Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Aug 11, 2016 6:12 PM

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Department stores hope to recapture appeal, be destinations

NEW YORK (AP) — Department stores trying to recapture their appeal to consumers are making plans to provide more experiences like spas and restaurants, and offer exclusive selections to transforms the store into more of a destination.

With shoppers increasingly buying online or from niche retailers and discount stores, the onetime pillars of retail are trying to rethink their business to keep up with consumers who want a different experience in stores than they find on their phones. That includes more attentive sales staff, pampering guests with beauty treatments and bringing in new kinds of merchandise.

Macy's announced plans Thursday for "re-creating Macy's physical store presence" to adjust to customer tastes. It reported another quarter of falling profits and sales, though it said some moves like sprucing up its fine jewelry area and adding back some sales staff are helping. It also said it'll close 100 stores early next year on top of the 40 it closed this spring.

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US stock indexes close at record highs; oil up

Strong gains by energy companies and retailers helped nudge each of the major U.S. stocks indexes to a record high close Thursday, erasing mild losses from the day before.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite had previously hit new highs last Friday. The Nasdaq also notched a record close on Tuesday.

Investors welcomed some better-than-expected quarterly results from Macy's and Kohl's, which spurred gains for several other big retail chains.

Energy stocks led the rally, getting a boost from a surge in oil prices. An industry report released Thursday projected a more even balance in the supply and demand for oil this year.

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Q&A: What record low interest rates mean for savers, economy

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) —Record low interest rates were meant to be a temporary response to the global financial crisis.

But eight years later, rates are still near zero or even below in much of the developed world, and some experts are warning of long-term side effects: a hit to pension savings, pressure on banks, and possible booms and busts in stock markets and real estate.

Some economists argue that people may have to get used to living in a zero-interest world for a lot longer than they expected, or at least one with rates far lower than those in recent decades.

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Fund manager Q&A: Dividend stocks look better, if not good

NEW YORK (AP) — Even fans of dividend-paying stocks acknowledge that they're looking riskier, a result of their own success.

Dollars are pouring into stocks of utilities and other companies that make regular payouts to their shareholders, because they're at the center of a few investment trends. Investors are not only hungry for income given the low interest payments bonds are offering; they also want investments that will hold steady when markets are shaky.

The rush has pushed up stock prices for dividend-paying companies faster than their earnings, which has sparked concerns that they're too expensive. Southern Co., the company behind Georgia Power and other utilities, trades at close to 18 times its expected earnings per share over the next 12 months, for example. That's above its average of 15.4 times over the last decade.

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A virtual-reality Olympics? It's OK, but TV is still king

NEW YORK (AP) — If you want to glimpse the future of sports broadcasting, you can check out the Rio Olympics in virtual reality. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the competition, just turn on the TV.

NBC, BBC and other Olympic networks around the world are offering the opening and closing ceremonies and selected events in VR, giving viewers a 360-degree perspective — that is, the ability to look up, down and all around — when they wear special headsets. It's a first in Olympics broadcasting, and NBC itself admits that its more than 100 hours of VR coverage is experimental.

It's good that television networks are getting a head start on figuring out what works with the new technology. Watching the Olympics in VR can occasionally transport you, giving you the sense of actually being there in Rio. But those moments are still too few and far between.

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Global oil demand to cool, oversupply is ending, agency says

LONDON (AP) — Global demand for oil will grow less than expected next year due to a weaker world economy, though the oversupply of crude in the market is ending, the International Energy Agency said Thursday.

The Paris-based agency, which consults oil-importing nations, lowered its forecast for demand growth next year to 1.2 million barrels a day from 1.3 million barrels a day previously. That would be a slowdown from this year's growth of 1.4 million barrels a day.

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Applications for US unemployment aid slip to a low 266,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slightly fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that layoffs are low and employers are probably adding new jobs.

THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment aid barely fell last week, slipping 1,000 to 266,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 3,000 to 262,750, but remains low. And 2.16 million people are receiving benefits, about 5 percent below last year's level.

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Arianna Huffington signs off at The Huffington Post

NEW YORK (AP) —The Huffington Post is going to be without a Huffington.

Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post's editor-in-chief, announced Thursday that she's leaving to head a new health, wellbeing and productivity startup.

"I thought HuffPost would be my last act," Huffington said in a tweet. "But I've decided to step down as HuffPost's editor-in-chief to run my new venture, Thrive Global."

The one-time conservative commentator oversaw explosive growth at the liberal online news and blog site that she co-founded in 2005, which went on to win a Pulitzer in less than a decade.

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1st US offshore wind farm to usher in new era for industry

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The nation's first offshore wind farm is set to open off the coast of Rhode Island this fall, ushering in a new era in the U.S. for the industry.

Developers, federal regulators and industry experts say the opening will move the U.S. industry from a theory to reality, paving the way for the construction of many more wind farms that will eventually provide power for many Americans.

Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island to power about 17,000 homes. The project costs about $300 million, according to the company.

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Lock picking your way to cybersecurity at Def Con

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lock picking might seem ridiculously old-fashioned at a cybersecurity gathering — but learning it can actually help people protect machines from digital threats.

As security improves to block remote attacks over the internet, hackers look for ways to deliver malicious software physically instead — for instance, by breaking into a company's data centers. Like cracking a digital system, picking locks involves solving puzzles, along with a certain amount of finesse and skill.

And for the good guys, knowing how to pick locks is important for learning how to defend against it.

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IMF, Egypt agree on $12B loan to fix ailing economy

CAIRO (AP) — The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it will grant Egypt a $12 billion loan over three years to help the Arab world's most populous country mend its ailing economy following years of unrest.

The IMF said the loan, which is subject to approval by its executive board, comes in support of a government reform program that aims to stabilize Egypt's falling currency, reduce the budget deficit and government debt, as well as boost growth and create jobs.

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The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 117.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,613.52. The S&P 500 index added 10.30 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,185.79. The Nasdaq composite index gained 23.81 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,228.40.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.78, or 4.3 percent, to close at $43.49 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.99, or 4.3 percent, to close at $46.04 in London. Wholesale gasoline added 6 cents to $1.36 a gallon, while heating oil rose 6 cents to $1.38 a gallon. Natural gas fell a penny to $2.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.