Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


A hazy view of US economy emerges ahead of April jobs report

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the government reports Friday on job growth during April, it could help clarify an increasingly nagging question:

Just how strong is the U.S. economy?

The picture has grown hazier of late. Employers added only 126,000 jobs in March, ending a yearlong streak of monthly gains above 200,000. For April, economists predict a rebound to 222,500 added jobs.

Yet weaknesses have emerged in reports showing falling worker productivity, a slowdown in exports, modest consumer spending and sluggish overall economic expansion.


Beijing tries to tap brakes on stock market boom

BEIJING (AP) — China's leaders are trying to tap the brakes on a stock market boom that could run out of control and disrupt economic reform plans.

After months of cheerleading for rising prices, the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily sounded a cautionary note this week, warning that stock trading is "high-risk." It said the public should "invest rationally."

China's main stock index has more than doubled since November, making its market the world's best performer.

The boom has been driven by easy credit, government encouragement for newcomers to invest and hopes the world's second-largest economy would rebound from a deepening slump. That outlook has been clouded by weaker-than-expected economic growth and trade — yet markets kept rising.


Tech exec's loss raises question: How to grieve and work?

NEW YORK (AP) — What happened to Sheryl Sandberg could happen to anyone: The woman who wrote the book on balancing career and family will have to figure out how soon she will return to her high-profile job following the unexpected death of her husband.

In the book "Lean In," the Facebook chief operating officer wrote that marriage is "the biggest career decision" a person can make and implored women who want to move up the corporate ladder to settle with someone who wants to do his share in the home.


US jobless aid applications rise slightly

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. But even with the modest increase, the total number of people collecting jobless aid — pulled down steadily for months — fell to near 15-year lows.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to 265,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 4,250 to 279,500, the lowest level since May 2000.


US consumer borrowing expanded $20.5 billion in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their borrowing in March by the largest amount in nearly a year as borrowing on credit cards rebounded following two months of declines.

Consumer borrowing expanded by $20.5 billion in March to a fresh record of $3.36 trillion, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. It was the largest increase since April 2014.

Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards shot up $4.4 billion to $889.4 billion in March after having fallen in both January and February. It was the biggest gain for consumer credit since last July.


Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.8 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates are up this week to the highest level since mid-March.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.80 percent this week from 3.68 percent a week earlier.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.02 percent, up from 2.94 percent and the first time it's topped 3 percent since it hit 3.06 percent in mid-March.

A year ago, the average 30-year rate stood at 4.21 percent and the 15-year at 3.32 percent.


IMF says Asia to lead growth in 2015 despite China slowdown

TOKYO (AP) — Asian economies will lead world growth in 2015, expanding at a 5.6 percent pace that is level with last year, as recoveries in India and Japan help to offset the slowdown in China, the IMF said in a report Thursday.

IMF economists expressed concern, however, over the potential for weaker growth if policy makers in the region fail to follow through with needed changes, saying it was a time not for "alarm but it is a time for alert."

The IMF's regional economic outlook forecasts that growth in the Asia-Pacific area will moderate to 5.5 percent in 2016.


American becomes 2nd US airline to use Boeing's 787

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American has joined the list of airlines flying the Boeing 787 jet, which it hopes will appeal to passengers and open new, profitable international routes.

Passengers boarded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday morning for American's debut flight of a 787 to Chicago. Domestic service is just a warm-up. Next month, American will begin using 787s on flights to Beijing, Buenos Aires and Shanghai and will add Tokyo in August.

American joins United as the only U.S. airlines using the plane, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner.


Decomposing turkeys and chickens lead to odors, flies

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Millions of dead chickens and turkeys lie in stinking, fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, casualties of a bird flu virus that's swept through the state's large poultry operations in the last month.

Contractors hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture move methodically from barn to barn at the 28 farms, killing the animals that haven't yet died from the H5N2 virus — a suffocating foam for turkeys, carbon dioxide gas to asphyxiate chickens. Neighbors say they understand the challenge the state's producers face in disposing of more than 20 million bird carcasses, but are eager for quick action, especially as temperatures rise


Obama's Nike stop puts focus on outsourcing, labor standards

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will visit the headquarters of sports apparel giant Nike in the western state of Oregon Friday to make his trade policy pitch as he struggles to win over Democrats for what could be the last major legislative push of his presidency. But in choosing the giant sneaker and athletic wear company as his backdrop, Obama has stirred a hornets' nest.

Nike, a major exporter, employs more than 8,500 workers in Oregon, many in well-paying design, research or marketing jobs. But of Nike's slightly more than 1 million factory contract workers, more than nine out of ten are in Asia, with the largest number in low-wage Vietnam.


Lumber Liquidators suspends sales of Chinese-made flooring

Lumber Liquidators has suspended the sale of all laminate flooring made in China a week after disclosing that the Justice Department is seeking criminal charges against the specialty retailer in an investigation over imported products.

The flooring supplier said Thursday that it decided to suspend the sales while a board committee completes a review of its sourcing compliance program.

The CBS news show "60 Minutes" reported in March that the company's laminate flooring made in China contained high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde.


J&J seeks bioethics advice on compassionate use of drugs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dying patients sometimes seek emergency access to experimental medicines, desperate for a last-chance treatment even if there's little proof it could help. Now drug giant Johnson & Johnson is taking an unusual step, turning to independent bioethicists for advice on when to say yes or no.

J&J's Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. is beginning a pilot program with New York University's medical ethics division to review requests the company receives for so-called compassionate use of certain experimental drugs.


FDA schedules meeting on twice-rejected female libido drug

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration will ask a group of outside medical experts next month to evaluate a much-debated experimental drug designed to boost sexual desire in women.

The meeting is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of flibanserin, a proposed female libido pill which the FDA has already twice declined to approve. But the drug's backer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, has enlisted women's groups and other advocates to lobby the agency to approve the pill, saying women's sexual problems have been too long overlooked by the federal government.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average added 82.08 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,924.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.85 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,088. The Nasdaq composite declined 25.90 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,945.54.

U.S. oil dropped $1.99, or 3.3 percent, to $58.94 per barrel. That marked the biggest drop in U.S. oil since April 8. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by U.S. refineries to make gasoline, fell $2.23 to $65.54 per barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 4.6 cents to $1.99 per gallon. Heating oil dropped 5.4 cents to $1.962 per gallon. Natural gas fell 4.2 cents to $2.734 per 1,000 cubic feet.