Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


Panama rejects money-launder label following documents leak

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panamanians have long shrugged off their country's checkered reputation as a financial haven for drug lords, tax dodgers and corrupt oligarchs. They like to joke that if they're crooks, they've learned it from the world's wealthy nations.

That same defensiveness has re-emerged amid the fallout from the leak of 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca revealing details of how some of the globe's richest people funnel their assets into secretive shell companies set up here and in other lightly regulated jurisdictions.

Ramon Fonseca, a co-founder of the firm, said Monday that his country's success in establishing itself as an offshore banking giant has bred jealousy from first-world rivals at a time of increasing competition and scrutiny of the industry in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.


Ford to build small-car factory in Mexico, adding 2,800 jobs

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. plans to build a new $1.6 billion auto assembly plant in Mexico, creating about 2,800 jobs and shifting small-car production from the U.S. at a time when moving jobs south of the border has become a major issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

The company announced the plant in the San Luis Potosi state Tuesday without saying specifically what cars it will build there. But the United Auto Workers union has said Ford plans to shift production of the Focus compact and C-Max small gas-electric hybrid from suburban Detroit to Mexico, where the cars can be made at lower cost and more profitably.

The UAW's new four-year contract with Ford, signed last year, guarantees new vehicles for the Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant and a $700 million investment that preserves the plant's 3,924 jobs. Union members have said they expect the factory to get a new version of the Ranger small pickup and a new small SUV called the Bronco.


PayPal cancels North Carolina expansion over discrimination law

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — PayPal said Tuesday that it was scrapping a $3.6-million, 400-job expansion in North Carolina, the biggest tangible economic backlash so far to a new state law that restricts protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

More than 100 corporate leaders have decried the law, saying it is unfair and makes it more difficult to attract talent. PayPal's announcement came days after Lionsgate decided to move the filming for the pilot episode of a comedy series to Canada.


Mobile chat apps Line, Kakao flourishing among young Asians

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Forget Facebook and Twitter.

Two of Asia's biggest social media players, Kakao Talk and Line, are growing by making mobile messaging apps an integral part of the lives of young Asians who prefer to communicate more privately instead of shouting out in virtual arenas and risking troubles with trolls — or disclosing aspects of their lives to their parents they'd rather not share.

Kakao Talk is the top messenger app in South Korea, with more users than Facebook or Twitter. People use it to hail cabs and transfer money, advancing toward a cashless society. Even South Korean government officials prefer Kakao chat rooms for communicating with colleagues as opposed to email. In Japan, where Line users outnumber those on Facebook or Twitter, people buy cute digital stickers to link to messages and use the app to search for music and jobs.


Analysts: New inversion rules will kill Pfizer-Allergan deal

Drugmakers Pfizer Inc. and Allergan Plc are scrambling to determine whether to proceed with their plan to merge and move Pfizer's address — but not its operations or headquarters — to lower-tax Ireland. They are taking another look after the U.S. Treasury Department issued new rules to make such "tax inversion" deals less profitable.

Both companies were mum Tuesday on what they'll do, other than to swat swirling rumors that they're leaning toward dropping the inversion.

But analysts and tax experts are debating whether the new, unexpectedly aggressive tax law changes issued late Monday will kill the deal.


US trade deficit rises in February to 6-month high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in February to the highest level in six months as the growth in imports outpaced a modest rise in exports.

The trade gap widened to $47.1 billion, up 2.6 percent from a January imbalance of $45.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Boosted by stronger sales of U.S.-made autos, exports increased 1 percent to $178.1 billion. It was the first climb since September. Imports were up 1.3 percent to $225.1 billion, despite a drop in oil imports which fell to the lowest level in 13 years.


Growth at US services firms rebounds in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Growth picked up last month at U.S. services companies, which have been a source of strength for the American economy.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its services index rebounded to 54.5 in March from a two-year low of 53.4 in February. Anything above 50 signals growth.

Business activity and new orders grew faster. A measure of export orders surged to the highest level in a year. A measure of employment in services registered 50.3 after contracting in February.


US hiring reaches 9-year high; job openings slip

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. hiring jumped to a nine-year high in February, a sign of robust business demand for new workers, while the number of open positions slipped.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that 5.4 million people found jobs, a 5.8 percent jump from January and the most since November 2006. More Americans also quit their jobs. Both figures point to a healthier, more dynamic labor market.

Businesses have been reluctant to accelerate hiring for much of the nearly seven year old recovery. But the raw hiring numbers have now returned to pre-recession levels. That suggests businesses are more confident about the economy's future.


Subway posting calories nationally as regulation lags

NEW YORK (AP) — Subway is moving ahead and posting calorie counts on menu boards nationally despite another delay in a federal rule requiring the information.

The sandwich chain says its new menu boards with calorie counts are already rolling out around the country and should be up in all 27,000 of its U.S. stores by April 11. The decision to forge ahead comes as restaurant chains have awaited the Food and Drug Administration's final guidance and enforcement of a rule requiring food sellers with 20 or more locations to post the information.


NFL picks Twitter to stream Thursday night games

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL has picked Twitter to stream its Thursday night games.

When the league negotiated its latest deal for the Thursday package, it decided to sell the streaming rights separately for an "over the top" broadcast. This past season, it partnered with Yahoo to stream a game from London that took place on a Sunday morning in the United States.

Only the 10 Thursday night games on CBS and NBC will be streamed through Twitter under a one-year agreement, the NFL announced Tuesday. They will be free worldwide on all devices through the Twitter platform. Viewers will not need to be registered Twitter users.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 133.68 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,603.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 20.96 points, or 1 percent, to 2,045.17 and the Nasdaq composite fell 47.86 points, or 1 percent, to 4,843.93.

Benchmark U.S. crude edged up 19 cents to close at $35.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 18 cents to close at $37.87 a barrel in London. Heating oil fell 1 cent to $1.075 a gallon, wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $1.378 a gallon and natural gas fell 4 cents to $1.954 per thousand cubic feet.