Business Highlights


Published May 29, 2015 10:15PM (EDT)


Fuel and potential fires for the US economy ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — The US economy should get better after a sputtering first quarter, but how much better? It's complicated.

Steady hiring and low gas prices should help power solid growth through the rest of 2015. The harsh winter and a labor dispute that slowed trade at West Coast ports are both over. Home sales and construction are rebounding, along with business investment.

But risks remain: A stronger dollar will likely continue to keep the trade deficit wide. And further cutbacks in oil drilling could depress spending in the energy industry.


Ruble rebound threatens 'Made in Russia' industry revival

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's ruble is on a roller-coaster. After being the world's second worst-performing currency against the dollar last year, it is among the best in 2015.

That will help keep a leash on inflation, to the relief of millions of Russians. But it is worrying one part of the economy — the local industry that had seen demand grow for its Russian-made goods when the falling ruble made imports hugely expensive.

Russian sectors, from building materials to craft beer, took advantage of the ruble's drop to undercut better-known imported rivals and gain a bigger domestic market share.


Carl's, Hardee's CEO: Not all models know how to eat burgers

NEW YORK (AP) — Carl's Jr. and Hardee's ads starring nearly naked women have become a part of American culture, according to Andy Puzder, CEO of the chains' parent company.

Some of the women were relatively unknown before they appeared in the ads. Others, such as Heidi Klum and Padma Lakshmi, were already famous. The 64-year-old chief executive says the ads "cut through the clutter" and make an impression on the younger men the burger chains court.


The top 10 highest-paid female CEOs

NEW YORK (AP) — Female CEOs are outpacing their male colleagues in pay, although they remain vastly outnumbered in the top echelons of American companies.

Last year, the median pay for women CEOs rose to $15.9 million, a 21 percent gain from a year earlier, according to a study by executive compensation data firm Equilar and The Associated Press. That compared with median pay for male CEOs of $10.4 million, which was down 0.8 percent from 2013.


US consumer sentiment drops in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — A weak U.S. economy pulled down consumer sentiment in May.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment dropped to 90.7 from 95.9 in April. The May reading was the lowest since November.

Consumers of all ages and income levels were gloomier this month. And they were less confident both about current economic conditions and the future. But Richard Curtin, chief economist of the surveys, noted that the index has averaged 94.6 the first five months of 2015, highest since 2004.


Report: Health insurer Humana considering a sale

Humana shares soared well beyond all-time high prices Friday on speculation that the company, one of the nation's biggest health insurers, might be up for sale.

Analysts have been discussing for a few weeks the possibility that large health insurers flush with cash may be hunting for a big acquisition. Deal-friendly low interest rates and expectations for another wave of consolidation also are fueling the speculation.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Humana is considering a sale and has received takeover interest.

A Humana spokesman did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.


US appeals court: Alzheimer's drug swap is anti-competitive

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that drug manufacturer Actavis PLC's attempted switch of patented Alzheimer's medication, which halted distribution of the old drug before its patent expires this summer, violates U.S. antitrust law.

The decision unsealed this week explains the ruling last week by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that requires the Irish company to keep distributing Namenda until 30 days after its patent expires on July 11.


Latest US proposal for ethanol could have political fallout

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration's latest plan on ethanol, the corn-based renewable fuel, probably will not have a major effect on pump prices, but could have political reverberations in Iowa and other farm states in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Under the proposed rule announced Friday, the amount of ethanol in the gasoline supply would increase in coming years, just not as much as set out under federal law. That approach drew criticism from ethanol and farm groups that have pushed to keep high volumes of ethanol in gasoline.


2 court fights after failed Atlantic City loan program

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The future of a company that Atlantic City's former mayor gave $3 million to run a loan program that has yet to make a loan is being sorted out in two courts.

After Atlantic City sued ZeMurray Street Capital last year to get back its money, a federal judge on Friday ordered owner W. Wesley Drummon to certify by Monday that he has given all company documentation he has to Atlantic City after he missed previous deadlines.


US state's farmers are dumping unprofitable apples

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A record crop of apples, coupled with the West Coast port slowdown earlier this year, is taking a toll on apple growers in the northwestern state of Washington.

Nearly $100 million worth of apples that cannot be sold have been dumped into fields across central Washington, the most productive U.S. apple region. The apples are being left to rot and compost in the hot sun, an unusual occurrence for an industry that has found ways to market ever-growing crops.


New tech is changing the restaurant reservations game

At noon on a recent Wednesday in May, San Francisco's Lazy Bear restaurant began taking reservations for June. Just 45 minutes later, nearly every seat for the entire month was sold out.

Not reserved. Sold. As in, every meal for almost every seat for an entire month bought and paid for in advance.

That's because Lazy Bear uses an increasingly popular ticketing system model for its "reservations" that asks diners to pay upfront for their meals much the way theater patrons pay for their seats. The tickets cannot be refunded or changed, though they can be given to someone else, much as one could with tickets to a concert or a baseball game.


Rocky road: Britain's troubled ties to European Union

LONDON (AP) — The British people will get another chance to decide on their European future by the end of 2017 — marking one more milestone in a long-troubled relationship.

The planned referendum on Britain's membership in the 28-country European Union following a renegotiation of some of the terms of the country's membership is a key element of the new Conservative government's program.

Prime Minister David Cameron was Friday on the second day of a whistle-stop tour of European capitals, trying to convince leaders to offer concessions, including limits to welfare benefits EU migrants can claim.


Greek bank deposits fall to lowest in more than a decade

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Bank deposits in Greece have hit their lowest in more than a decade, according to data released Friday, as Greeks concerned about the painfully slow pace of their government's talks with bailout creditors withdrew savings in an orderly but steady flow.

European Central Bank figures showed more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) left in April, in a trend that started last autumn and accelerated after early elections were called in December.


Japan data show spending, factory output muted as yen falls

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese data on Friday showed a mixed outlook for the world's third-largest economy while a renewed decline in the value of the yen is adding to uncertainty over whether the recovery is gaining ground.

By some measures, Japan's economy is on the upswing as share prices surge thanks to exporters profiting from the weak yen. But by others, the recovery is still limping along.

Japan's jobless rate dropped to an 18-year low in April, but industrial production, inflation and household spending were muted as consumers kept their purse strings tight.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 115.44 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,010.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed down 13.40 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,107.39. The Nasdaq composite fell 27.95 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,070.03.

U.S. crude rose $2.62 to close at $60.30 a barrel in New York. Oil finished the week and the month up 1 percent. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose $2.98 to close at $65.56 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 10.1 cents to close at $2.086 a gallon. Heating oil rose 8.5 cents to close at $1.955 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.4 cents —its fifth decline in a row — to close at $2.642 per 1,000 cubic feet.



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