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Business Highlights

Associated Press Updated: October 30, 2014 at 6:03 pm

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Apple CEO publicly acknowledges that he's gay

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook's declaration that he's "proud to be gay," makes him the highest-profile business executive in the nation to publicly acknowledge his sexual orientation.

In a country where more major-league athletes have come out than top CEOs, business leaders and gay-rights advocates said Cook's disclosure was an important step toward easing anti-gay stigma in the workplace, particularly for employees in the many states where workers can still be fired for being gay.

Cook's sexual orientation was not a secret within Apple or in Silicon Valley. The 53-year-old successor to Steve Jobs led Out magazine's top 50 most powerful people for three years. But in an essay published Thursday by Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook said that while he never denied his sexuality, he never openly acknowledged it, either. He said he acted in the hopes that it could make a difference to others.

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US economy rallies to solid Q3 growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy powered its way to a respectable growth rate of 3.5 percent from July through September, outpacing most of the developed world and on track to extend the momentum through the end of the year and beyond.

The result isn't a fluke.

It turns out the world's biggest economy did a lot of things right in the wake of the Great Recession that set it apart from other major nations. Those key decisions, particularly by the Federal Reserve, appear to be paying off now.

An improving economy prompted the Fed on Wednesday to end its stimulus known as quantitative easing. Launched during the financial crisis in 2008, it was an unprecedented and aggressive effort to revive a dormant economy through buying trillions in bonds.

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Not so sweet: Chocolate prices are set to rise

NEW YORK (AP) — That bowl of chocolates for ninjas and ghosts won't cost you more this Halloween. Picking the perfect sweet for your Valentine could.

The cost of ingredients in chocolate bars is rising, and the nation's biggest candy makers have already warned of price hikes next year. And it's not just costs that are pushing up prices. A growing sweet tooth around the world means more demand for chocolate.

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After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom — and glut

TOKYO (AP) — Like other Japanese who were banking on this country's sweeping move toward clean energy, Junichi Oba is angry.

Oba, a consultant, had hoped to supplement his future retirement income in a guilt-free way and invested $200,000 in a 50 kilowatt solar-panel facility, set up earlier this year in a former rice paddy near his home in southwestern Japan.

But Kyushu Electric Power Co., the utility to which he must sell his electricity, has recently placed on hold all new applications for getting on its grid. Four other utilities have made the same announcement and two more announced partial restrictions.

The utilities say they can't accommodate the flood of newcomers to the green energy business, throwing in doubt the future of Japan's up-to-now aggressive strategy on renewable energy. Another challenge is that supplies of power from sources such as solar are not reliable enough or easily stored.

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Haiti hopes to woo back tourists with resorts

COTES-DE-FER, Haiti (AP) — Off this sleepy southern Haitian village, fishermen in weathered wooden boats slowly move across azure waters. Miles of picture-perfect sandy beaches slope gently, fringed by grasses and framed by mountains.

In any other Caribbean country, such a pristine stretch of shore would have been developed long ago. But in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the tranquil Cotes-de-Fer area is mostly uninhabited, holding just a scattering of shacks lit by candles, with little to do apart from fishing or working the sunbaked soil.

Things may be changing radically, however. President Michel Martelly's administration wants to build Haiti's biggest tourism development here, hoping that foreign visitors can help spur an economic revival in the nation of 10 million, where most adults lack any kind of steady work and survive on less than $2 a day.

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Applications for US jobless aid tick up to 287,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but remained at historically low levels that signal a strengthening job market.

Weekly applications increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 250 to 281,000, the lowest level in more than 14 years.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs and have fallen 20 percent in the past year. Faster growth has encouraged companies to hold onto their staffs and step up hiring. Employers are adding jobs at the healthiest pace in eight years.

That is contributing to faster growth: The economy expanded at a solid annual rate of 3.5 percent in the July-September quarter, according to a separate government report Thursday. More business investment and exports, as well as a burst of government spending on defense, drove the increase.

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Yellen: Awareness of economists' diversity needed

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says she wants to raise awareness of the need for diversity among economists, with relatively few women and minorities still choosing to major in economics in college.

Yellen, who is the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history, was speaking Thursday at a conference on diversity in the economics profession organized by the Fed and the American Economic Association.

And she said decisions by the Fed are better because of the range of perspectives among its policymakers.

Among the questions to be addressed, Yellen said, is how college students view the coursework and employment prospects for economics majors compared with what the actual prospects are. The lack of diversity among economics majors may reflect "a more general need to make basic economics more relevant and otherwise appealing to undergrads," she said.

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Chevy makes the best of exec's nervous speech

DETROIT (AP) — Shortly before 9 a.m. on the day after the worst night of his life, Rikk Wilde got the phone call from his big boss at General Motors.

Yes, he committed a nationally televised, major-league blooper while presenting pickup truck keys to the World Series MVP. No, he wouldn't be fired. Now get out there and sell some trucks.

The call, from Chevrolet Vice President Brian Sweeney, had to be a relief for Wilde, who makes his living as a zone manager and liaison between GM and its Kansas City-area dealers.

"The Chevy leadership team called and told him he did nothing wrong. It's all good. Everyone here has his back," said Michael Albano, the brand's top spokesman.

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FTC accuses Gerber of false claim on baby formula

WASHINGTON (AP) — Baby-food maker Gerber is being accused by the government of claiming falsely that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children.

In a complaint filed Thursday in federal court, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that the company misled consumers by suggesting that its formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing the risk of allergies.

The FTC said it wants Gerber to pull its claim from labels and advertisements and left open the possibility of asking the court to require Gerber to issue refunds for the $20-plus packages sold since 2011.

Gerber Products Co., also doing business as Nestlé Infant Nutrition, said it didn't violate the law.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 221.11 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,195.42. The S&P 500 gained 12.35 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,994.65 The Nasdaq composite added 16.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,566.14.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.08 to close at $81.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 88 cents to close at $86.24 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.5 cents to close at $2.196 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.2 cents to close at $2.513 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.9 cents to close at $3.827 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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