Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Household spending and home building fuel modest US growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer spending and home construction are helping sustain modest U.S. economic growth despite problems caused by a strong dollar, low oil prices and an excess of business stockpiles.

The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a 1.4 percent annual rate in the October-December period, the government said Friday. That was better than the 1 percent growth rate the government had estimated a month ago.

Much of the new-found strength came from consumer spending on services such as recreation, which helped offset a manufacturing slump caused in part by a global economic slowdown.


Job totals trail pre-recession levels in 10 US states

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten U.S. states still have not regained all the jobs they lost in the Great Recession, even after six and a half years of recovery, while many more have seen only modest gains.

The figures help illustrate the uneven nature of the economic rebound since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. They also suggest why many Americans feel the improvement has passed them by. Ongoing economic anxiety, despite some data suggesting the economy has recovered, is fueling much of the support for insurgent presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.


Jury: Gilead owes Merck $200M in damages over drug patents

The federal jury in a patent trial has ordered drugmaker Gilead Sciences to pay Merck $200 million in damages for infringing on patents for hepatitis C drugs.

The award is far below the damages Merck sought, but the trial moves to a new phase Wednesday. The jury, in San Jose, California, then will decide whether Merck & Co. is due royalties on sales of Gilead's hepatitis C drugs, Harvoni and Sovaldi.

Merck, which recently launched a hepatitis C drug called Zepatier, claims two patents that Merck and partner Ionis Pharmaceuticals filed in 2002 were the basis for Gilead's sofosbuvir.


Court nixes class action suit over TGI Friday's drink prices

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A lawsuit that began over a $1.59 discrepancy for a drink at TGI Friday's cannot proceed as a class action, a New Jersey appeals court has ruled.

The court's ruling published Thursday is the latest development in a six-year saga that began when a southern New Jersey woman sued the chain after she realized she had been charged $2.00 for a drink at the bar and, later, $3.59 for a similar drink while sitting at a table.

Debra Dugan claimed the price difference and the fact the restaurants don't print drink prices on their menus amounted to violations of state consumer protection laws. She claimed the practice amounted to "menu engineering" and sought to exploit customers.

Two other plaintiffs eventually joined the lawsuit.


Stewardess in cocaine case will be sent back to California

NEW YORK (AP) — A JetBlue flight attendant accused of trying to sneak a suitcase full of cocaine through Los Angeles International Airport and making a dramatic dash to escape has been ordered returned to California.

A U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles issued the order after prosecutors appealed a New York City jurist's decision to free Marsha Gay Reynolds on bail.

Authorities said they found 70 pounds of cocaine in her luggage at LAX after she was flagged for a random security screening. Reynolds reported flung off her high heels and bolted barefoot down an upward-moving escalator, ran out of the terminal and made her way to New York.


Citing FBI quest, Apple asks judge to delay iPhone data case

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple wants a judge to delay government demands for data from a locked iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case while the FBI sees if it can get contents from a San Bernardino attacker's phone without Apple's help.

Apple attorney Marc Zwillinger asked U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie in Brooklyn late Thursday to postpone deadlines until the Department of Justice reports the FBI's findings to a California judge.

Zwillinger said the Brooklyn case will be affected by the outcome in California regardless of what the Justice Department concludes regarding its methods of obtaining data without Apple's help.


'Batman v Superman' strong-arms Thursday box office sales

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Studio estimates say "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" has earned an impressive $27.7 million from its preview screenings.

Warner Bros. released estimates Friday saying the haul from the Thursday night showings includes $3.6 million from IMAX screens.

The film cost a reported $250 million to produce. Analysts predict it could earn around $150 million this weekend despite largely negative reviews.

The $27.7 million debut is a record-breaker for the Easter weekend slot.


Feds offer debt relief to more former Corinthian students

BOSTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education is offering debt forgiveness to another wave of students who attended Corinthian Colleges, the now-defunct chain of for-profit schools that had campuses across the country.

After agreeing to erase the debt of more than 7,000 students in December, the department announced on Friday that students from 91 additional campuses in 20 states can now apply for debt relief. Students who attended those schools, which operated as Everest or WyoTech, can apply for relief on the department's website.


For first time, drone delivers package to residential area

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A drone has successfully delivered a package to a residential location in a small Nevada town in what its maker and the governor of the state said Friday was the first fully autonomous urban drone delivery in the U.S.

Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeney said the six-rotor drone flew about a half-mile along a pre-programmed delivery route on March 10 and lowered the package outside a vacant residence in an uninhabited area of Hawthorne, southeast of Reno.

He said the package included bottled water, food and a first-aid kit.


Federal oil, gas leases stall over bird concerns in US West

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Concerns over a bird that ranges across the American West continue to delay federal oil and gas lease sales, five months after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell proclaimed the Obama administration had found a way to balance drilling and conservation.

The Interior Department announced this week it will defer the sale of almost 60,000 acres of leases that were nominated by companies in eastern Montana as it works on new policies for greater sage grouse.

More than 8 million acres of leases previously were deferred in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. It remains unclear when those will be freed up for sales or removed from consideration.


U.S. financial markets were closed for Good Friday.