Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 6:32 PM

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Apple: FBI seeks 'dangerous power' in fight over phone

WASHINGTON (AP) — Apple Inc. on Thursday asked a federal magistrate to reverse her order that the company help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone, accusing the federal government of seeking "dangerous power" through the courts and of trampling on its constitutional rights.

The filing represents Apple's first official response since the judge's order last week and builds upon arguments voiced by the company's chief executive and supporters. It marks the latest salvo in a court fight that could create meaningful precedent and establish new legal boundaries in the policy battle between national security and digital privacy.

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No, smartphones aren't that innovative: Why pay is lagging

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a dreary thought but one economist argues America's most innovative days are gone and a lack of truly groundbreaking inventions has imposed a long-term drag on economic growth — and with it the prospect of meaningful pay raises for most of us.

In a new book, Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, says innovations of the past raised wages and economic growth by increasing what economists call productivity. Yet in the past decade, U.S. wages, growth and productivity have all languished.

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Watch out for phishy emails during tax season

NEW YORK (AP) — It's tax time, so you'd better think twice before clicking on that link in your email inbox.

What may look like a legitimate communication from your bank, human resources department or email provider may actually be part of a scheme designed to steal the confidential information stored in your computer, or to gain access to the network it's attached to.

Experts warn that tax season is a prime time for this brand of fraud known as "phishing," with hackers out to steal your information in hopes of using it to file a false tax return. Phishing emails are a top cause of data breaches.

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UCLA: Movies make more $$$ when half the cast is white

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Movies make more money when exactly half their casts are non-white, according to an annual analysis released Thursday that shows an increasing demand for diversity in film.

In previous years, movies did better at the box office if two or three of the top eight billed actors were non-white. In 2014, four of eight was the magic number, ticket sales show.

The Bunche Center has taken a close look at each year's top-grossing films since 2011, grouping each movie according to how many non-white actors hold the top eight roles, and calculating the median global haul of each level of diversity.

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SeaWorld acknowledges planting worker in animal rights group

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld acknowledged that it sent its own workers to infiltrate an animal rights group which opposed the practices of the theme park.

The development comes months after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused a SeaWorld employee of trying to incite violence while posing as a fellow animal rights activist.

SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby vowed Thursday to end the practice, but said that it had sent its employees to protect the safety of its employees and customers.

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US stocks post solid gain on rising oil prices

NEW YORK (AP) — A late-day surge pushed U.S. stocks sharply higher Thursday, propelled by a recovery in energy companies and bank stocks, which have been hit hard this year.

Investors were also encouraged by positive economic data, including improved orders for long-lasting goods that served as a sign that businesses were buying equipment and investing in their operations.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.62 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week as anxiety over the global economy persisted. Long-term rates resumed their decline after being unchanged last week following six straight weeks of easing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.62 percent from 3.65 percent last week. That puts it well below the 3.80 percent it marked a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.93 percent from 2.95 percent last week.

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Sears 4Q loss widens after limping through the holidays

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears' fourth-quarter loss widened despite deep cost cuts and, after the struggling retailer limped through the crucial holiday shopping season, it promised to tighten spending even more this year.

Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert pointed to a warm winter that drove down sales for seasonal goods and brutal competition with other retailers, almost all of whom were forced into clear inventory by marking down prices drastically.

The company also announced that a major shareholder in the company would take a seat on the board.

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Gap's shares fall in late trading on weak profit outlook

NEW YORK (AP) — Gap's shares fell in after-hours trading Thursday after the clothing chain offered a weak profit outlook.

The outlook came as the San Francisco-based chain reported a 33 percent drop in fourth-quarter profits due to the negative impact of strong U.S. dollar and strategic moves to turn around its ailing business.

The results show the continued challenges that CEO Art Peck, who took over the helm a year ago, faces in turning around the business.

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Halliburton to cut another 5,000 jobs amid oil slump

HOUSTON (AP) — Halliburton Co., which provides well-drilling services for oil companies, is cutting 5,000 more jobs as the industry continues to struggle with slumping oil prices.

A company spokeswoman said Thursday that the latest cuts will amount to about 8 percent of the Houston-based company's global workforce.

Oil prices have tumbled about 70 percent since peaking above $100 a barrel in mid-2014. That has led to less drilling activity and to widespread layoffs in the oil fields. Halliburton rival Schlumberger cut 10,000 jobs in the fourth quarter.

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MetLife, known for life insurance, may part with its agents

NEW YORK (AP) — MetLife is in talks to part ways with the life insurance agents who long defined one of the world's biggest life insurance companies.

The unit that the company is in talks to sell, known as MetLife Premier Client Group, has 4,000 agents who sell a number of policies, including life insurance, to individuals and small businesses, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The New York company also sells insurance in other ways, including through independent agents and brokerage agencies. It has a total of 69,000 employees.

The company confirmed Thursday that it was negotiating a possible sale with MassMutual.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 212.30 points, or 1.3 percent, to 16,697.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 21.90 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,951.70. The Nasdaq composite index rose 39.60 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,582.20.

U.S. crude oil rose 92 cents, or nearly 3 percent, to close at $33.07 a barrel. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 88 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $35.29 a barrel. In other energy trading, heating oil rose 1 cent, or 1 percent, to $1.07 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 4.6 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $1.056 a gallon and natural gas fell 6.7 cents, or 4 percent, to $1.711 per 1,000 cubic feet.