Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


China's economic evolution causes small town upheaval

GUJIAO, China (AP) — This city in China's northern coal country hardly looks like it is in trouble. After three decades fueling China's industrial boom, its wide, tree-lined avenues are filled with late model cars. Markets are crowded with people.

That activity masks malaise. Surging demand for coal that once propelled Gujiao and its 200,000 people is ebbing, and along with it the local economy.

From coal country to the export-driven manufacturing heartland of China's southeast, millions of people are enduring wrenching change. Beijing is trying to replace an economic model that has run out of steam after delivering years of blistering growth based on trade and investment in construction and heavy industry.


Google's safe browsing system targets 'unwanted software'

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Get ready to see more red warning signs online as Google adds ammunition to its technological artillery for targeting devious schemes lurking on websites.

The latest weapon is aimed at websites riddled with "unwanted software" — a term that Google uses to describe secretly installed programs that can change a browser's settings without a user's permission. Those revisions can unleash a siege of aggravating ads or redirect a browser's users to search engines or other sites that they didn't intend to visit.

Google had already deployed the warning system to alert users of its Chrome browser that they were about to enter a site distributing unwanted software. The Mountain View, California, company just recently began to feed the security information into a broader "safe browsing" application that also works in Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox browsers.


Chinese makers roll out wave of Apple watch lookalikes

BEIJING (AP) — A month before Apple Inc.'s smartwatch hits the market, China's thriving copycat manufacturers are selling lookalikes, some openly advertised as Apple copies.

"Apple Smart Watch with Bluetooth Bracelet," says one vendor on Alibaba Group's popular Taobao e-commerce website.

Photos on the vendor's page appear to be the real Apple Watch. It says features on the Chinese version include text messaging and a music player. It starts at 288 yuan ($45), or one-eighth the $349 price of the cheapest Apple Watch.


Déjà vu? Winter chills US economy, but slowdown should thaw

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a second year, harsh winter weather has kept Americans away from shopping centers, slowed home sales and weighed on U.S. economic growth.

Yet there may be little cause for concern. The steadily strengthening U.S. job market and low gas prices suggest that the slowdown will likely prove temporary — just as a winter-related slump did last year.

Retail sales fell 0.6 percent in February, the government said Thursday, the third straight drop. A separate report Thursday showed, though, that far fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week than in the previous week.


US business stockpiles frozen in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses did not add to their stockpiles for a second straight month in January as total business sales fell by the largest amount in nearly six years.

Business stockpiles were unchanged following a similar flat reading in December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Sales in January dropped 2 percent. That was the sixth straight monthly sales decline and the biggest monthly drop since sales tumbled 2.7 percent in March 2009 during the depths of the last recession.


US household wealth touches record high: nearly $83 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fueled by higher stock and home values, Americans' net worth reached a record high in the final three months of 2014.

Household wealth rose 1.9 percent during the October-December quarter to nearly $83 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained $742 billion, while the value of Americans' homes rose $356 billion.

The typical household didn't benefit much, though. Most of the wealth remains concentrated among richer families. The wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households own about 80 percent of stocks.


US budget deficit totals $192.3 billion in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government ran a slightly smaller deficit in February than a year ago but the imbalance through the first five months of the budget year is still running ahead of last year.

The Treasury Department reported Thursday that the deficit in February was $192.3 billion, down from a deficit of $193.5 billion a year ago. For the first five months of this budget year, the deficit totals $386.5 billion, up 2.7 percent from a deficit of $376.4 billion during the first five months of the 2014 budget year.


Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.86 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week yet remained near historic lows reached in May 2013.

Long-term rates resumed their upward trend of recent weeks after declining last week. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.86 percent from 3.75 percent last week.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with homeowners who refinance, rose to 3.10 percent from 3.03 percent last week.


Honda running ad campaign to boost recall repairs

DETROIT (AP) — Honda is launching an unprecedented U.S. ad campaign urging owners to get vehicles repaired if they have been recalled to fix defective air bags.

The Japanese automaker will spend several million dollars on ads in 120 newspapers and 30-second radio spots in 110 markets. It's also sponsoring customized Facebook posts that will appear in owners' timelines. The ads — in English and Spanish — will begin running next week.


Genetic test maker 23andMe launches drug R&D effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — Google-backed genetic testing company 23andMe is launching its own drug development unit, betting that it can translate its database of customer DNA information into novel medicines.

The Silicon Valley-based company announced Thursday that it hired Richard Scheller, a former Genentech executive, to become its chief scientist and lead the company's research and development efforts. Scheller recently retired from a 14-year career with South San Francisco, California-based Genentech, a pioneer of biotech cancer drugs.


Kevin Bacon and eggs; actor stars in egg industry campaign

NEW YORK (AP) — The egg industry is ordering up a side of Kevin Bacon.

The American Egg Board says it plans to launch a print and online ad campaign this week featuring the "Footloose" actor and puns using his last name. The group says it's the first time it's using a Hollywood celebrity in a major marketing push.

The campaign comes at a promising time for the egg industry, with the nation's protein craze helping fuel sales after decades of eggs being viewed as cholesterol bombs.


The yogurt files: French dairy bosses caught colluding

PARIS (AP) — Frantic text messages between French CEOs about cottage cheese prices. Clandestine smoke breaks in a Left Bank apartment to collude on yogurt strategy.

A ruling Thursday by France's competition authority makes for rich reading, detailing a web of secret meetings, hand-written charts and phone exchanges over six years to fix prices on many of the yogurt-related goods on French supermarket shelves.

Eleven companies were hit with 192 million euros ($203 million) in fines for the cartel, including Yoplait and Lactalis and makers of most of the store-brand yogurt sold around France.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial gained 259.83 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,895.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 25.71 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,065.95. The Nasdaq composite climbed 43.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,893.29.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.12 to close at $47.05 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 46 cents to close at $57.08 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.6 cent to close at $1.810 a gallon. Heating oil rose 4.1 cent to close at $1.779 a gallon. Natural gas fell 9 cents to close at $2.734 per 1,000 cubic feet.