Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Strong US job growth in Feb. helps dispel recession fears

WASHINGTON (AP) — A robust February jobs report showcased a resilient U.S. economy just as fears of a new recession had begun to surface.

Economic reports in recent weeks had fueled anxieties about a looming downturn: Manufacturers were slumping. Stocks had plummeted. China was slowing sharply along with other emerging markets. The rising dollar had crushed exports.

But last month, U.S. employers sent a clear message of confidence. They added a healthy 242,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate held at a low 4.9 percent, the government said Friday. The gains showed that the economy is surmounting its challenges without suffering much damage.


US investigates 420,000 Ford F-150s for brake failure

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government is investigating complaints that the brakes can fail on Ford's F-150 pickup truck, one of the most popular vehicles in the nation.

Ford's F-Series pickup is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., and the F-150 accounts for two-thirds of those sales.

The probe covers about 420,000 pickups with 3.5-Liter, six-cylinder engines from the 2013 and 2014 model years, according to documents posted Friday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.


Federal probe of bid-rigging goes beyond Chesapeake ex-CEO

DALLAS (AP) — As advanced drilling technology opened untapped sources of oil and natural gas, it triggered fierce competition among energy companies to scoop up rights to drill on vast swaths of land across the country.

The rush caused lease prices to skyrocket in the most promising fields. In a few cases, gas companies responded by cutting secret deals to rig the bidding and hold down their costs. Federal officials are now investigating to see if these shady practices are more common than believed.

The first big indictment of an executive came this week, when former Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon was charged with conspiring to rig bids for gas leases in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2012. Prosecutors moved Thursday to drop the charges after McClendon died in a fiery crash one day after the indictment was handed up by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma City.


Why your hotel room might come without a closet or a desk

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hotels are going for a new minimalist look to attract younger guests, but the move has left some experienced travelers angry, wondering how they're expected to get work done without a desk.

Younger travelers, hotels note, just want a clean and efficient space to stay. They spend less time in rooms and like to socialize and work in vibrant lobbies with a sense of community.

So carpets are being replaced by easy-to-clean laminate floors. Tubs are being ripped out in favor of glass showers. And instead of working at a desk, guests are increasingly expected to use glorified window sills or oversized TV trays.


Fed proposes rules to boost stability of financial system

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has put forward new rules aimed at addressing one of the primary causes of the 2008 financial crisis — the financial exposures that the biggest banks had with each other.

The Fed is proposing new limits on that exposure. It hopes the new rules will prevent the type of crisis that engulfed the U.S. financial system in September 2008 when the collapse of Lehman Brothers raised fears about the stability of other banks that had made loans to Lehman.

The central bank on Friday approved by unanimous vote putting the new rules out for a 90-day comment period.


US trade gap widens to $45.7 billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The gap between exports and imports climbed to $45.7 billion in January from a revised $44.7 billion in December. Exports of goods and services fell 2.1 percent in January to $176.5 billion, lowest since June 2011. Exports of industrial equipment and supplies were down. American exporters have been hurt by weakness around the world and by a strong dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive overseas.

The high dollar should be helping imports by making them cheaper in America. But imports slid 1.3 percent $222.1 billion in January, lowest since April 2011. Lower oil prices explain part of the drop. Petroleum imports of $11.2 billion were the lowest since November 2003. But January imports of autos and auto parts hit a record $30.6 billion.


Cleaner skies: Boeing designs self-sterilizing jet bathroom

NEW YORK (AP) — Boeing engineers think they have a solution for smelly, grimy airplane bathrooms: ultraviolet light.

The aircraft manufacturer has filed a patent for a self-cleaning lavatory that disinfects all surfaces in just three seconds.

Many passengers would welcome more sanitary airplane bathrooms, but they may have to wait a while to benefit from Boeing's technology.


Amazon confirms local data encryption gone on Fire tablets

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon has confirmed it removed the ability to encrypt locally stored data on its Fire tablets, saying that customers weren't using the service.

The change comes as Apple squares off against the FBI over access to an encrypted iPhone. Apple says giving the government access would make all other iPhones more vulnerable to hacks.

But the encryption that Amazon has removed is somewhat different than the security involved in the Apple case. And Amazon made the change well before the brouhaha started.

Amazon made the switch when it introduced its new Fire OS 5 in September with new Fire tablets. But it was brought to light this week as older versions of the tablets get operating system updates.


Facebook set to pay more British tax after criticism

LONDON (AP) — Social media giant Facebook, which has been under fire in Britain for its tax arrangements, said Friday it will stop routing its British sales through Ireland — a practice that had kept its U.K. tax bill extremely low.

Facebook, Amazon and other multinationals have been criticized for using complex tax arrangements in Europe to drastically reduce their bills.

Facebook said in a statement that from April, "U.K. sales made directly by our U.K. team will be booked in the U.K., not Ireland. Facebook U.K. will then record the revenue from these sales." It said the change would "provide transparency to Facebook's operations in the U.K."


HP Enterprise shares surge 14 percent after strong report

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hewlett Packard Enterprise's stock rose nearly 14 percent on Friday, a day after the commercial technology vendor reported solid earnings in its first quarter as an independent company.

Analysts said the results were better than expected, showing the new company can increase sales and become more profitable after spinning off from the old Hewlett-Packard last fall.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. sells commercial tech products and services, while another spin-off, HP Inc., is focused on personal computers and printers.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62.87 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,006.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 6.59 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,999.99. The Nasdaq composite index edged up 9.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,717.02.

The price of U.S. oil jumped $1.35, or 3.9 percent, to $35.92 a barrel. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, rose $1.65, or 4.5 percent, to $38.72 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.33 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 4 cents to $1.16 a gallon. Natural gas picked up 3 cents to $1.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.