Business Highlights


Published May 19, 2015 10:31PM (EDT)


Takata air bag recall doubles to nearly 34 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Takata Corp. has agreed to declare 33.8 million air bags defective, a move that will double the number of cars and trucks included in what is now the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

The chemical that inflates the air bags can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal inflator and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The faulty inflators are responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.


From German wineries to Chinese factories, US dollar echoing

HONG KONG (AP) — Since the U.S. dollar began rising in value against other currencies, the consequences have reverberated around the world. Who wins and who loses isn't always obvious.

For Americans, there are cheaper vacations in Europe and lower-priced imports. A Chinese factory is selling fewer goods in Europe. A U.S. toymaker's exports are being squeezed. A German winery says overseas demand is up.


For many low-income workers, calling in sick is a luxury

NEW YORK (AP) — For about 40 million American workers, calling in sick is a luxury. If they don't come to work, they don't get paid.

Paid sick leave is the next frontier in the fight for the country's lowest earners. Some of the same workers' rights groups that grabbed headlines recently by pushing companies for wage hikes are steering the conversation toward paid sick leave. The debate has caught the attention of governments and companies alike.

President Barack Obama is calling for federal legislation that would require companies to guarantee workers paid sick days.


Surge in home construction is lifting hopes for US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. housing market has given a sudden jolt to what appeared to be a slumping economy.

Builders broke ground on homes last month at the fastest pace in more than seven years. The stepped-up construction is helping boost sales at stores like Home Depot and Lowe's and improving the likelihood that the U.S. economy will accelerate.

In part, the surge in housing starts in April reflected a rebound from a dismal winter, but there is reason for optimism. Construction of single-family houses rose in areas where the weather wasn't so harsh, and the rate of approved building permits grew, reflecting strong demand.


Not Your Ma's Bell: AT&T evolves beyond phones

NEW YORK (AP) — The company whose name has long been synonymous with telephones is looking for new ways to reach out and touch someone.

AT&T, which had a popular "Reach Out and Touch Someone" slogan in the 1980s, now wants to be on your TV, car and even trashcan.

AT&T Inc. is spending $48.5 billion to buy satellite TV provider DirecTV as it looks for new ways to package access — wireless and wired — with traditional and online video.


Wal-Mart profit falls on pay raises

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported a 7 percent drop in first-quarter profit as the strong dollar and some efforts to improve its business hurt its bottom line.

The company said Tuesday that higher worker wages and increased spending on its online operations were among the reasons its results missed Wall Street estimates. Shares fell more than 4 percent.

Greg Foran, who had been president and CEO of Wal-Mart Asia and took over Wal-Mart's U.S. business last summer, asked for investor patience.


Economic toll of conflict builds up for Ukraine

There seems to be no bottom for Ukraine's economy.

The extent of the damage caused by the conflict in the country's east was highlighted in a report showing the economy had shrunk by almost a fifth since the violence began last year.

Other indicators likewise show a country on the edge, with inflation rampant and the state out of money.

With much of the country's industry in the hands of pro-Russian rebels in the east, stabilizing the economy has become a big, difficult task for President Petro Poroshenko's government.


Home Depot nails it in 1Q as housing rebound emerges

NEW YORK (AP) — A busy spring pushed Home Depot's first-quarter profit and revenue above Wall Street expectations and the home improvement retailer raised its projections for both in 2015.

Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year was also better than most had expected, rising 7.1 percent.

Many retailers have been struggling, but that is not the case at companies that cater to home owners. Both Lowe's and Home Depot have seen comparable-store sales in the U.S. rise for three consecutive quarters now.


Theme parks turning aging coasters into new thrill rides

Some aging roller coasters are overshadowed by newer scream machines — so they're getting makeovers.

A handful of roller coasters are reopening this year after undergoing extensive rehabs now that innovations in the design of coaster tracks and trains are allowing theme parks to revive older rides saddled with shorter lines and soaring maintenance costs. Plus, it's cheaper than building a coaster from the ground up.

Six Flags theme parks in New England and Southern California have transformed classic wooden coasters at each park by adding steel track that allows them to twist and flip upside down like never before.


UPS settles complaint it shortchanged government customers

ATLANTA (AP) — United Parcel Service Co. agreed to pay more than $25 million to settle complaints that it kept false records to hide late deliveries and collect more for overnight packages to government customers.

The Department of Justice said Tuesday that the payment settles a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former UPS employee, who will get $3.75 million.

A UPS spokeswoman said the company still disputes the government's claim but settled the case to avoid long and expensive litigation.


US investigation of 2007 peanut butter recall wraps up

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — ConAgra Foods is likely to face a criminal charge now that the U.S. government has completed its investigation of the company's 2007 peanut butter recall.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Georgia, Pam Lightsey, said Tuesday that prosecutors plan to reveal details of the investigation Wednesday.

ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen declined to comment Tuesday, but the company previously has said it was negotiating an end to the investigation that would likely include a misdemeanor charge of shipping tainted products.


Fight of century is now battle in court as fans sue Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Boxing fans across the country and their lawyers are calling the hyped-up fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. a fraud and want their money back, and then some.

At least 32 U.S. lawsuits seeking class-action status allege Pacquiao should have disclosed a shoulder injury to fans before the fight, which Mayweather won in a unanimous decision after 12 rounds that most fans thought didn't live up to the hype.

Fight of the century? More like fraud of the century, the lawsuits contend.


PayPal facing $25M sanction for illegal credit sign-ups

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are proposing that PayPal Inc. pay $25 million to resolve allegations that it illegally signed up customers for its online credit product, used misleading advertising and mishandled billing disputes.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Tuesday its proposed consent order against the digital payments processor. If the order is approved by a federal judge in Maryland, PayPal would refund $15 million to customers and pay a $10 million fine.

PayPal, based in San Jose, California, is a division of eBay Inc. The two companies plan to separate.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 13.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,312.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.37 points, a sliver of a percent, to 2,127.83. The Nasdaq composite dipped 8.41 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,070.03.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.17 to close at $57.26 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.25 to close at $64.02 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 4.6 cents to close at $1.995 a gallon. Heating oil fell 5.8 cents to close at $1.929 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.2 cents to close at $2.948 per 1,000 cubic feet.



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