Business Highlights

4/22/2015 3:15 PM
By Associated Press

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Shipping industry sends SOS to EU over Mediterranean crisis

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Bound by the laws of the sea to help vessels in distress, shipping companies say Europe's migration crisis has placed unreasonable demands on their crews to act as lifesavers in the Mediterranean.

All too often merchant ships are diverted to help in large-scale rescue operations they are not properly equipped to handle safely because European governments haven't deployed enough resources to deal with the escalating problem, shipping officials say.

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US home sales bounced back in March, but can the gain last?

U.S. home sales bloomed in March after a brutal winter, a sign of possible newfound momentum for housing.

Sales of existing homes jumped 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The gains were solid enough to suggest that housing might be returning to stable footing after enduring a boom, a bust and a stubbornly tepid recovery over the past dozen years.

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Small business: visa quotas hinder finding skilled help

NEW YORK (AP) — Some small business owners say government quotas are keeping them from finding the highly skilled help they need.

H-1B visas allow foreigners with college degrees to work in the U.S. for up to six years. There's such high demand for employees adept in technology and other skilled fields that nearly two-thirds of the applications will be denied. Congress set a limit of 65,000 for visas for workers with bachelor's degrees, and 20,000 for those with master's degrees.

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Google wireless phone service challenges major carriers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is offering a wireless phone service designed to pressure major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless into lowering their prices.

The service, called "Project Fi," will cost $20 per month and only charge customers for the amount of cellular data that they use each month instead of a flat rate. Each gigabyte of data will cost $10 per month. That means a customer could sign up for a plan offering three gigabytes of data and get $20 back if only one gigabyte was used in a month.

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Review: Plenty of options for HBO online, not enough time

NEW YORK (AP) — HBO Now, the cable channel's new stand-alone streaming service, is both a blessing and a curse.

Like HBO Go, the app that cable and satellite TV subscribers have, HBO Now gives you instant access to new TV episodes and movies, along with programs from months and years ago. People who don't subscribe to cable TV are now able to watch hit shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "Girls" without "borrowing" parents' accounts or turning to piracy sites.

The curse? Having more video than you can ever find time to watch.

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Still got it: Facebook mobile ad revenue continues to surge

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly three-quarters of Facebook's advertising revenue now comes from mobile ads, as many more users access the social network on smartphones and other hand-held gadgets.

Facebook, which bought the popular photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, has been coming out with its own stand-alone mobile apps to capture more of the time people spend on phones. Besides its Messenger app, though, Facebook home-grown efforts have had limited success.

On Wednesday, the company introduced Hello, a voice-calling app designed for Android phones. In essence, it's meant to replace the voice dialer on your phone. But based on Facebook's failure to take over the home screen with its Home app for Android, users may not be too keen on replacing existing smartphone tools with Facebook-branded versions.

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As PayPal split looms, what's next for eBay

NEW YORK (AP) — EBay says it is working to stabilize its marketplaces business as it moves to spin off its PayPal division later this year.

The San Jose, California, company on Wednesday reported first-quarter net income that beat expectations as continued strong growth in its PayPal payments unit offset the impact of the stronger dollar. A stronger dollar cuts into revenue generated overseas when it's translated back into dollars.

The results sent eBay's stock up 5 percent in aftermarket trading.

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Everywhere they want to be, and now China, too

The Chinese are spending trillions of dollars on their credit and debit cards, and U.S. companies are finally getting a slice of that giant pie.

China announced Wednesday that foreign companies like Visa, MasterCard and American Express can bring their payment processing networks into that country, starting June 1.

Visa and MasterCard shares jumped on the news.

The Chinese payment industry is massive, and up until this announcement, was closed off to foreign-owned companies.

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Trader charged for alleged key role in 'flash crash'

CHICAGO (AP) — A multimillionaire futures trader accused of being a key figure in bringing on the 2010 "flash crash" — when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 600 points in five minutes — was arrested in Great Britain Tuesday based on charges filed in Chicago.

Navinder Singh Sarao, 37, allegedly employed lightning-fast software to manipulate the market for E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to a U.S. criminal complaint filed in February and unsealed Tuesday.

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CDC eyeing bird flu vaccine for humans, though risk is low

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal officials said Wednesday they're taking steps to create a human vaccine for the bird flu virus that's slammed the Midwest poultry industry, though they still consider the danger to be low and the food supply not at risk.

Dr. Alicia Fry, an influenza expert with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said officials are hopeful there won't be any human cases of the H5N2 strain — which has cost chicken and turkey producers nearly 6.8 million birds since early March — but the country must be prepared.

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Emotions over Obama's trade agenda roil Senate, delay action

WASHINGTON (AP) — Emotional disagreements over trade erupted in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, when a liberal senator delayed a committee's likely endorsement of a top trade priority for President Barack Obama.

The day began with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican, predicting a "strong bipartisan vote" for "fast track" legislation. The measure would renew presidential authority to present trade deals that Congress can endorse or reject but not amend.

But liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent and a fierce opponent of the trade legislation, invoked a Senate scheduling rule to delay the committee's actions for hours.

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Drivers want new safety technology, but it will cost them

DETROIT (AP) — Drivers want more collision-prevention technology in their cars, but there is a limit to how much they will pay.

Blind spot detection, night vision and collision avoidance systems — which automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn't react in time — are the top three technologies drivers want on their next cars, according to a study released Wednesday by the consulting firm J.D. Power.

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Feeling safe? Try attending Internet security conference

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A conference of Internet security experts is not for the faint of heart.

Hallway chatter and keynote speeches are peppered with scary stories of increasingly sophisticated hackers siphoning off valuable personal and corporate data.

In the words of one expert, the bad guys are outmaneuvering those charged with keeping the wired world safe. This despite repeated vows from CEOs and government officials to tighten security after high-profile breaches at Sony Pictures, health insurer Anthem and retailers Target and Home Depot.

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EU charges Russia's Gazprom gas giant with market abuse

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday charged Russian state energy giant Gazprom of abusing its dominant position in central and eastern EU nations in an antitrust case that will further test tense relations between Brussels and Moscow.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Gazprom is strong-arming customer nations ranging from Estonia to Bulgaria, where it sometimes almost fully controls the gas market, by setting unfair pricing and contract restrictions.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 88.68 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,038.27. The S&P 500 index rose 10.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,107.96. The Nasdaq composite gained 21.07 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,035.17.

The price of U.S. crude oil fell 45 cents to close at $56.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 65 cents to $62.73 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline added 3.6 cents to close at $1.925 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1.8 cents to close at $1.871 a gallon. Natural gas picked up 3.1 cents to close at $2.606 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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4/24/2015 | Last Updated: 5:15 PM