Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO


EU threatens to sanction tax havens like Panama

BERLIN (AP) — The European Union has threatened to sanction countries like Panama if they continue to refuse to cooperate fully to fight money laundering and tax evasion, after a leak of data showed the tiny country remains a key destination for people who want to hide money.

A leak of 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca showed it had helped thousands of individuals and companies from around the world to set up shell companies and offshore accounts in low-tax havens. Because such accounts often hide the ultimate owner of the money, they are a favored tool to launder money, pay bribes or evade taxes.


A jetpack nears liftoff, but creator fears dream is grounded

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Glenn Martin was talking his buddies 35 years ago when they wondered: What ever happened to flying cars and jetpacks?

The next day, the New Zealander began looking for answers, triggering a lifelong quest to build a jetpack. But today, with his company seemingly on the verge of triumph, Martin worries his dream is slipping away.

Martin Aircraft Co. says it will deliver its first experimental jetpacks to customers this year. But the jetpack is being designed for first responders like firefighters, an outcome that falls short of Martin's vision of a recreational jetpack that anybody could fly.


US stocks take biggest loss in six weeks, led by banks

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks sunk to their biggest loss in a month and a half Thursday as banks and technology companies tumbled. Interest rates moved lower, hurting financial stocks. The dollar continued to fall compared to the Japanese yen. Stocks have fallen three out of four days this week.

Stocks sharply reversed course after their gains a day ago. Financial companies including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup took the largest losses. Technology and telecommunications companies also fell.

The market has lost momentum over the last few weeks after a furious rally that wiped out most of its losses from early 2016.


Applications for jobless aid fall to low level of 267,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, evidence that employers are holding onto their workers despite signs of weak growth.

Applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, rose 3,500 to 266,750. The number of people receiving benefits was mostly unchanged at 2.19 million. The benefit rolls have fallen 6.5 percent in the past year.

Applications have been below 300,000 for 57 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1973.


US consumer borrowing rises at weak pace again

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers borrowed at a modest pace in February for the second month in a row, evidence of ongoing caution that has kept a lid on spending this year.

Borrowing rose at a 5.8 percent annual rate, the Federal Reserve said Thursday, just above January's 5 percent pace. The use of revolving credit — mostly credit cards — rose just 3.7 percent after slipping in January. Total outstanding credit increased $17.2 billion to $3.57 trillion.

Americans barely increased their spending in February for the third straight month.


Average US rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.59 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates slid this week to their lowest level since February 2015, luring prospective purchasers during the spring home-buying season.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.59 percent from 3.71 percent last week. The benchmark rate was far below the 3.66 percent level it marked a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.88 percent from 2.98 percent last week.


Las Vegas Sands antes $9M to settle corruption case with SEC

Las Vegas Sands is paying a $9 million fine to settle a regulatory investigation that painted an unflattering picture of the casino owner's expansion into a gambling mecca in China.

The resolution announced Thursday closes a Securities and Exchange Commission probe that began more than five years ago.

The SEC penalized Las Vegas Sands for its dealings with a consultant paid $62 million to serve as a "beard" for some of its business in Macao and Beijing. The inquiry concluded some payments weren't properly authorized or documented.


Pay taxes, buy a Slurpee: IRS now accepts taxes at 7-Eleven

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service announced this week that taxpayers who need to make a payment in cash can now do so at 7-Eleven convenience stores.

While it may seem unusual to pay your taxes where you might otherwise pick up a Slurpee, it caters to a large number of Americans who do not have a bank account or credit card. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates one in 13 households in the U.S. do not have a bank account.

The IRS said payments would be accepted at more than 7,000 7-Eleven stores nationwide.


Pacific Sunwear files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Pacific Sunwear, staggering after nine consecutive annual losses, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

But the beach-life clothing chain hopes to find its footing and continue to operate its nearly 600 stores under an agreement with the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, a lender which plans to take it private after it restructures.

Pacific Sunwear, which defined surf cool in the 1990s and early 2000s, joins several other teen retailers who have suffered the blues as they grapple with the fast-changing tastes of teens.


Venezuela orders long weekends to stave off power crisis

CARCAS, Venezuela (AP) — Public employees in Venezuela will take long weekends under the government's latest bid to ease a nationwide power crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro announced late Wednesday that he would sign a decree giving state workers Fridays off for 60 days — and he urged his compatriots to increase other efforts to save power.

Officials have been warning for weeks that the water level behind the nation's largest dam, which supplies much of the energy in the country, has fallen to near its minimum operating level. If water levels fall too low, the government will have to shut down the dam entirely, crippling electricity supply.


Siesta alert: Spanish parties pledge to end WWII time warp

MADRID (AP) — Spain's celebrated siesta could be facing a modern makeover.

Job hours vary greatly, but many Spaniards start work at 10 and finish at 8 p.m. But acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says if he manages to form another government in an upcoming election, he will push for a new work-life balance law that would ultimately change the workday and eliminate the celebrated midday nap.

The law would include a working day that ends at 6 p.m., thus scrapping the country's lengthy lunch-hour breaks that some use to grab a siesta.


The Dow Jones industrial average lost 174.09 points, or 1 percent, to 17,541.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 index tumbled 24.75 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,041.91. The Nasdaq composite index skidded 72.35 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,848.37.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 49 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $37.26 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 41 cents to $39.43 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.38 a gallon. Heating oil slipped 1 cent to $1.13 a gallon. Natural gas rose 11 cents, or 5.6 percent, to $2.02 per 1,000 cubic feet.