Business Highlights



Ford’s Fields to replace Mulally as CEO July 1

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Mark Fields, who helped turn Ford Motor Co.’s North American operations into a sales and profit powerhouse, will take over from Alan Mulally as CEO on July 1.

Fields, 53, was widely seen as Mulally’s heir apparent. He has been Ford’s chief operating officer since late 2012, and has been running executive meetings and day-to-day operations.

Ford wasn’t expected to make the transition until year end, but said it moved up the schedule at Mulally’s request. Mulally, 68, who came to Ford from Boeing in 2006, is credited with transforming the automaker from a dysfunctional money-loser to a thriving company.


Frigid winter has given way to a warming economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is emerging from hibernation after a bleak winter.

Consumers are ramping up spending, businesses are ordering more goods and manufacturers are expanding. The strengthening numbers show that harsh snowstorms and frigid cold in January and February were largely to blame for the economy’s scant growth at the start of the year.

While the economy barely expanded in the first quarter, eking out an annual growth rate of just 0.1 per cent, growth appears to be picking up as the weather improves.

The government said Thursday that overall, consumer spending soared 0.9 per cent in March, the most in 4 1/2 years. And economists think the government on Friday will report a solid hiring gain in April exceeding 200,000 jobs.


Buffett may face questions about performance

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s failure to beat the stock market in four of the past five years has raised the issue of whether Berkshire Hathaway’s 83-year-old CEO has lost his touch.

Buffett is likely to face questions about the conglomerate’s performance when shareholders gather for Berkshire’s annual meeting Saturday.

However, this short-term view obscures the fact that Berkshire Hathaway has only trailed the S&P 500 10 times since Buffett took over in 1965. Cumulatively, Berkshire has delivered compounded annual gains of 19.7 per cent to the S&P 500’s 9.8 per cent.

Buffett has told investors for several years that the massive size of Berkshire makes it impossible for him to match the investment gains of decades ago, but he still believes Berkshire will beat the overall market.


US manufacturers expanded in April and filled jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew faster in April than in March as exports picked up and factories accelerated hiring.

The higher reading adds to other evidence that manufacturers are expanding steadily after a sluggish start to the year. Solid factory output will likely boost economic growth in the coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its manufacturing index rose to 54.9 from 53.7 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A gauge of hiring within the index jumped to 54.7 from 51.1 in March, a sign that factories added many more jobs in April. The government’s jobs report for April will be released Friday.


US applications for unemployment hit 2-month high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February, a dose of mixed news for an economy that is supposed to be gaining momentum.

The Labor Department says a seasonally adjusted 344,000 people applied for jobless aid, up 14,000 from the previous week and the most since late February. Economists had expected a drop. The less-volatile 4-week average rose by 3,000 to 320,000. The number of people applying for jobless aid has now risen three straight weeks.

Unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs and have fallen to pre-recession levels since peaking at 665,000 in March 2009.


Yum Brands names Taco Bell head as next CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Yum Brands named the head of its Taco Bell chain as its next CEO, marking a major promotion for the man responsible for Doritos Locos Tacos.

The company, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut, says Greg Creed will become CEO Jan. 1, 2015. The 56-year-old Australian replaces David Novak, who has served as chief executive since 1999. Creed is credited with turning around Taco Bell’s image with the rollout of its popular Doritos-flavored tacos in 2012 and subsequent expansion into new areas.

The 20-year company veteran has served as its chief operations officer and is known for his personable and frank manner.


Colorado lawmakers want pot industry bank option

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is trying again to set up the world’s first financial system for marijuana to help move the pot industry away from its cash-only roots.

A bill up for its first hearing Thursday is prompted by frustration with recent marijuana banking guidance from the Treasury Department. Banks and the pot industry say the guidance is inadequate because it gives financial institutions no confidence that they can serve the marijuana industry without running afoul of federal law.

The measure would allow state-licensed marijuana businesses to create a financial co-op, sort of an uninsured credit union. The co-ops would be overseen by Colorado’s Division of Financial Services and expressly prohibited from calling themselves “banks” or “credit unions,” though they could provide credit and checking and other traditional financial services.


Kellogg expects cereal sales to keep falling

NEW YORK (AP) — Kellogg’s cereal sales are falling, and the company expects the trend to persist even as it launches a major ad campaign touting the nutritional benefits of cereal.

The maker of Frosted Flakes, Special K and Mini-Wheats said Thursday that sales for its U.S. breakfast division fell 5.5 per cent in the first quarter, as gains in Pop-Tarts were dragged down by continuing declines in cereal.

Cereal sales in the U.S. have been sluggish as Americans increasingly reach for alternatives such as Greek yogurt or breakfast sandwiches from fast-food chains. Even within the cereal aisle, Kellogg is facing more competition from smaller players that position themselves as healthier alternatives.


Avon to pay $135M to settle bribery charges

NEW YORK (AP) — Avon Products Inc. will pay $135 million to settle a U.S. government probe into whether it paid bribes in China and other countries to gain favours.

Avon, the world’s largest direct seller of cosmetics, said it would give $68 million to the Justice Department and $67 million to resolve the dispute with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The preliminary resolution still needs SEC authorization and court approval.

As part of the agreement, the Justice Department would defer criminal prosecution in connection with the alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for three years. The charges would be dismissed then if Avon is compliant with the agreement.


Microsoft releases security update for Explorer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft on Thursday released a security update for Internet Explorer that closes a gap that allowed attackers to take complete control of a computer. It also issued the update to Windows XP users, despite dropping support for the older operating system last month.

Microsoft reported the problem Saturday, saying it was aware of “limited, targeted attacks” and that the vulnerability affected Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11. The company said users with automatic updates enabled don’t need to take any action.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 21.97 points, or 0.1 per cent, to close at 16,558. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.3 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 1,883.68. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.90 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,127.45.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for June delivery dropped 32 cents to $99.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.94 a gallon. Heating oil retreated 1 cent to $2.91 a gallon. Natural gas lost 10 cents to $4.72 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, an international oil benchmark, slipped 31 cents to $107.76 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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