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Associated Press Updated: February 26, 2015 at 6:31 pm
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Regulators approve tougher rules for Internet providers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Internet activists declared victory over the nation's big cable companies Thursday, after the Federal Communications Commission voted to impose the toughest rules yet on broadband service to prevent companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from creating paid fast lanes and slowing or blocking web traffic.

The 3-2 vote ushered in a new era of government oversight for an industry that has seen relatively little. It represents the biggest regulatory shake-up to telecommunications providers in almost two decades.

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AP Exclusive: Wal-Mart CEO talks workers, customers, critics

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — When Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon took the top job at the world's largest retailer last year, he inherited some big problems.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has more than 11,000 stores in 27 countries, has struggled with two years of mostly sluggish sales due in large part to a challenging global economy and major changes in how people shop.

Workers' groups have targeted Wal-Mart over its pay and treatment of its U.S. employees with protests. And overseas, the retailer is still being scrutinized nearly two years after a Bangladesh factory that sometimes made some of its clothes collapsed, killing over 1,100 workers.

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Psychology on order: How restaurants get you to spend more

NEW YORK (AP) — You may think you're immune to transparent sales pitches like "Do you want fries with that?" But the tactics restaurants use to nudge you into spending a little extra may be subtler than you realize.

That includes the dollar signs on a menu and the florid descriptions of standard dishes.

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Report: Surge in Chinese investment raises fraud risks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese investors seeking green cards to live in America run the risk of being defrauded under a loosely regulated visa program, according to a report Thursday from a federal watchdog.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission raises questions about America's EB-5 visa program, which grants green cards to foreigners in return for investments of $1 million — or just $500,000 in high-unemployment or rural areas. Local government officials are supposed to vet the investors and their projects before visa applications are approved.

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No thanks! Companies reject "Shark Tank" deals, still thrive

NEW YORK (AP) — With the cameras rolling, Daniel and Stephanie Rensing accepted an offer from a "Shark Tank" investor. But after they had time to think about it, they changed their minds.

Annual revenue for their company, The Smart Baker, is close to $1 million, up from $130,000 before their March 2012 appearance on the ABC reality TV show.

Dreams of investor money have induced more than 150,000 businesses to apply to be contestants on "Shark Tank," where entrepreneurs pitch to cast members.

Entrepreneurs may be all smiles when they get an offer on the show, but the deals aren't set in stone. Negotiations start soon after episodes are taped. Contestants can walk away if they don't like the terms.

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Young Spaniards moving to Germany get trapped in dismal jobs

BERLIN (AP) — Edur Ansa couldn't find work for a year after he got his nursing degree from Barcelona University. Like many other Spaniards, he started looking for work in Germany and ended up with a job at a private hospital.

That's when he found himself trapped.

He said he got lower pay than German counterparts even though he worked longer hours and was better qualified. But when he tried to quit, he found himself locked into his contract until he paid off the language lessons and accommodation his employer provided when he arrived.

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Consumer prices plunge 0.7 percent on cheaper gas costs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A plunge in gas prices last month lowered consumer prices by the most in six years. But excluding the volatile food and energy costs, prices rose.

The consumer price index fell 0.7 percent in January, the sharpest drop since December 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. Tumbling prices at the pump drove nearly all of the decline. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose 0.2 percent.

Despite the sharp drop in the overall index, economists see signs that many prices are moving higher. The cost of services, such as hotels, restaurant food and rents, all rose last month, lifting core prices.

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Applications for US jobless aid rise to 313,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, though the number of applications was still consistent with steady hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, the most in six weeks. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 11,500 to 294,500.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The average has been near or below 300,000 since September, a historically low number that suggests companies are holding onto their staffs and may even be stepping up hiring.

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Orders for US durable goods up 2.8 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods rebounded in January, rising by the largest amount in six months, although much of the strength came from a big jump in airplane orders. A key category that signals business investment plans did manage a small gain.

Orders for durable goods increased 2.8 percent in January, the biggest increase since July. Orders were down 3.7 percent in December and 2.2 percent in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.80 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates have edged up for a third straight week while remaining near their historically low levels reached in May 2013.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage rose to 3.80 percent from 3.76 percent last week.

The rate for the 15-year loan, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, ticked up to 3.07 percent from 3.05 percent last week.

A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.37 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.39 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, which were meant to hold down long-term rates.

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Automakers hire rocket firm to probe air bag problems

DETROIT (AP) — The auto industry, fed up with slow progress toward finding out why some air bags explode with too much force, has hired a Virginia rocket science company to investigate the matter.

Ten automakers whose vehicles have been recalled because of problems with Takata Corp. air bags said Thursday they have jointly hired Orbital ATK to figure out the problem. The suburban Washington, D.C., company makes rocket propulsion systems, small arms ammunition, warhead fuses and missile controls.

The companies also named David Kelly, a former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as project manager for the investigation.

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Fruits and vegetables get a star-studded marketing push

NEW YORK (AP) — What if cauliflower got the same type of marketing firepower as candy bars and potato chips?

A campaign being launched Thursday plans to put that premise to the test by enlisting celebrities including actress Jessica Alba and NBA star Stephen Curry to shill for fruits and vegetables.

The campaign was announced by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which works with private companies and was created in conjunction with first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to get families to eat better and exercise. The push is being called "FNV," which is intended to be a catchier way to refer to "fruits and vegetables."

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 10.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,214.42. The S&P 500 index slipped 3.12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,110.74. The Nasdaq gained 20.75 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,987.89.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.82 to close at $48.17 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.58 to close at $60.05 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.1 cents to close at $1.708 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.2 cents to close at $2.136 a gallon. Natural gas fell 16.5 cents to close at $2.697 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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