Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Yellen stresses that Fed foresees gradual pace of rate hikes

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Tuesday that the Fed still envisions only a gradual pace of interest rate increases in light of global pressures that could affect the U.S. economy. But she did not specify a timetable for further hikes.

She said risks to the United States appear limited but cautioned that that assessment is subject to "considerable uncertainty."

In light of her comments, most economists expect no hike at the Fed's next policy meeting — April 26-27 — despite remarks last week from other Fed officials that had raised the possibility of a rate increase then.


FBI's hack into iPhone increases pressure on Apple security

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI's ability to mysteriously hack into an iPhone is a public setback for Apple, as it raises consumer concern about the privacy of their personal information stored on iPhones.

The government didn't say how it was able to crack the digital lock, which puzzled Apple software engineers and outside experts. It also complicated Apple's job repairing flaws that jeopardize its software.

The Justice Department is now dropping a legal fight to compel Apple to help the FBI access the phone, which also takes away any obvious legal avenues Apple might have used to learn how the FBI did it.


Reassurances from Fed on interest rates send stocks higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed at their highest level of the year Tuesday as investors welcomed the latest signal from the Federal Reserve that it will move slowly to raise interest rates. Big names including Apple and Microsoft led technology stocks higher as the market made its biggest gain in two weeks.

Stocks rose after Yellen confirmed that the Fed isn't in a hurry to raise interest rates. Yellen's remarks boosted all corners of the market, and the price of gold rose along with stocks. Bond prices also rose and yields sank.


US home prices rise faster than incomes in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices climbed at more than double the rate of incomes in January, a trend that could ultimately create affordability challenges for buyers.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.7 percent from a year earlier, a slight increase from the 5.6 percent annual increase in December, according to a report Tuesday.

Home values have risen 2.6 times faster than average hourly wages. Tight supplies of homes on the market have fueled much of the price growth, as low mortgage rates and steady hiring have sparked demand.


Gov't panel backs drug for delusions in Parkinson's patients

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health experts have endorsed an experimental drug intended to treat psychotic delusions and behaviors that often afflict patients with Parkinson's disease, the debilitating movement disorder.

The panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted Tuesday that the benefits of the drug from Acadia Pharmaceuticals outweigh the risks. That vote — considered a recommendation for approval — is non-binding, though the FDA often follows the advice of its panelists.

Approximately half of all Parkinson's patients suffer from the psychotic problems, according to the FDA. There are no FDA-approved drugs currently available for the condition. Parkinson's is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease in the U.S., after Alzheimer's.


A rebounding stock market helps lift US consumer confidence

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers are feeling more confident in March, with a rebounding stock market brightening their outlook.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 96.2 this month after tumbling to a revised 94 in February.

Consumers' assessment of current economic conditions has dipped. But their outlook for the future has improved modestly.


GM recalls nearly 6,300 police cars for steering problem

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is recalling nearly 6,300 police cars in the U.S. because the electric power-assisted steering can fail.

The recall covers Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit vehicles from the 2014 to 2016 model years. GM says corrosion on a connector causes the problem. If it happens, the cars still have manual steering, but that requires more effort to turn the wheels and increases the risk of a crash.

GM says no crashes or injuries have been reported. The company says the problem happens because police cars often run 20 hours per day and heat can build up under the hood while idling.


California's $15/hour wage could help workers, cost jobs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A political deal to raise California's minimum wage to a nation-leading $15 an hour could help some workers cope with the state's crushing cost of living but also deprive other low-wage earners of jobs altogether, economists said as Gov. Jerry Brown and other leaders touted what would be a landmark agreement.

California's economy is larger than that of most countries and a jump from the current $10 an hour spread over six years would affect millions.

The hike would create the nation's highest statewide minimum wage. Lawmakers could send the bill to Brown's desk as early as Thursday.


Prosecutors seek max of 1 year in prison for ex-coal CEO

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Prosecutors are requesting the maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $250,000 fine for convicted ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who ran a West Virginia coal mine that was the site of a 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

In a sentencing memorandum in federal court Monday, prosecutors said the one-year cap on prison time for conspiring to shirk mine safety laws is "woefully insufficient." But any shorter sentence for Blankenship could only be interpreted as a "declaration that mine safety laws are not to be taken seriously."

Blankenship was convicted Dec. 3 of a misdemeanor conspiracy to willfully violate mine safety standards.


Tied 4-4 after Scalia's death, high court gives unions a win

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the clearest sign yet of the impact of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, U.S. labor unions scored a major victory Tuesday with a tie vote in a high-profile Supreme Court case they had once seemed all but certain to lose.

The 4-4 split demonstrated how much is riding on President Barack Obama's effort to replace Scalia with a judge who could tilt the balance on the high court for years to come.

The deadlocked vote came in a case that considered whether unions representing government employees can collect fees from workers who choose not to join.


FTC sues VW over false 'Clean Diesel' advertising claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal consumer watchdog sued Volkswagen on Tuesday, charging the company made false claims in commercials promoting its "Clean Diesel" vehicles as environmentally friendly.

The German automaker hastily pulled the ads following last year's admission it had installed illegal software on its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. U.S. regulators say Volkswagen's engines spewed up to 40 times the allowed levels of air pollutants in real-world driving conditions.

The Federal Trade Commission alleges that Volkswagen deceived customers during a seven-year period by selling its diesel cars based on fraudulent claims made through its marketing campaigns.


The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 97.72 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,633.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 17.96 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,055.01. The Nasdaq composite index rose 79.84 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,846.62.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped $1.11, or 2.8 percent, to $38.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost $1.13, or 2.8 percent, to $39.14 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, heating oil fell two cents to $1.16 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3 percent to $1.90 per 1,000 cubic feet.