Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


GM recalls 2.7M more cars; industry on record pace

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors recalled an additional 2.7 million vehicles Thursday as a deep dive into safety issues at the nation's biggest automaker turned up more problems with some of the cars it built over the past decade.

The latest recalls bring GM's total for the year in the U.S. to more than 11 million cars and trucks, close to its annual recall record of 11.8 million vehicles, set in 2004.

The auto industry also is on track to set a single-year record for recalls. Auto companies have recalled 15.4 million vehicles in a little more than four months. The old single-year record for recalls is 30.8 million vehicles in 2004. Toyota, Ford, and Chrysler also have announced sizeable recalls this year.


FCC votes to go forward with net neutrality rules

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to go forward with the proposal of new rules that could set standards for Internet providers who wish to create paid priority fast lanes on their networks.

The preliminary vote moves the so-called "net neutrality" rules into a formal public comment period. After the 120-day period ends, the FCC will revise the proposal and vote on a final set of rules. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants the rules in place by the end of this year.

But the idea of allowing priority access, even if it's regulated by the government, has received heavy criticism from many companies that do business online, along with open Internet advocates.


Senate: Firms must protect against malicious ads

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate warned Google, Yahoo and other leading technology companies Thursday that they need to better protect consumers from hackers exploiting their lucrative online advertising networks or risk new legislation that would force them to do so.

In a new investigative report, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said hackers in some cases are infecting computers using software or programming commands hidden inside online advertisements. It suggested tougher U.S. regulations or new laws that could punish the ad networks in addition to prosecuting the hackers.


Fee to build phantom nuke waste site ends

NEW YORK (AP) — There may be something missing from your next electric bill: a fee to pay for a federal nuclear waste site that doesn't exist.

The money was collected for 31 years to build a long-term disposal site for nuclear waste generated by the nation's nuclear power plants. The site was supposed to have opened in 1998, but no such site exists. While the fee is only a small percentage of most bills, it adds up to $750 million a year.

The Energy Department will stop charging the fee by court order on Friday.

Don't expect a refund, though — the latest Energy Department strategy is to have a site designed by 2042 and built by 2048 using the money in the fund.


Fewest Americans in 7 years seek unemployment aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in seven years last week, a sign the job market is steadily improving.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 24,000 to 297,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the fewest since May 12, 2007. The four week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 2,000 to 323,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline is evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs. Weekly applications topped 650,000 in March 2009, during the Great Recession.

Fewer people are also receiving benefits each week. The number of recipients fell to 2.67 million, the fewest since Dec. 1, 2007, when the recession began.


US consumer prices rise by most in 10 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — Higher food and gas costs pushed up U.S. consumer prices in April by the most in 10 months, evidence that inflation is ticking up from very low levels.

The consumer price index rose 0.3 percent last month after a 0.2 percent gain in March, the Labor Department said Thursday. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 2 percent, the largest gain since July and matching the Federal Reserve's inflation target.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.2 percent in April and have risen 1.8 percent in the past 12 months.


Bad weather hurts Wal-Mart in 1Q, outlook weak

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart's first-quarter net income fell 5 percent as bad winter weather and financial struggles kept customers from spending at the world's largest retailer.

The company's results missed Wall Street's expectations for the third time in five quarters and it gave a weak second-quarter earnings forecast.

The results underscore the big challenges facing Wal-Mart's new CEO, Doug McMillon, who took over the top role on Feb. 1.

Wal-Mart's latest performance appears to show that many people are having a hard time stretching their money between paychecks. The retailer is considered an economic bellwether, with the company accounting for nearly 10 percent of nonautomotive retail spending in the U.S.


Bayer sells division to Boston Scientific

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's Bayer AG says it's selling its interventional division to the Boston Scientific Corp. for $415 million so that it can focus on growth in other areas.

The company said Thursday the sale includes its AngioJet system used to remove blood clots, its Jetstream system for arterial disease treatment, and the Fetch 2 Aspiration Catheter used in cardiology, radiology and peripheral vascular procedures.

Bayer says the sale will allow its HealthCare unit to focus more on growing its radiology and diabetes care business segments. Boston Scientific, based in Natick, Massachusetts, says the acquisition is expected to expand its access to customers in need of such treatments.


Fast-food protests spread overseas

NEW YORK (AP) — Labor organizers turned up the pressure on McDonald's and other fast-food chains to raise worker pay on Thursday, with plans to stage actions in more than 30 countries.

The demonstrations build on a campaign by unions to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers and get the public behind the idea of a $15-an-hour wage.

Industry groups say such pay hikes would hurt their ability to create jobs and note that many of the participants are not workers.

The protests are being backed by the Service Employees International Union and began in New York City in late 2012. Since then, organizers have steadily ramped up actions to keep the issue in the spotlight.


JC Penney beats expectations as sales improve

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney said a key sales figure rose in its first quarter, offering an encouraging sign for the beleaguered department store operator.

The company, which is based in Plano, Texas, said sales at stores open at least a year rose 6.2 percent in the period, marking the second straight quarterly gain. A year ago, the figure had dropped 16.6 percent.

Penney has been trying to recover from a botched transformation plan by former CEO Ron Jonson that resulted in massive losses and plunging sales. Johnson, the mastermind behind Apple's retail concept, was ousted in April of last year after 17 months on the job, and the board rehired Mike Ullman who had previously been at the helm for seven years.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 167.16 points, or 1 percent, to close at 16,446.81. The S&P 500 fell 17.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,870.85. The Nasdaq composite fell 31.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,069.29.

Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery fell 87 cents to close at $101.50 a barrel in New York. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to close at $2.964 a gallon. Natural gas rose 10.2 cents to close at $4.469 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 1.2 cents to close at $2.951 a gallon. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 25 cents to close at $110.44 a barrel in London.