Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Why homebuyers face a tough spring

Eager to buy your first home this spring? Already own, but want to trade up? Be warned: there'll be plenty of competition

Bidding wars have broken out in hot real-estate markets like Denver and Los Angeles, where there aren't enough houses to meet demand. The lack of supply is a key reason home sales nationwide have yet to return to healthy levels following the housing collapse in 2008.

Further tilting the market in favor of sellers are low mortgage rates, which have ratcheted up pressure on buyers to wrap up deals before borrowing becomes more expensive.


Google acknowledges 11 accidents with its self-driving cars

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google Inc. revealed Monday that its self-driving cars have been in 11 minor traffic accidents since it began experimenting with the technology six years ago.

The company released the number after The Associated Press reported that Google had notified California of three collisions involving its self-driving cars since September, when reporting all accidents became a legal requirement as part of the permits for the tests on public roads.


Mirror, mirror on the wall: Smart mirrors boost sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Imagine a fitting room with a "smart" mirror that suggests jeans to go with the red shirt you brought in. It snaps a video so you can compare the image side-by-side with other colorful shirts you try on. It might even show you how the shirt will fit without you having to undress.

A handful of primarily upscale retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, are testing versions of this high-tech fitting room. And experts say the masses will be able to try these innovations at more stores in the next few years as the technology gets cheaper.


Starbucks hopes 'Mini Frappuccino' tempts new customers

NEW YORK (AP) — If a small Frappuccino seems like too much of an indulgence, Starbucks is now selling a more petite version of the sugary coffee drink.

The Seattle-based coffee chain says it will start selling a "Mini Frappuccino" starting Monday through July 6. The new size is just 10 ounces, compared with 12 ounces for the company's "tall" or small size.

Starbucks isn't the only chain trying to tempt people with more modest serving sizes. Sonic offers ice cream shakes in a "mini" size and recently ran a limited-time offer for mini hot dogs and mini fried chicken sandwiches. Coke has also been playing up its mini cans,


Olive Garden's latest plan: Breadstick sandwiches

NEW YORK (AP) — Olive Garden's plan to win back customers? Take the breadsticks it's known for and make sandwiches out of them.

The restaurant chain owned by Darden Restaurants Inc. says it plans to use its breadsticks for chicken parmigiana and meatball sandwiches starting June 1.

The addition of the breadstick sandwiches are just the latest attempt to revamp Olive Garden's menu and marketing after sales at established locations have declined for the past three of its fiscal years. Justin Sikora, a Darden representative, said the breadsticks used for the sandwiches will be a bit shorter and wider than the regular breadsticks.


Complaints against airlines rise, Frontier ranks worst

DALLAS (AP) — Consumer complaints against airlines are rising even as the carriers get slightly better at staying on schedule.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday that it received more complaints from consumers in March than it did in either the previous month or March of 2014.

While the numbers are still very small — only about one in every 50,000 passengers complains to the government — they vary greatly among carriers.

Passengers on Frontier Airlines were 34 times more likely to complain than passengers on Southwest Airlines, which has the lowest complaint rate. Spirit Airlines had the second-worst rate.


Shell clears major US government hurdle for Arctic drilling

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic drilling program has cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle to begin drilling for oil and gas off Alaska's northwestern coast this summer.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Monday approved the multi-year exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea for Shell after reviewing thousands of comments from the public, Alaska Native organizations and state and federal agencies.

The approval came just days before a planned protest of the drilling program in Seattle.


Airbus military plane faces more trouble after Spain crash

PARIS (AP) — Airbus' troubled A400M military plane has hit turbulence once again.

The cargo plane whose rollout went billions over budget and years over deadline is being grounded by numerous governments after a crash in Spain this weekend killed two pilots and two flight test engineers.

Though the crash is still unexplained, many of the governments who first ordered the A400M are keeping them in the hangars out of precaution, with leading buyer Germany openly criticizing its design. Shares in Airbus Group fell on the prospect of more trouble with the model.


US inconsistent in pressing China's banks on secrecy

SHANGHAI (AP) — Counterfeiters use several of China's largest state banks as safe havens, relying on them to process credit card payments or move money beyond the reach of law enforcement in the United States, where many fake products are sold online. But the U.S. government has not taken a clear stand on whether to push Chinese banks to be more cooperative in tracing and seizing counterfeiters' money.

On one hand, the U.S. Justice Department has sued Chinese banks, seizing the assets of counterfeiters under a law that gives the government the power to do so. On the other hand, the Justice Department, under pressure from China, has argued that U.S. courts should more carefully consider China's sovereign interests before ordering Chinese banks to freeze counterfeiters' funds on behalf of private companies.


New blood tests, liquid biopsies, may transform cancer care

A new type of blood test in the U.S. is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care.

The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.


Noble plants big stake in Texas with $2.1B deal for Rosetta

Noble Energy will pay about $2.1 billion for Rosetta Resources in an all-stock deal that gives the oil and gas company access to two massive Texas shale formations.

Assets belonging to Rosetta Resources Inc. include about 50,000 net acres in the Eagle Ford Shale and another 56,000 acres in the Permian Basin. The deal will immediately boost its per-share production and earnings at Noble Energy Inc., the company said Monday.

Industry observers have been waiting for consolidation in the energy sector after watching oil prices tumble over the past year. Operators much smaller than Noble and Rosetta are getting hit the hardest.


Real estate firm DTZ buying Cushman & Wakefield for $2.04B

NEW YORK (AP) — Cushman & Wakefield and DTZ say they will combine in a deal creating one of the world's largest real estate companies.

Exor SpA, an Italian investment firm that owns most of Cushman & Wakefield, said Monday that DTZ will buy Cushman for $2.04 billion.

The two privately-held companies say that together, they will have $5.5 billion in annual revenue and manage more than 4 billion square feet of real estate.


Death toll from defective GM ignition switches rises to 100

DETROIT (AP) — The death toll from faulty ignition switches in small cars made by General Motors has reached 100.

The families of the victims are being offered compensation by Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM last year. In addition, GM has agreed to make offers to 184 people who were injured in crashes caused by the switches in older-model cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt.

GM recalled 2.6 million of the cars last year, but acknowledged it knew about problems with the switches for more than a decade.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.94 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,105.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.77 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,105.33. The Nasdaq composite slipped 9.98 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,993.57.

The price of oil slipped slightly Monday as traders weighed declining drilling activity in the U.S. against rising gasoline supplies that could crimp demand for crude in the coming weeks. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 14 cents to close at $59.25 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 48 cents to close at $64.91 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.6 cent to close at $1.986 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.9 cent to close at $1.945 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7.8 cents to close at $2.802 per 1,000 cubic feet.