Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2015 5:56 PM


Size matters: Phones as big as they can get for easy use

NEW YORK (AP) — There was a time you could count on phones getting larger each year. Samsung's runaway success with the big-screen smartphone even spurred Apple to release a supersized model this year. But if they get any bigger will they be too hard to use?

That's the worry of some smartphone makers, and the reason why many of the new models this year didn't grow. LG even shrank the G Flex 2 to a 5.5-inch screen, as measured diagonally, compared with 6 inches before.


AP survey: Why the outlook for global economy has brightened

WASHINGTON (AP) — From the United States to Asia to Europe, a global economy that many had feared was faltering appears poised for a resurgence on the strength of cheap oil and falling interest rates.

That's the strikingly upbeat view of economists surveyed by The Associated Press, who no longer see Europe's financial crisis, the U.S. housing market or congressional gridlock as the threats they appeared to be last year.

U.S. consumers are feeling flusher, thanks to lower gas prices, a burst of hiring and long-awaited if still-modest pay raises for many. Their spending is expected to boost growth this year in the United States and overseas.


McDonald's chicken gets new standard: No human antibiotics

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's says it plans to require chicken suppliers to stop using antibiotics important to human medicine within two years.

The company says its suppliers will still be able to use a type of antibiotic called ionophores that keeps chickens healthy and isn't used in humans. Later this year, McDonald's also said it will no longer serve milk from cows treated with a particular artificial growth hormone.


How much sugar is in that? 7 foods with added sugar

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials say people should eat less sugar. But that's easier said than done.

Anyone who has tried cutting down on sugar knows to avoid cookies, sodas and candy. But sugar can be hidden in lots of other common packaged foods.

The World Health Organization finalized guidelines Wednesday saying people should keep intake of added sugars to just 5 to 10 percent of overall calories, which translates to about 25 to 50 grams of sugar a day for most people. The guidelines don't apply to naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables and milk, since they come with essential nutrients.


How upcoming legal cases may change the future of franchises

NEW YORK (AP) — Are franchises small, independent businesses or should they be considered part of a much larger company?

The question is at the heart of two upcoming legal cases. The outcomes could affect profits and change how franchisees hire, fire, manage and pay workers.


Airlines are at it again, changing frequent-flier programs

Airlines continue to tinker with their frequent-flier programs, sometimes in ways that help business travelers but make it harder for occasional fliers to earn a free trip.

Frequent-flier programs started out simple: After flying enough trips or miles you earned a free flight, maybe to some exotic place. They built loyalty. But in the last few years, many airlines have changed their programs to reward high-spending customers.


Gloom and gallows humor in Fed's 2009 transcripts

Federal Reserve officials faced the worst of the Great Recession in early 2009: a collapsing economy hemorrhaging jobs, a plunging stock market and banks saddled with bad debts, refusing to lend.

Transcripts from the Fed's 11 meetings that year, released Wednesday, reflected the grim headlines. Officials recited a string of anecdotes and statistics starkly portraying the depths of the downturn. Gallows humor surfaced as new Fed members were offered chances to immediately resign.

Yet the transcripts also show that then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Fed policymakers were quicker to grasp the magnitude of the downturn than in previous years.


Fed survey finds US economy growing at moderate pace

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy was growing at a moderate pace through mid-February despite severe winter storms that had disrupted activity in some regions, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

The Fed said that six of its 12 regions had reported moderate growth with modest gains seen in most other areas. The Boston district said businesses in its area remained upbeat despite a series of huge snowstorms.

The Fed survey found that consumer spending was up in most districts, travel and tourism was increasing and manufacturing had shown solid gains with aerospace companies in the San Francisco region forecasting a record year.


Survey: US businesses add 212K jobs in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in February for the 13th straight month, a private survey found. It was the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 212,000 jobs last month, a solid gain, though down from 250,000 in the previous month. January's figure was revised up from 213,000.

The figures come just before Friday's government report on the labor market, which economists forecast will show an increase of 240,000 jobs, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent.


US services firms grow at faster pace in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services firms' activity rose at a slightly faster rate in February, powered by hotels, restaurants and wholesalers.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its services index rose to 56.9 in February, up from January's reading of 56.7. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.

The survey suggests further growth in employment and imports, as a strong hiring streak over the past year has bolstered consumer spending.

The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Its survey of services firms covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the American workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services companies.


Justices sharply divided over health care law subsidies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sharply divided along familiar lines, the Supreme Court took up a politically charged new challenge to President Barack Obama's health overhaul Wednesday in a dispute over the tax subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of Americans.

The outcome in what Justice Elena Kagan called "this never-ending saga" of Republican-led efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act appears to hinge on the votes of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose vote saved the law three years ago, and Justice Anthony Kennedy.


Exxon CEO: Get used to lower oil prices

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson expects the price of oil to remain low over the next two years because of ample global supplies and relatively weak economic growth.

In a presentation to investors outlining its business plans through 2017, Exxon assumes a price of $55 a barrel for global crude. That's $5 below where Brent crude, the most important global benchmark, traded on Wednesday. It's about half of what Brent averaged between 2011 and the middle of last year.


Ailing Malaysia Airlines readies for drastic overhaul

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — After a year of calamity, Malaysia Airlines is shrinking to survive.

The disappearance of Flight 370 one year ago, combined with the downing of Flight 17 over a rebel held area of eastern Ukraine four months later, brought the already financially struggling flag carrier to its knees.

The government, which owned most of the airline, took 100 percent ownership and removed it from the Malaysian stock exchange last year. The airline is now aiming to return to profitability by 2017 with a drastic $1.7 billion overhaul that includes cutting nearly a third of its staff.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 106.47 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,096.90. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 9.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,098.53. The Nasdaq composite lost 12.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,967.14.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.01 to close at $51.53 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 47 cents to close at $60.55 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.4 cents to close at $1.926 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3.9 cents to close at $1.901 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.7 cents to close at $2.769 per 1,000 cubic feet.