Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: May 19, 2016 5:44 PM

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Poll: Two-thirds of US would struggle to cover $1,000 crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — Two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a poll released Thursday, a signal that Americans' finances remain precarious as ever.

These difficulties span all incomes, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Three-quarters of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and two-thirds of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill. Even for the country's wealthiest 20 percent — households making more than $100,000 a year — 38 percent say they would have at least some difficulty.

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The great road trip returns this summer thanks to cheap gas

NEW YORK (AP) — 2016 is shaping up to be the summer of the road trip.

Cheap fuel prices have left many American families flush with spare cash, which they now plan to spend on vacations. And with summertime gas prices predicted to be the lowest in 13 years, the travel industry is outright giddy over its chances for a blockbuster July and August.

AAA is predicting 38 million people will travel for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the most since 2005. The overwhelming majority of travelers — 89 percent — plan to go by car. That's the highest percent of drivers since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

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Phil Mickelson to forfeit nearly $1 million in SEC case

NEW YORK (AP) — Phil Mickelson has agreed to forfeit nearly $1 million that authorities say was unfairly earned on a stock tip from a professional gambler, part of an insider trading probe that resulted in two arrests but spared the wealthy pro golf star from facing criminal charges.

An indictment against the gambler, William Walters, and a former corporate board member of Dean Foods Co., Thomas Davis, alleges the pair used non-public information about the company to make tens of millions of dollars in illicit stock trades between 2008 and 2012.

The SEC says Mickelson made a trade, based on the tip, and reaped a profit of $931,000.

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Stocks fall over continued worry about possible Fed hike

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks dropped on Thursday as investors get used to idea that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates next month.

Major indexes fell from the start of trading, following European markets sharply lower, with banks and industrial companies hit the hardest. By the close, Goldman Sachs had dropped 3 percent and Boeing fell 2 percent, the biggest declines in the Dow Jones industrial average. Several commodities sank for a second day, including gold, silver and copper.

With earnings season mostly over and little news to move prices, the focus remained on the suddenly higher odds that the Fed will increase rates in June, as minutes from its last meeting released Wednesday suggest.

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Fewer people sought US jobless benefits last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. jobless aid fell sharply last week, partially reversing two weeks of big gains that had raised concerns about rising layoffs.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped to 278,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That followed a jump to 294,000 in the previous week, which was the highest level since February 2015.

Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have been below 300,000, a historically low level, for 63 straight weeks. That's the longest such streak since 1973.

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Cash is king: Swiss defend huge 1,000-franc bank note

GENEVA (AP) — The eurozone is scrapping its 500-euro ($564) note out of concern over its popularity with money launderers. But Switzerland is making clear that it sees no need to kill off its own 1,000-franc bill — currently worth $1,018.

The government said Thursday that authorities know of no money laundering cases in which the huge bill was a relevant factor. It also said it's taken measures to limit the risk of cash being used for criminal purposes and argued the franc doesn't have anywhere near the euro's global significance.

Switzerland justified the need, saying it is a country with a "high wage and price level" and "culture of cash use."

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In a dark quarter for retailers, Wal-Mart shines

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Surprisingly strong sales at Wal-Mart and an optimistic outlook from the world's largest retailer lifted a pall that settled over much of the sector in the past two weeks.

Wal-Mart's revenue climbed to $115.9 billion from $114.83 billion in the quarter, breezing past projections. And sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 1 percent, the seventh consecutive quarterly increase. Wal-Mart said it expects the sales measure to increase in the current quarter. The period also marked the sixth straight quarter of gains in traffic.

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Gap closes 75 stores outside North America

NEW YORK (AP) — Gap Inc. says it will shutter 75 Old Navy and Banana Republic stores outside North America as the struggling company looks to focus on regions where it sees it has the greatest potential for success.

The San Francisco company said Thursday it is closing 53 Old Navy stores in Japan, and a number of Banana Republic stores internationally.

The announcement comes as Gap reported a 47 percent drop in first-quarter profit. Its revenue fell nearly 6 percent. All three of its brands suffered declines for a key sales measure.

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Bayer takeover of Monsanto would create global giant

BERLIN (AP) — Germany-based Bayer AG said Thursday that its executives had met recently with their Monsanto counterparts "to privately discuss a negotiated acquisition" of the specialist in genetically modified crop seeds.

Both companies are familiar brands on farms around the globe. Bayer, whose farm business produces seeds as well as compounds to kill weeds, bugs and fungus, said the proposed acquisition would help it "create a leading integrated agriculture business."

Monsanto, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, said it was reviewing Bayer's proposal. The possible deal had been rumored for a week but it was the first comment from either company.

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Fiat Chrysler recalls 500,000 Jeeps; air bags may not work

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler is recalling about a half-million Jeep Wrangler SUVs worldwide because the driver's air bag may not inflate in a crash.

The recall covers Wranglers from the 2007 through 2010 model years, including 392,000 in the U.S. Another 7,400 2011-2016 Wranglers in the U.S. with right-hand-drive also are affected.

The company says excessive exposure to dust and dirt from off-road driving can cause electrical problems in the steering column air bag wiring. If that happens, a warning lamp will come on and owners should contact their dealer.

Fiat Chrysler says it's not aware of any related injuries.

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Uber testing self-driving car in Pittsburgh

DETROIT (AP) — Uber is testing a self-driving car on public streets in Pittsburgh.

Uber says it has outfitted a Ford Fusion hybrid with radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras. It's using the car to test self-driving capability and collect mapping data.

A trained driver remains behind the wheel for now. Uber says it's still in the early stages of its self-driving tests and needs to make sure the technology is safe.

Uber Technologies Inc. announced a partnership with Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University last year. It has also opened its own Advanced Technologies Center, which is led by a former Carnegie Mellon robotics engineer.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 91.22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,435.40. The S&P 500 lost 7.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,040.04. The Nasdaq composite gave up 26.59 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,712.53.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 3 cents to close $48.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 12 cents to $48.81 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon, heating slipped less than a penny to $1.48 a gallon and natural gas rose 4 cents to $2.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.