Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


SeaWorld to stop breeding orcas, making them perform tricks

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld announced Thursday that it will immediately stop breeding killer whales, and soon stop making them perform theatrical tricks.

The move company's after intense public pressure. Attendance at SeaWorld's parks dropped after the 2013 release of "Blackfish," a highly critical documentary. SeaWorld reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million in February.

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said he approached the company's killer whale quandary with a "fresh perspective" since taking the helm less than a year ago, and he realized, "society is shifting here." Its 29 orcas will remain on display at the company's theme parks, but in "new, inspiring natural orca encounters," SeaWorld said.


Amid push for transparency, few colleges reveal investments

BOSTON (AP) — Colleges and universities are under growing pressure from Congress and campus activists to reveal financial investments made through their endowments, but most institutions are standing firm against the idea.

The movement includes federal lawmakers who are questioning whether to tax colleges on investment profits that can amount to billions of dollars a year. Many students and alumni are making inquiries too, demanding to know whether schools invest in certain industries.

Despite the calls for transparency, record requests made by The Associated Press to dozens of the nation's wealthiest colleges show a continued push to keep investments secret.


Dow positive for 2016 after metals, oil boost stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Another surge in U.S. stocks Thursday, on the heels of a four-week rally, turned the Dow Jones industrial average positive for the year and wiped out its losses from a terrible start to 2016.

The price of gold and silver and oil jumped, boosting materials and energy companies. The dollar continued to weaken, boosting industrial companies on hopes they will be able to sell more products overseas.


Applications for jobless aid rise but stay at healthy level

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but their numbers remained at low levels consistent with a healthy job market.

The number of people seeking jobless aid rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 750 to 268,000. The number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.24 million, down nearly 7 percent from a year earlier. Weekly claims have now been below 300,000 for 54 straight weeks, longest streak since 1973.

The numbers reflect a healthy job market. Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs.


Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.73 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the third straight week. Long-term rates have reversed the upward trend that took hold at the start of the year amid economic anxiety and market turbulence.

However, rates still remain at historically low levels at the start of the spring home buying season. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.73 percent from 3.68 percent last week. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 2.99 percent from 2.96 percent last week.


Keeping what's ours: Mutual-fund costs at lowest in decades

NEW YORK (AP) — It hasn't been this cheap to invest in mutual funds for decades, possibly ever.

Expenses dropped again last year for both stock and bond funds, and they're at their lowest levels since at least 1996, as a percentage of their total assets, according to the Investment Company Institute. That's how far back the trade group's records go, and funds have been getting steadily cheaper to own since then.

It's heartening because low expenses mean investors are keeping more of their savings. But investors don't always notice the savings_fund companies directly take out how much they need for managers' salaries, record-keeping costs and other operating expenses from the fund's assets.


Lawmakers challenge Turing executives on drug price hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former top lawyer for Turing Pharmaceuticals said Thursday that he and other executives warned Martin Shkreli against the drastic price hike that triggered a national backlash against the company and its then-32-year-old CEO.

The Senate Committee on Aging subpoenaed current and former Turing executives to appear and explain the fiftyfold price hike of Daraprim, a drug used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection. Lawmakers struggled to describe the company's behavior, which Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., called "pure evil."

Turing's former general counsel, Howard Dorfman, told committee members that the price hike "was certainly unjustified."


Longtime CEO of drug maker GSK to step down next year

LONDON (AP) — The head of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has announced he will leave after eight years as CEO.

The search for a successor comes amid months of pressure from some investors, who had wanted the diverse company to be broken up. The company said in a statement that Witty believes "this will be the right time for a new leader to take over."

Like many big pharmaceutical companies, GSK has struggled to see off the challenge of generic drugmakers and come up with new blockbuster drugs to replace medicines with expiring patents.


APNewsBreak: Google gives federal plan for self-driving car

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google wants Congress to create new federal powers that would let it receive special, expedited permission to bring to market a self-driving car.

The proposal, laid out in a letter to top federal transportation officials, reveals Google's solution to a major regulatory roadblock: U.S. law does not permit the mainstream deployment of cars with the design Google has been advancing.

The cars may sound futuristic, but Google has dropped increasingly strong hints that its self-driving technology — tested for several years on public roads in California and elsewhere — could be ready for early adopters sooner than the public expects.


Cuba plans to lift penalty on US dollar, demands embargo end

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba's government said Thursday that it plans to do away with a penalty on converting U.S. dollars, but warned the Obama administration not to expect more changes until the U.S. trade embargo is lifted.

Days before President Barack Obama visits the island, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez put Obama on notice that any attempt to circumvent the Cuban government by lobbying Cubans directly would not be warmly received. Still, Rodriguez laid out a scenario under which the 10 percent penalty on dollars exchanged in Cuba would soon be lifted, making it easier and cheaper for Americans to spend time in Cuba.


The Dow Jones climbed 155.73 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,481.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.37 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,040.59. The Nasdaq composite picked up 11.01 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,774.99.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.74, or 4.5 percent, to close at $40.20 a barrel. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, gained $1.21, or 3 percent, to $41.54 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline picked up 2 cents to $1.44 a gallon and heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.25 a gallon. Natural gas gained 7 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $1.94 per 1,000 cubic feet.