January job gains show US recovery gaining greater strength

WASHINGTON (AP) A resurgent job market in January signaled that the U.S. economy is finally regaining the kind of strength typical of a healthy recovery with hiring accelerating, wages rising and people who had given up their job hunts starting to look again.

Freer-spending consumers and steady economic expansion have boosted hiring for the past three months to the most robust pace in 17 years.

In January, employers added 257,000 jobs, after 329,000 in December and a sizzling 423,000 jobs in November, the government reported Friday. The November and December gains were much higher than the government had first estimated.


Anthem breach: A gap in federal health privacy law?

WASHINGTON (AP) Insurers aren't required to encrypt consumers' data under a 1990s federal law that remains the foundation for health care privacy in the Internet age an omission that seems striking in light of the major cyberattack against Anthem.

Encryption uses mathematical formulas to scramble data, converting sensitive details coveted by intruders into gibberish. Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, has said the data stolen from a company database that stored information on 80 million people was not encrypted.

The main federal health privacy law the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA encourages encryption, but doesn't require it.


Budweiser campaign highlights rift between 'big beer,' craft

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Attention die-hard craft beer drinkers: This Bud's not for you.

After several years of losing ground to craft brewers, Anheuser-Busch, the country's biggest brewery, seems to be conceding that its flagship brew may not fly with fans of fancy suds.

Rather than try to woo them to toss back a Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch is aiming its latest marketing at its core consumers, the folks who likely wouldn't reach for a craft beer in any case. And they're doing it with a playful wink and nod that says, "We didn't want their fancy-schmancy beer anyway."


As middle class flees, Puerto Rico tries luring rich people

PALMAS DEL MAR, Puerto Rico (AP) Bond trader Ben Eiler swapped life in suburban Georgia for an island in the Caribbean, and he didn't even have to apply for a visa.

The towering 38-year-old native of Arkansas is one of at least 250 people who've accepted Puerto Rico's invitation to well-heeled U.S. citizens to move to the island and enjoy life without taxes on capital gains, an enticing offer for those whose income is derived from investments.

Eiler lives in a gated community on Puerto Rico's southeastern shore, making a commute of less than 5 minutes from house to office across manicured greens, with an expansive ocean view.


Chinese units of major US accounting firms settle with SEC

WASHINGTON (AP) The Chinese affiliates of the "Big Four" accounting firms have agreed to pay a total $2 million and provide documents in a settlement with U.S. regulators resolving a yearslong dispute over fraud investigations of Chinese companies.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday announced the deal with the Chinese arms of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KPMG and Ernst & Young. They each will pay a $500,000 penalty and take steps to provide documents to SEC investigators over the next four years. The deal resolves a dispute that pitted China's assertion of its sovereignty against efforts of U.S. regulators to crack down on corporate fraud and questionable accounting.


US consumer borrowing rises $14.8 billion in December

WASHINGTON (AP) Consumers increased their borrowing in December, with credit cards rising at the fastest pace in eight months. It could be a sign that consumer spending will accelerate as strong jobs gains give shoppers more confidence about taking on debt.

Consumer borrowing expanded by $14.8 billion in December, pushing consumer debt to a record $3.31 trillion, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. In November, borrowing had climbed by $13.5 billion.

The December rise included a $5.8 billion jump in the category that includes credit cards, marking the biggest gain since April. The result followed a $945 million drop in the category in November.


TurboTax stops processing state tax returns on fraud reports

NEW YORK (AP) TurboTax, the country's most popular do-it-yourself tax preparation software, said Friday that it has temporarily stopped processing state tax returns because of an increase in fraudulent filings.

State agencies have reported a rise in filings with stolen personal information, said Intuit, the company behind TurboTax.

Most victims found out that a fraudulent tax return was submitted in their name when they received a rejection notice after filing their returns, said Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller.

There haven't been issues with federal returns to date because the Internal Revenue Service has implemented stronger fraud detection policies, Miller said.


Postal Service revenue up as holiday package deliveries rise

WASHINGTON (AP) Political campaign mailings and an increase in holiday package deliveries helped boost U.S. Postal Service revenue at the end of 2014, even as the agency posted a $754 million loss in the final three months of the year.

Still, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said that despite continuing losses, the outlook is much brighter than it has been in the past.

The agency's revenue rose 4.3 percent in the final quarter of the year.


Farmers file more than 360 corn lawsuits against Syngenta

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Farmers and farm businesses in 20 states have now filed more than 360 lawsuits against agricultural chemicals-maker Syngenta, and hundreds more may be coming as a federal judge organizes the complex case so they can move forward.

The dispute centers around Syngenta's sale of a corn seed called Agrisure Viptera, which was genetically altered to contain a protein that kills corn-eating bugs such as earworms and cutworms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved it in 2010, and Syngenta first sold it to farmers in 2011.


Exploding air bag lawsuits headed to federal court in Miami

MIAMI (AP) Lawsuits filed around the U.S. seeking damages for allegedly defective auto air bags made by Japan's Takata Corp. have been consolidated before a Miami federal judge.

A federal panel on multidistrict litigation decided Thursday to combine the cases for pretrial rulings before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, a former chief judge in the southern Florida district who has served on the federal bench since 1990.

More than 70 potential class-action lawsuits have been filed claiming the air bags are defective because they can explode and cause injury or death with flying debris. At least five deaths have been linked to Takata air bags.


Senators call for investigation into Verizon 'supercookies'

WASHINGTON (AP) Democratic senators on Friday called on federal regulators to investigate Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile provider, for secretly inserting unique tracking codes into the Web traffic of its some 100 million customers.

Data privacy experts have accused Verizon of violating consumers' privacy by using "supercookies," an identifying string of letters and numbers attached to each site visited on a person's mobile device.


Fracking puts California governor, environmentalists at odds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) In the 1970s, the environmental movement had no bigger political hero than California Gov. Jerry Brown. He cracked down on polluters, ended tax breaks for oil companies and promoted solar energy.

Forty years later, in his second go-around as governor, conservationists are among his harshest critics.

Climate change is one of Brown's key issues, and he said in his inaugural address last month that his goal is to have California get half its energy from renewable sources within 15 years.

But because he has refused to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil, protesters, or "fracktivists," have dogged Brown for more than a year, even interrupting his speech at the Democratic Party convention last spring.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 60.59 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,824.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 7.05 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,055.47 and the Nasdaq composite fell 20.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,744.40.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.21 to close at $51.69 a barrel in New York. Oil rose 7 percent for the week in volatile trading. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.23 to close at $57.80 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3.4 cents to close at $1.559 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.3 cents to close at $1.839 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2.1 cents to close at $2.579 per 1,000 cubic feet.