealers, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

In its latest survey of business conditions around the country, the Fed said that manufacturing activity held steady or increased, except in the energy industry. Some companies laid off workers and cut back on drilling activities in response to the big fall in oil prices over the past year.

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Cities keen on 'sharing economy' but concerned about safety

NEW YORK (AP) — American cities are enticed by the economic growth and services that "sharing economy" companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft can offer, but officials are anxious about safety in a largely unregulated realm, a city advocacy group found in a study released Wednesday.

Nearly three-quarters of city leaders said they want to see the "sharing" sector grow, according to National League of Cities survey responses from 245 leaders of municipalities large and small.

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Wal-Mart to let workers add denim pants to work wardrobe

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Wal-Mart is hoping denim pants will raise the spirits of its more than 1.2 million U.S. store workers.

Starting July 1, workers at the nation's largest private employer will now be able to wear khaki or black denim, in addition to the slacks of the same color previously allowed. Workers in more rigorous jobs like unloading merchandise or the garden area will be able to wear T-shirts and blue jeans.

It's among several changes Wal-Mart's U.S. division is making in response to complaints from workers about their jobs, from big issues like the lack of flexibility in scheduling and pay to smaller gripes like the redundant music piped into its stores.

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Casino near NYC would shake up Northeast gambling market

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A proposed Hard Rock casino in the New Jersey Meadowlands region just outside New York City could be open in a year and would shake up the already rapidly changing gambling market in the northeastern United States.

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Capsized Yangtze ship cited over safety problems 2 years ago

Eastern Star, the cruise ship that capsized in the Yangtze river with more than 450 people aboard, was cited for safety violations two years ago, records from a Chinese maritime agency show.

Authorities in Nanjing, where the Eastern Star began its unfortunate voyage, held the ship and five other Yangtze cruise vessels after it found them violating standards during a safety inspection campaign in 2013, according to a report on the city's Maritime Safety website.

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Oil and gas turn their backs on coal as climate deal nears

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Chemistry books say there are three fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas.

Lately you could get the impression that coal is the only one.

As a global agreement to rein in climate-warming carbon emissions draws closer, oil and gas companies are increasingly talking about coal as the problem and describing themselves as a crucial part of the solution, together with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

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Sandberg on mourning: 'I want to choose life and meaning'

NEW YORK (AP) — Sheryl Sandberg is marking the end of a 30-day period of mourning following the death of her husband by saying "I want to choose life and meaning."

Sandberg, Facebook's No. 2 executive, lost her husband Dave Goldberg after he died in a treadmill accident while on vacation in Mexico a month ago. In "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," Sandberg wrote about the profound influence Goldberg had on her life and career. She's called her husband of 11 years her rock and a "true partner" on all fronts.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 64.33 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 18,076.27. The S&P 500 edged up 4.47 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,114.07. The Nasdaq composite climbed 22.71 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,099.23.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.62 to close at $59.64 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.69 to close at $63.80 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to close at $2.045 a gallon. Heating oil fell 5.4 cents to close at $1.892 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.4 cents to close at $2.634 per 1,000 cubic feet.