Business Highlights



Job gain despite winter blast lifts economic hopes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Brutal winter weather snarled traffic, cancelled flights and cut power to homes and factories in February. Yet it didn’t faze U.S. employers, who added 175,000 jobs, far more than the two previous months.

Modest but steady job growth has become a hallmark of a nearly 5-year-old economic rebound that remains sluggish yet strikingly resilient.

Though the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 per cent from a five-year low of 6.6 per cent, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people grew optimistic about their job prospects and began seeking work. The unemployment rate is up from that multiyear low because some didn’t immediately find jobs.


Man said to create bitcoin denies it

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto said Thursday that he is not the creator of bitcoin, adding further mystery to the story of how the world’s most popular digital currency came to be.

The denial came after Newsweek published a 4,500-word cover story claiming Nakamoto is the person who wrote the computer code underpinnings of bitcoin.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Nakamoto, 64, denied he had anything to do with it and said he had never heard of bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a Newsweek reporter three weeks ago.

Newsweek stands by its story, which kicked off the relaunch of its print edition after 15 months and reorganization under new ownership.


US trade deficit rose to $39.1 billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.

The trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 per cent from December’s revised $39 billion deficit, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.

Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the January trade report suggests the trade deficit will remain on a gradual downward trend this year, reflecting a shrinking U.S. energy deficit.


US consumer borrowing up $13.7 billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their borrowing in January on autos and student loans but cut back on their credit card use.

Consumer borrowing rose $13.7 billion in January following an even larger $15.9 billion rise in December, the Federal Reserve reported Friday.

The category that includes auto and student loans increased $13.9 billion, while the category that covers credit cards fell $226 million, marking the third time in the past five months that credit card loans have declined.

The big overall increase pushed total borrowing to a record $3.11 trillion. Gains in borrowing are seen as an encouraging sign that people are more confident and willing to take on debt to finance consumer spending, which accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity.


Unemployment rate up for men and college grads

The U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 6.7 per cent in February as men and college graduates struggled to find work, according to the Labor Department report issued Friday.

The report found that more than 160,000 men joined the ranks of the unemployed. That raised their unemployment rate to 6.4 per cent from 6.2 per cent, with African-American men being hit particularly hard.

February also proved frustrating for many college graduates after a quarter-million of them lost jobs, following an increase in hiring of people with bachelor’s degrees in January. This group’s unemployment rate, while still far below the national rate, rose to 3.4 per cent from 3.2 per cent.

The Labor Department said the economy overall added 175,000 jobs last month.


Euro hits highest level against dollar since 2011

LONDON (AP) — The euro has struck its highest level against the dollar for nearly two and a half years in the wake of the European Central Bank’s decision not to cut interest rates further.

At one point Friday, the currency, which is used by 18 European Union countries, rose to $1.3917, its highest rate since it touched $1.4170 in October 2011.

The currency backed off after a slightly stronger-than-anticipated U.S. jobs report for February. Analysts think the euro is on course to climb further over the coming days, largely as a result of Thursday’s decision by the ECB to not cut interest rates following a run of relatively upbeat economic data across the eurozone.


Government orders Graco to explain recall

DETROIT (AP) — The federal government’s road safety watchdog is ordering child seat maker Graco to explain why it didn’t include 1.8 million infant seats in a recent recall for faulty buckles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday that Graco has until March 20 to explain why last month’s recall of 3.8 million child seats didn’t include infant seats, which have the same buckles that can get stuck as the child seats.

Graco Children’s Products Inc. of Atlanta, a division of Newell Rubbermaid, says it will comply with the request.

The February recall covered 11 models of child seats made from 2009 through 2013 by Graco Children’s Products. It’s the fourth-largest child seat recall in U.S. history, according to NHTSA.


MasterCard, Visa plan group focused on security

NEW YORK (AP) — Visa and MasterCard are forming a group intended to help the retail and banking industries come together on more-secure credit card payments.

Credit card breaches at Neiman Marcus, Target and other retailers have put a spotlight on the weak spots in the security of credit card payments.

Visa and MasterCard, which run the networks that carry the payments, said Friday that the new group will include banks, retailers, the makers of credit card readers and others with an interest in credit card security.

The group’s initial focus will be on chips embedded in newer credit cards that make them more secure.


China allows first corporate bond default

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities allowed the country’s first corporate bond default on Friday, inflicting losses on small investors in a painful step toward making its financial system more market-oriented.

Investors in bonds sold in 2012 by Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. were paid as little as 3 per cent of the interest that was due Friday, according to two bondholders. The company warned earlier this week it had only 4 million yuan ($660,000) and faced an interest payment of 90 million yuan ($15 million).

Until now, Beijing has bailed out troubled borrowers to preserve confidence in its fledgling credit markets. But the ruling Communist Party has pledged to make the economy more productive by allowing market forces a bigger role.


Karl Lagerfeld to design Macau hotel

BEIJING (AP) — Karl Lagerfeld and a Macau casino operator announced plans Friday for the Chanel designer to create his first hotel.

The 270-room Karl Lagerfeld Hotel will open in 2017 in a 20-story tower in the gambling enclave in southern China, according to Lagerfeld and the Sociedade de Jogos de Macau. The Lisboa Palace complex also will include a Versace-themed hotel designed by the Italian fashion label and announced by SJM in September.

Friday’s announcement gave no financial details.

Lagerfeld is chief designer for the Chanel and Fendi fashion houses and also has his own label.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30.83 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,452.72. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 1.01 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 1,878.04. The Nasdaq composite lost 15.90 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,336.22.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery rose $1.02 to close at $102.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.97 per gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to $3.01 per gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $4.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, gained 90 cents to $109 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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