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Associated Press Updated: July 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm 0

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Facebook co-founder trying to transform business email from chronic headache to afterthought

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dustin Moskovitz has learned a lot about communication since he teamed up with his college roommate Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook a decade ago.

That knowledge is fueling an attempt to change the way people connect at work.

Asana, a San Francisco startup Moskovitz runs with former Facebook and Google product manager, Justin Rosenstein, peddles software that combines the elements of a communal notebook, social network, instant messaging application and online calendar to enable teams of employees to share information and do most of their jobs without relying on email.

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Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.

The share of Americans in collections has remained relatively constant, even as the country as a whole has whittled down the size of its credit card debt since the official end of the Great Recession in the middle of 2009.

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Avoiding plane crashes as air traffic doubles

NEW YORK (AP) — More travelers are flying than ever before, creating a daunting challenge for airlines: keep passengers safe in an ever more crowded airspace.

Each day, 8.3 million people around the globe step aboard an airplane. They almost always land safely.

Some flights, however, are safer than others.

The accident rate in Africa, for instance, is nearly five times that of the worldwide average, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations. Such trouble spots also happen to be where air travel is growing the fastest, putting the number of fliers on course to double within the next 15 years.

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China investigating Microsoft in monopoly case

BEIJING (AP) — China's anti-monopoly agency announced an investigation Tuesday of Microsoft Corp., stepping up regulatory pressure on foreign technology companies.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce said it opened a case in June after complaints Microsoft improperly failed to publish all documentation for its Windows operating system and Office software. It said investigators visited Microsoft's China headquarters in Beijing and branches in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu in southwestern China this week.

Microsoft, in a prepared statement, said it aims "to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have."

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OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

NEW YORK (AP) — This week, OKCupid became the latest company to admit that it has manipulated customer data to see how users of its dating service would react to one another.

The New York-based Internet company's revelation follows news that Facebook let researchers change news feeds to see how it would affect users' moods.

Big companies use customers as unwitting guinea pigs all the time, online and in the real world. OKCupid's claim, that its research was aimed at improving its services, is common. But some find that manipulating situations in order to study consumer behavior without consent raises troubling privacy concerns.

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US, Europe impose tough new sanctions on Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurred to action by the downing of the Malaysian airliner, the European Union approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions Tuesday against Russia, including an arms embargo and restrictions on state-owned banks. President Barack Obama swiftly followed with an expansion of U.S. penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy.

The coordinated sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his country's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine whom the West blames for taking down the passenger jet nearly two weeks ago. Obama and U.S. allies also warned that Russia was building up troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine.

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Fed is weighing key issues but may reveal little

WASHINGTON (AP) — This much is clear: The Federal Reserve will make another cut this week in its monthly bond purchases, which have been aimed at keeping long-term loan rates low.

This much is not: When will the Fed start tightening its interest-rate policy to thwart any runaway inflation? How will it do so? And when will the Fed start paring its enormous $4 trillion-plus investment portfolio — a step that will put upward pressure on interest rates?

On those questions, expect no definitive signals Wednesday, when the Fed issues a statement after a two-day policy meeting. In many ways, the improving U.S. economy no longer needs so much help from the central bank: Hiring is solid, and unemployment is on the cusp of a nearly normal 6 percent rate. Manufacturing is strengthening. Consumers are voicing renewed confidence.

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US consumer confidence jumps to 90.9 in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers are more confident about the economy than they have been in nearly seven years.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index rose to 90.9 in July from an upwardly revised 86.4 in June. The July reading is the highest since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession officially began.

It was the third straight increase in the index. Economists said that strong job growth has helped boost consumers' assessment of current conditions and also improved their outlook on jobs and the economy.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco said that the improvements in consumers' confidence and expectations about the future indicate that the recent strengthening in overall economic growth should continue in the second half of the year.

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US home price gains slow for 6th straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose in May from a year earlier at the weakest pace in 15 months as sales remain modest in the spring buying season.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, increased 9.3 percent in May from 12 months earlier. That's down from 10.8 percent in the previous month and the smallest annual gain since February 2013.

Yearly price gains slowed in 18 of the 20 cities. They accelerated in Charlotte, North Carolina, and were flat in Tampa, Florida.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 70.48 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,912.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.96 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 1,969.95. The Nasdaq composite slipped 2.21 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,442.70.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 70 cents to $100.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 15 cents to $107.72 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 2.2 cents to $2.87 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6.1 cents to $3.81 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil added 1.9 cents to $2.91 a gallon.

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