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Business Highlights

Associated Press Updated: May 1, 2015 at 6:01 pm
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1 in 4 US renters must use half their pay for housing costs

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than one in four U.S. renters have to use at least half their family income to pay for housing and utilities.

That's the finding of an analysis of Census data by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps finance affordable housing. The number of such households has jumped 26 percent to 11.25 million since 2007.

Since the end of 2010, rental prices have surged at nearly twice the pace of average hourly wages, according to data from the real estate firm Zillow and the Labor Department.

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Hollywood rolls out red carpet to 'influencer' fans

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clad in his pajamas, Reid Jones often blogs about Marvel superhero movies, with starry ambitions of one day becoming an entertainment journalist.

A few weeks ago, the 16-year-old woke up to that opportunity when he was invited to conduct red carpet interviews with the stars of Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" during the Los Angeles premiere.

Major Hollywood studios like Disney-owned Marvel are anxious to win over super fans, especially those who help build excitement online among other youngsters ahead of a movie's debut. Young writers like Jones — whose posts have been read nearly 11 million times — are increasingly being courted at events once reserved for traditional media outlets.

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Argentina's capital is world capital of bookstores

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — All across Argentina's capital, lodged between the steakhouses, ice cream shops and pizzerias, is an abundance of something that is becoming scarce in many nations: bookstores.

From hole-in-the-wall joints with used copies of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to elegant buildings with the latest children's books in several languages, Buenos Aires is filled with locales that pay homage to print.

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Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes

OSCEOLA, Mo. (AP) — After 45 years of providing health care in rural western Missouri, Sac-Osage Hospital is being sold piece by piece.

Ceiling tiles are going for 25 cents, the room doors for an average of less than $4 each, the patient beds for $250 apiece. Soon, the remnants of the hospital that long symbolized the lifeblood of Osceola, population 923, will be torn to the ground.

Sac-Osage is one of a growing number of rural U.S. hospitals closing their doors, citing a complex combination of changing demographics, medical practices, management decisions and federal policies that have put more financial pressure on facilities that sometimes average only a few in-patients a day.

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Inked and irked: Apple Watch users report tattoo problems

NEW YORK (AP) — It's an annoying problem for the unlucky few: the Apple Watch's heart rate monitor and even some other features might not work if you have a tattoo on your wrist.

Inked and irked Apple fans have dubbed the issue "TattooGate" on Twitter, complaining that they must choose between their body art and their stylish gadget. Apple, for its part, acknowledged the issue on its support website.

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US factory activity improves in April, but hiring declines

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories expanded in April at the same pace as in March, but manufacturers are starting to curtail hiring in a possible sign of weakness.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Friday that its manufacturing index was unchanged at 51.5.

The index had dropped in the prior five months. Still, any reading above 50 signals expansion.

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US consumer sentiment rises on optimism over job market

WASHINGTON (AP) — Optimism about the job market lifted U.S. consumer sentiment in April to its second-highest level since 2007.

The University of Michigan's sentiment index rose to 95.9 from 93 in March. Only January's reading of 98.1 has been higher since 2007, the year the Great Recession began. Over the past five months, sentiment has been, on average, at its highest level since 2004.

Richard Curtin, chief economist of the Michigan survey, attributed the April increase to optimism over consistently low inflation and low interest rates and improving prospects for jobs and incomes.

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US construction spending drops 0.6 percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction fell in March as an increase in nonresidential construction was offset by declines in home building and government projects.

Construction spending dropped 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted $966.6 billion in March after a flat reading in February, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Construction activity has fallen or shown no gain in four of the past five months, underscoring the economic toll from a severe winter.

For March, housing construction dropped 1.6 as both single-family construction and apartment building contracted. It was the biggest slide since last June. Spending on government projects fell 1.5 percent, the third straight decline.

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US seeks to compensate victims of Sudan, Iran and Cuba

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government announced a system Friday to compensate people harmed by Sudan, Iran and Cuba using some of the $8.9 billion forfeited by France's largest bank for violating U.S. economic sanctions by processing transactions for clients in blacklisted countries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein revealed the plan after U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield formally sentenced BNP Paribas consistent with the bank's guilty plea last year. She said the bank must turn over the forfeiture and pay a $140 million fine. It also pleaded guilty to state charges.

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Small, midsize SUVs drive April US auto sales gains

DETROIT (AP) — In April of 2014, the compact Chevrolet Cruze outsold the Equinox midsize SUV by more than a thousand vehicles. A year later, the Equinox trounced the Cruze by nearly 8,000 in sales.

Those numbers pretty much sum up the shift in attitude among U.S. auto buyers: As they increasingly fall in love with SUVs, small and midsize cars are having a harder time getting a date.

SUVs and trucks powered U.S. auto sales to a 4.6 percent gain last month, with several automakers reporting their strongest April sales ever. The stylish and practical new SUVs are pulling people away from cars, forcing automakers to discount sedans and even furlough workers to control growing inventories.

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US testing of lithium batteries alarms aviation officials

WASHINGTON (AP) — International aviation officials are trying to quickly come up with safer packaging for cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger planes, after U.S. testing confirmed that aircraft fire suppression systems can't prevent overheated batteries from causing a powerful explosion.

The International Civil Aviation Organization's committee on hazardous cargo met this week in Montreal. Officials familiar with the discussions say the panel heard a detailed presentation by aircraft manufacturers and pilot unions on the potential for the batteries to cause an explosion and fire capable of destroying a plane.

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US, Canada unveil rules to boost oil train safety

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rail tank cars used to transport crude oil and many other flammable liquids will have to be built to stronger standards to reduce the risk of a catastrophic train crash and fire, under sweeping new safety rules unveiled Friday by U.S. and Canadian transportation officials.

The regulations are a long-awaited response to a series of fiery train crashes in the U.S. and Canada, including four so far this year. The most serious accident occurred in July 2013, when a runaway oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just across the border from Maine, killing 47 people and destroying most of the town's central business district.

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SeaWorld cited over safety of trainers who work with orcas

SAN DIEGO (AP) — SeaWorld — whose safety practices have been under scrutiny since an animal trainer was killed in 2010 by an orca at its Orlando, Florida, park — has now been cited for not adequately protecting its killer-whale trainers at its park in San Diego.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued four citations this week that carry nearly $26,000 in fines. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said in a statement that the citations show a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what's needed to care for orcas and that it plans to appeal.

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KFC, Taco Bell parent jumps after Third Point buys in

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut soared Friday after a prominent investor said he's taken a stake in the company and thinks it could soon recover from years of trouble in China.

The letter from Daniel Loeb's Third Point hedge fund to investors drove Yum shares to an all-time high of $90.73 early Friday. The stock settled down slightly and was up $3.58, or 4.2 percent, to $89.56 in morning trading.

Third-Point did not disclose specifics on its stake in the company.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 183.54 points, or 1 percent, to 18,024.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 22.78 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,108.29. The Nasdaq composite added 63.97 points, or 1.3 percent, to 5,005.39.

Oil fell nearly 1 percent Friday — the first trading day in May — following a gain of more than 20 percent the month before. U.S. oil slipped 48 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $59.15 a barrel. Brent crude edged down 32 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $66.46 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline was barely changed at $2.045 a gallon. Heating oil crept up 0.2 cent to $1.982. Natural gas rose 2.5 cents to $2.776 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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