Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2015 6:10 PM

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Live in a Porsche? Designer labels draw Miami home buyers

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Florida (AP) — The wow factor for Miami's skyscraper condos no longer comes from a dazzling Atlantic Ocean view.

It takes something more audacious to sell beachfront property these days to the global ultra-wealthy who arrive in Miami with millions to spend on second or third homes. It takes words invested with meaning in the language of the international jet set: Porsche. Giorgio Armani. Fendi.

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Arkansas governor urges changes to religious-objections bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson backed away Wednesday from his promise to sign a controversial religious-objections bill, bowing to pressure from critics that included his own son and some of the state's biggest employers, who say the legislation is anti-gay.

The Republican governor said he wants the Legislature either to recall the bill from his desk or pass a follow-up measure that would make the proposal more closely mirror a federal religious-freedom law.

Hutchinson said his son Seth was among those who signed a petition asking him to veto the bill.

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'Furious 7' film shows off sharp new Imax laser technology

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deeper blacks, brighter whites, even bigger screens and better sound. When the high-speed action sequel "Furious 7" debuts this weekend, audiences at Hollywood's famous TCL Chinese Theatre will see every tire skid and fistfight in Imax's brand-new laser format.

Lasers are supposed to be able to heighten contrast. In laser-projected trailer footage of "Furious 7" shown exclusively to The Associated Press, details were noticeably crisper than images shown in a standard-sized auditorium with a regular digital projector. Deep blacks, one of the touted benefits of laser projection, stood out boldly, particularly in actress Michelle Rodriguez's eyes and hair, a suit worn by actor Jason Statham, Vin Diesel's tank top, black car paint and shadows in the grooves of tire treads.

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Hot cars at the New York International Auto Show

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York International Auto Show opens this week with a mix of mainstream sedans and glitzier models from automakers across the globe.

There are a handful of new midsize cars and compact cars, including the Malibu from Chevrolet, the Optima from Kia, Scion's first-ever sedan and a sporty new concept Civic from Honda that may be the highlight of the show for everyday car buyers.

Lovers of luxury and performance won't be disappointed. Among the introductions are an updated Lexus RX SUV, a big Cadillac, the return of the Lincoln Continental, and the 570S, a high-performance sports car from Formula One racing company McLaren priced under $200,000.

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McDonald's: Workers to get pay hikes at company-owned stores

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's says it's raising pay for workers at its company-owned U.S. restaurants, making it the latest employer to sweeten worker incentives in an improving economy.

The company owns about 10 percent of its more than 14,300 U.S. restaurants, representing about 90,000 workers. The rest are run by franchisees, and McDonald's said they "make their own decisions on pay and benefits."

The announcement comes as several other major companies including, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have announced wage hikes as the economy has picked up and made it more difficult to find reliable workers. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.5 percent from 6.7 percent.

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McDonald's revamps grilled chicken to cut ingredient

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's says it is simplifying its grilled chicken recipe to remove ingredients people might not recognize, marking the latest sign the company is rethinking its menu to keep up with changing tastes.

The company says it expects the new "Artisan Grilled Chicken" to be in its more than 14,300 U.S. stores by the end of next week, in products including a new sandwich, as well as existing sandwiches, wraps and salads.

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American farmer among the winners in sanctions-hit Russia

MOSCOW (AP) — Kansas-born farmer Justus Walker is prospering in Russia — one year after the U.S. and European Union began imposing sanctions against his adopted country over its aggression in Ukraine.

Walker, sporting a bushy beard reminiscent of a Russian peasant from past centuries, uses his Siberian dairy smallholding to support his missionary work.

He shot to fame in August, shortly after the Russian government banned Western food imports in retaliation for the sanctions.

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Survey: US businesses add 189k jobs in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses slowed their pace of hiring in March, a private survey found. The slowdown raises questions about how much of an impact falling oil prices, a stronger dollar and harsh winter weather have had on dampening economic growth.

Companies added a seasonally adjusted 189,000 jobs last month, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday. That's the first month of gains under 200,000 jobs in 13 months, and it's a decline from 214,000 jobs added in February.

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US construction spending falls for second month in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending slipped for the second month in February, pulled down by a drop in single-family home building.

Construction spending fell 0.1 percent in February after a revised 1.7 percent drop in January, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

The result in part reflects bitter winter weather that constrained construction in many parts of the country during the month. Economists are hopeful for a rebound in the spring and summer as the economy strengthens.

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US manufacturing slows as orders and hiring weaken

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories expanded last month at a weaker pace, with orders growing more slowly and hiring essentially flat.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its manufacturing index slipped to 51.5 in March from 52.9 in February.

It was the fifth straight drop. Still, any reading above 50 signals expansion.

U.S. manufacturers have faced a drag in recent months from falling oil prices, a rising dollar, winter storms and a since-resolved shutdown of West Coast ports that has created a backlog of shipments.

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Falling corn prices stalk Monsanto, sending 2Q profits lower

WASHINGTON (AP) — Monsanto reported lower-than-expected earnings as slumping corn prices push farmers toward other crops, crimping sales of the company's best-selling biotech corn seeds.

The St. Louis agricultural business giant reported a second-quarter profit of $1.42 billion, or $2.92 per share, down from $1.67 billion, or $3.15 per share, in the prior year period. Sales slid to $5.2 billion from $5.8 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research predicted earnings of $2.96 per share on sales of $5.76 billion.

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Wal-Mart seeks assist from its suppliers to lower prices

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to cut back on advertising spending in its stores as it seeks lower prices on goods that it sells to its own customers.

The request comes as the world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, looks to reclaim its position as the low-price leader amid stiff competition and perk up sluggish sales in the U.S.

Historically, makers of consumer products like laundry detergent devote a portion of their budget to market their products at Wal-Mart whether it's online advertising on social media or store displays. Wal-Mart executives told suppliers in February they would rather have them reinvest some of that money.

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'New wave' of GMOs: pink pineapples, purple tomatoes

WASHINGTON (AP) — With recent government approval of potatoes that don't bruise and apples that don't brown, a new generation of genetically modified foods is headed to grocery shelves.

What could be next? Cancer-fighting pink pineapples, heart-healthy purple tomatoes and less fatty vegetable oils, among other products, could receive government approval in the coming years.

The companies and scientists that have created these foods are hoping that customers will be attracted to the health benefits and convenience and overlook any concerns about genetic engineering.

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Alps crash: Bodies recovered, but families must wait months

SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) — Just over a week after a Germanwings plane crashed into the French Alps, investigators have finished retrieving human remains from the crash site and are now trying to match them with DNA profiles from the 150 people killed — an arduous task that could leave families waiting for months.

The extraordinary recovery process mobilized hundreds of people and cut a stony road into a forested Alpine mountainside to help the team bring back anything they found, from a body part to a tiny shred of skin. Not a single intact body was found.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,698 Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,059. The Nasdaq composite declined 20 points, also 0.4 percent, to 4,880.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.49 to close at $50.09 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.99 to close at $57.10 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 6.1 cents to close at $1.831 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.9 cents to close at $1.747 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.5 cents to close at $2.605 per 1,000 cubic feet.