Extended slump in oil taking toll on industry, economy

NEW YORK (AP) As drivers, shippers and airlines continue to enjoy lower fuel prices, the oil industry is responding to much lower profits with sharp cuts in spending and employment that are hurting economic growth.

Low oil and gas prices are good for the overall economy because they reduce costs for consumers and business. U.S. economic growth was higher in the second quarter, and economists say that was partly fueled by consumers spending some of their savings on gasoline at stores and restaurants.


Four years in, consumer protection agency has plenty to do

The nation's youngest government agency recently celebrated its four-year anniversary, and it's still got plenty to do.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was born out of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law that passed in 2010 and started a year later. It was given a direct, but mammoth task: regulate and root out bad behavior in the financial services industry, from checking accounts to credit cards, mortgages to debt collection, and more.


Higher wages a surprising success for Seattle restaurant

SEATTLE (AP) Menu prices are up 21 percent and you don't have to tip at Ivar's Salmon House on Seattle's Lake Union after the restaurant decided to institute the city's $15-an-hour minimum wage two years ahead of schedule.

It is staff, not diners, who feel the real difference, with wages as much as 60 percent higher than before. One waitress is saving for accounting classes and finding it easier to take weekend vacations, while another server is using the added pay to cover increased rent.


US paychecks grow at record-slow pace in 2nd quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. wages and benefits grew in the spring at the slowest pace in 33 years, stark evidence that stronger hiring isn't lifting paychecks much for most Americans. The slowdown also likely reflects a sharp drop-off in bonus and incentive pay for some workers.

The employment cost index rose just 0.2 percent in the April-June quarter after a 0.7 increase in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. The index tracks wages, salaries and benefits. Wages and salaries alone also rose 0.2 percent.

Both measures recorded the smallest quarterly gains since the second quarter of 1982.


University of Michigan: Consumer sentiment dips in July

WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. consumer sentiment slipped this month but remains at healthy levels, the University of Michigan said Friday.

Michigan's index of consumer sentiment fell to 93.1 in July from 96.1 the previous month.

Richard Curtin, chief economist for the survey, blamed the drop on the "disappointing pace of economic growth."

On Thursday, the U.S. government reported that the economy rose at a steady but unspectacular annual rate of 2.3 percent from April to June.

Still, Curtin said the sentiment index has averaged 94.5 since December, the highest eight-month average since 2004. He attributed the healthy level of consumer optimism to "modestly positive news on jobs and wages."


Experimental Ebola vaccine could stop virus in West Africa

LONDON (AP) An experimental Ebola vaccine tested on thousands of people in Guinea seems to work and might help shut down the waning epidemic in West Africa, according to interim results from a study published Friday.

There is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, which has so far killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa since the world's biggest outbreak began in the forest region of Guinea last year. Cases have dropped dramatically in recent months in the other two hard-hit countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia.


Online viewers won't miss Super Bowl ads shown on TV

LOS ANGELES (AP) Next year, you won't have to worry about missing the buzziest commercials of the Super Bowl if you can't get to a TV.

In the past, not all advertisers bought online time along with a pricy 30-second spot during the most-watched TV event of the year. That meant online viewers had to go to a Super Bowl ad repository, such as Hulu and YouTube, to watch what they missed on TV. Broadcasters sometimes ran substitute ads online instead.

This time, CBS says it's making all advertisers buy an online spot with their on-air time, so ads seen during the online simulcast will be the same as the ones on TV.


Tough week for social media stocks no one is spared

NEW YORK (AP) It hasn't been an easy week in social media, despite double-digit revenue growth from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Investors are looking beyond headline numbers and finding reasons to sell.

Not even Facebook, with stronger-than-expected profit and revenue numbers and bulletproof mobile advertising strategy, was spared. Its stock is down 2.6 percent for the week, compared with a roughly 1 percent increase for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. A whopping 82 percent rise in expenses spooked some investors.


WikiLeaks says US spied on Japanese government, companies

TOKYO (AP) The WikiLeaks website published documents Friday that it said shows the U.S. government spied on Japanese officials and companies.

The documents include what appear to be five U.S. National Security Agency reports, four of which are marked top-secret, that provide intelligence on Japanese positions on international trade and climate change. They date from 2007 to 2009.

WikiLeaks also posted what it says is an NSA list of 35 Japanese targets for telephone intercepts including the Japanese Cabinet office, Bank of Japan officials, Finance and Trade Ministry numbers, the natural gas division at Mitsubishi and the petroleum division at Mitsui.


Greece's stock market to reopen as bailout talks progress

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece's government announced that the Athens Stock Exchange will reopen Monday, a big step toward normalcy as talks with international creditors shifted into high gear.

The exchange has been closed since June 29, when the government imposed capital controls to prevent a banking collapse.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos signed the order Friday that also includes restrictions for Greece-based traders for an unspecified time period. A 60 euro limit on cash machines withdrawal will remain in place.


Currency crisis has Venezuelans struggling to call abroad

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) Venezuelans are struggling to call abroad as telephone carriers fall behind on payments to international partners amid a currency crisis that is leaving the country increasingly cut off from the rest of the world.

The South American nation's largest private telephone operator, Movistar, quietly ended service to all but 10 countries in May. The other major private operator here, Digitel, cut service to more than 100 countries around the same time, and later told congress it was tens of millions of dollars in debt to foreign providers.


3 ex-TEPCO execs to face criminal charges in nuclear crisis

TOKYO (AP) A Japanese judicial committee has decided that three former utility executives should face criminal charges and stand trial for their alleged negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A document released Friday showed the committee of independent citizens voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with then-vice presidents Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.


Russia's central bank cuts key interest rate

MOSCOW (AP) The Russian central bank cut its key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points to 11 percent on Friday, bowing to the pressure of businesses to make lending more accessible.

The bank's decision comes as the ruble has dropped to a four-month low. Market watchers were saying that Russian monetary officials are having to choose between cutting the interest rate, thus helping Russian companies, and keeping it on hold to cushion the ruble's fall and stem inflation.

Higher interest rates tend to bolster a currency and push inflation down.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 55.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,690.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.71 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,103.92. The Nasdaq composite closed effectively unchanged, down 0.5 of a point to 5,128.28.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.40 to close at $47.12 a barrel in New York. Crude fell $12.35 a barrel during the month, from $59.47 at the end of June. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.10 to close at $52.21 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.3 cents to close at $1.841 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.4 cents to close at $1.584 a gallon. Natural gas fell 5.2 cents to close at $2.716 per 1,000 cubic feet.