Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


US stands strong despite fear over global slowdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear.

The Dow Jones industrial average has lost 874 points since Oct. 8, largely over worries about another recession in Europe, a slowdown in China and world-spanning crises that include the Ebola outbreak and the rise of the Islamic State.

Yet economists aren't reducing their forecasts for the U.S. economy. The International Monetary Fund, which heightened jitters by cutting its forecasts for global growth, has actually upgraded its outlook for the United States.

Economists say the troubles around the world aren't enough to derail a U.S. economy that's gaining strength from a stronger job market, falling fuel prices, lower mortgage rates and improvements in household finances and confidence.


Falling oil prices shake up global economies

NEW YORK (AP) — A sudden plunge in the price of oil is sending economic and political shockwaves around the world. Oil exporting countries are bracing for potentially crippling budget shortfalls and importing nations are benefiting from the lowest prices in four years.

The global price of oil closed at $84.47 per barrel Thursday, down about $31, or 27 percent, from its high point for the year. Oil consumption globally is 91 million barrels per day. That means the world's oil producing countries and companies are bringing in as much as $2.8 billion less in revenue every day — and consumers, shippers and airlines are saving a comparable amount on gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.


Apple shows off new gadgets, but Pay is bigger bet

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple showed off thinner iPads and a new iMac with a high-resolution display on Thursday. Sleek and stunning, yes, but not likely to spark the next iRevolution. The tech giant's bigger strategic bet is that mobile pay service Apple Pay, debuting Monday, will be the next thing you didn't know you needed — but now can't live without.

The new iPads should sell well during the upcoming holiday shopping season, even as the worldwide tablet market is showing signs of slowing growth, analysts said. But they're not the kind of game-changing new product that has made Apple a darling of Silicon Valley and the tech industry's most valuable company.


US jobless aid applications fall to 14-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid dropped to the lowest level in 14 years last week, the latest sign of a strengthening labor market that could help blunt worries about the impact of weak global growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment aid fell 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000, the lowest level since April 2000. Given that the U.S. population has grown considerably since then, the proportion of the U.S. workforce applying for benefits is even smaller. Applications are a proxy for layoffs.

Analysts cheered the unexpectedly strong data. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, described the report as "spectacular" and "astonishing."


Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 3.97 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. mortgage rates tumbled this week. The 30-year loan hit its lowest level since June 2013 as Treasury bond yields marked new lows amid concern over global economic weakness.

It was the fourth straight week of declines for mortgage rates, making it more affordable to borrow to buy a home.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan dipped to 3.97 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, fell to 3.18 percent from 3.30 percent.

Mortgage rates often follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.13 percent Wednesday, down from 2.34 percent a week earlier. It traded at 2.11 percent Thursday morning. Bond yields rise when bond prices fall.

Treasury yields have dropped sharply on expectations that the world's economic sluggishness could force the Federal Reserve to delay interest rate increases.


Fed Reserve Chair tours Boston-area job center

CHELSEA, Mass. (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has been using her first year in the role to draw attention to employment issues, visited a local career center on Thursday to hear from residents about the challenges of finding jobs in today's labor market.

The central bank's first female head is in Massachusetts to give the keynote address at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's conference on the "Inequality of Economic Opportunity" on Friday. That two-day conference will focus on the "extent of inequality of economic opportunity in the United States and its manifestations," according to its website.

Yellen spent about an hour Thursday afternoon meeting with program officials and participants at CONNECT, a local office providing employment services in this industrial, majority Latino city north of Boston.


Confidence among US homebuilders slips in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders' confidence fell in October after four months of gains which had pushed the indicator to the highest point in nine years.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said Thursday that its index dropped to a reading of 54 after climbing to 59 in September, the highest level since November 2005, right before the housing bubble burst.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.

Analysts said readings in the mid-50s were in line with the current modest pace of recovery in housing. Sales of new homes did jump in August to the fastest pace since May 2008. But activity is still being held back by sluggish wage growth and a price surge that has put homes out of reach for many Americans.


Chrysler recalling nearly 907,000 cars, SUVs

DETROIT (AP) — Nearly 907,000 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep SUVs and cars are being recalled for alternators that can fail and heated power mirror wiring that can short and cause minor fires.

The recalls, posted Thursday by U.S. safety regulators, push the total number of recalls so far this year 544, totaling a record of more than 52 million vehicles.

The largest of Thursday's recalls covers nearly 470,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chrysler 300s, and Dodge Chargers, Challengers and Durangos from the 2011 through 2014 model years. The alternators can fail, causing the 3.6-liter V6 engines to stall unexpectedly.

The problem also can cause the electrical system to fail, as well as knock out power-assisted steering, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. It can even cause fire or smoke, according to documents Chrysler filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Report: Private student borrowers can't get help

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of Americans still struggle with high-cost private student loans, with many tumbling into default because the companies servicing the loans aren't offering reasonable options for improved terms, a new report says.

Distressed borrowers are receiving scant information or help when they run into trouble with their private student loans, and affordable repayment options aren't available, the report released Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says.

The latest annual report on the subject by the agency's ombudsman for student loans showed regulators making little progress since last year in nudging companies to offer borrowers more reasonable terms.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 24.50 points, or 0.2 percent, at 16,177.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.27 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,862.76. The Nasdaq composite gained 2.07 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,217.39.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 92 cents to close at $82.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 69 cents to close at $84.47 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 6.2 cents to close at $2.211 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.1 cents to close at $2.470 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.4 cent to close at $3.796 per 1,000 cubic feet.