Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2016 5:27 PM

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Microsoft sues US over secret demands for customer data

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft is suing the U.S. government over a federal law that allows authorities to examine customer emails or online files without the individual's knowledge.

The lawsuit comes as the tech industry is increasingly butting heads with U.S. officials over the right to view a wide range of information — including emails, photos and financial records — that customers are storing on smartphones and "cloud" computing centers.

Microsoft says the U.S. Justice Department is abusing a decades-old law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, to obtain court orders requiring it to turn over customer files, while prohibiting it from notifying the customer.

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Low rates, troubled loans send bank profits lower

PHOENIX (AP) — 2016 is getting off to a lousy start for major U.S. banks. Energy loans are turning bad, low interest rates are making it hard to make profitable loans, and markets have been volatile.

On the bright side, first-quarter results from banks, which started coming out this week, haven't been quite as bad as many analysts feared. Banks are still the worst-performing industry in the stock market so far this year, however. The financial component of the Standard & Poor's 500 index is down 3.5 percent.

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Poll: Americans prefer low prices to items 'Made in the USA'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled "Made in the USA," according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

Some presidential candidates are vowing to bring back millions of American jobs lost to foreign competitors, but public sentiment reflects core challenges confronting the U.S. economy. Incomes have barely improved, forcing many households to look for the most convenient bargains.

Nearly three in four say they would like to buy goods manufactured inside the U.S., but those items are often too costly or difficult to find, according to the survey released Thursday. Only 9 percent say they only buy American.

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Global finance leaders seek to bolster growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leaders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank pledged Thursday to redouble efforts to bolster shaky global growth prospects and combat increasing political attacks on free trade and other hallmarks of globalization.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said stronger policies are needed to combat a growing array of risks to the world economy.

The two leaders spoke at the start of meetings among top global finance officials.

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U.S. stock indexes wobble to a mixed finish

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks hardly budged Thursday and finished with a mix of small gains and losses. Banks and airlines rose on strong first-quarter reports, while consumer products companies struggled.

The market wavered throughout the day. Stocks are coming off two big gains in a row and are trading at their highest levels of the year.

"People are getting a bit more confident of what's going on in the market," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage slips to 3.58 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged down this week to their lowest levels of the year, offering a continued incentive for purchasing during the spring home-buying season.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate loan touched its lowest point in nearly three years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average slipped to 3.58 percent from 3.59 percent last week. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.86 percent from 2.88 percent last week.

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US applications for jobless aid drop, matching 1973 level

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week, matching a March figure that was the lowest level since 1973.

Weekly applications for jobless benefits fell 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, dipped 1,500 to 265,000. The number of people collecting benefits declined 4.9 percent to 2.17 million.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The historically low figures over the past year indicate a healthy job market with companies holding onto their workers.

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Puerto Rico faces defaults as Congress stalls on way to help

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress needs to "bring order to the chaos" in Puerto Rico and prevent U.S. taxpayers from having to eventually bail out the territory, which is facing a $70 billion debt.

A House committee canceled a Thursday vote on legislation establishing a control board as Republicans remained divided over how Congress should address the economic crisis.

Puerto Rico has said it will likely default on an upcoming debt payment, which would mark the first time the island would default on general obligation bonds protected by the island's constitution.

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Delta Air Lines' 1Q profit up 27 percent on low fuel costs

DALLAS (AP) — Cheaper jet fuel continues to give airlines a lift, helping Delta boost its first-quarter earnings by 27 percent.

The airline spent one-third less on fuel than it did a year earlier, a savings of more than $700 million. That offset higher spending on labor. The news was not entirely rosy for though. Revenue dipped as passengers continued to pay slightly less for every mile they flew. The airline hinted that it could reduce planned flights this fall if the revenue outlook doesn't improve enough.

Delta is the first major U.S. airline to report first-quarter earnings.

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Fred Hayman, stylish godfather of Rodeo Drive, dies at 91

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fred Hayman, the dapper entrepreneur whose vision transformed a nondescript Southern California street called Rodeo Drive into one of the world's pre-eminent fashion districts, has died at age 91.

Family friend Katy Sweet says Hayman, known affectionately as the godfather of Rodeo Drive, died Thursday at his home in Malibu.

Hayman had been a successful hotelier when he opened luxury clothing boutique Giorgio Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive in 1964. Neighbors at the time included a gas station and hardware store.

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US government to buy wild blueberries to help prop up prices

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy up to 30 million pounds of wild blueberries to help stabilize prices and supply in one of Maine's signature industries.

The members of Maine's congressional delegation told The Associated Press on Thursday that the agency will pay up to $13 million for the wild blueberries.

The bailout could help spell the end of low prices to consumers on wild blueberries, which are harvested commercially in Maine and Canada.

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The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 18.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,926.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.36 points to 2,082.78. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.53 points to 4,945.89.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 26 cents to $41.50 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 34 cents to $43.84 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil dipped 1 cent to $1.25 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents, or 3 percent, to $1.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.