Business Highlights

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Iraq violence threatens OPEC’s precarious balance

NEW YORK (AP) — The upheaval in Iraq could throw the world’s remarkably stable oil market out of balance, threatening a delicate equilibrium that has kept prices steady for much of the last four years.

Iraqi oil production is at risk because of the outbreak of violence involving militant groups who seized two cities this week and have pledged to march on Baghdad.

For now, the fighting is mostly in Iraq’s north, away from important oil-producing regions in the south. But the turmoil sent the price of Brent crude, the key international benchmark, up 2.8 per cent Thursday to $113.02, its biggest gain since August.

More important, it raised questions about Iraq’s ability to continue to rebuild its oil infrastructure and increase production to meet rising global demand.

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Pay raises go mainly to those in select industries

NEW YORK (AP) — If you hope to get a raise that finally feels like one, it helps to work in the right industry.

Historically, at this stage in the economy’s recovery, pay would be rising in most sectors. But five years after the Great Recession officially ended, raises remain sharply uneven across industries and, as a whole, have barely kept up with prices. Overall pay has been rising about 2 per cent a year, roughly equal to inflation.

The best raises have gone to workers with specialized skills in a few booming industries — energy, transportation, health care, technology. Those in retail or government have been less fortunate.

Typically in a recovery, raises in a few industries lead to raises in others as workers become confident enough to quit one job for another for more pay.

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Amazon launches music streaming for Prime members

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Amazon’s newly announced music streaming service is yet another attempt by the company to move beyond e-commerce and infuse itself into the daily lives of Americans with an increasing number of offerings —including grocery delivery and streaming TV.

The announcement comes just days ahead of the expected unveiling of the company’s first smartphone.

Starting Thursday, Amazon.com Inc. will offer more than a million tracks for ad-free streaming and download to Kindle Fire tablets as well as to computers and the Amazon Music app for Apple and Android devices. The service, called Prime Music, is likely to be integrated with an Amazon smartphone expected to be previewed on Wednesday.

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Gadget Watch: Huawei’s Mate2 phone good at $299

NEW YORK (AP) — Mention Huawei in the U.S., and you’re likely to get a blank look. Either that person has never heard of the Chinese phone maker or has heard something about security concerns raised by lawmakers in Washington.

Huawei Technologies Co. believes it can overcome all that as it makes a bigger push in the U.S. and tries to build on its successes elsewhere. While Apple and Samsung dominate the worldwide smartphone market with a combined market share of 46 per cent, Huawei has a slight lead among the rest, with about 5 per cent, according to research firm IDC.

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Stocks fall on so-so economic news, Iraq turmoil

NEW YORK (AP) — A combination of so-so economic news and violence in Iraq helped push the stock market sharply lower Thursday.

Stocks fell from the start of trading on a government report that retail sales for May came in slightly lower than expected. A separate report on jobs was weak, too. A surge in oil prices as violence flared in Iraq also weighed on the market, and hammered airline stocks.

For the Standard & Poor’s 500, it was the third down day in a row, a reversal of sorts from steady, if unremarkable, rises for much of the year. The index is heading for its first weekly loss in four weeks.

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UK to toughen laws for London-based global markets

LONDON (AP) — In an effort to protect the integrity of London as a financial hub, Britain’s Treasury chief is set to propose new criminal sanctions covering foreign exchange trading, the latest global market to be hit by scandal.

George Osborne will use his annual speech on the state of the economy to promise tougher oversight of global financial markets that are based in the British capital and have been allegedly manipulated by banks. These markets cover global currency values, interest rates that affect mortgages and credit card rates around the world and the price of commodities like gold.

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Applications for US jobless aid up modestly

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid remain near pre-recession levels.

The Labor Department said that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 317,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 315,250. These figures are near the jobless claims levels before the outbreak of the Great Recession in December 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the claims data show that employers are dismissing fewer workers. When businesses are confident enough to hold onto staff, they may also step up hiring. That is a positive sign for economic growth, as more jobs usually help lift consumer spending.

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Intel lifts revenue forecasts on business PC sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Intel raised its revenue guidance, saying sales of computers for businesses have been stronger than expected.

The world’s largest chipmaker is now forecasting revenue of $13.4 billion to $14 billion in the second quarter. The Santa Clara, California, company had expected $12.5 billion to $13.5 billion in revenue in the quarter. Intel also expects stronger profit margins.

It also said it expects revenue to grow in 2014. In January, Intel said its sales would be about the same as last year’s $52.71 billion.

Analysts were forecasting $13.02 billion in revenue for Intel during the second quarter, according to FactSet. Their projections called for $53.07 billion in annual revenue.

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US retail sales rose 0.3 per cent in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales rose modestly in May as consumers turned cautious in their spending. But the weaker-than-expected result is unlikely to derail overall economic growth in the second quarter.

Retail sales rose 0.3 per cent in May, helped by a jump in demand for autos, the Commerce Department said. The result follows a 0.5 per cent climb in April, which was revised up from an initial estimate of 0.1 per cent. March sales surged 1.5 per cent — the biggest one-month gain in four years.

Analysts said any disappointment in May was offset by the change in April’s figure.

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US businesses boost April stockpiles 0.6 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles in April by the largest amount in six months, signalling business optimism that future demand will keep rising.

Business inventories rose 0.6 per cent after a 0.4 per cent March gain, the Commerce Department reported. It marked the 11th consecutive increase in stockpiles and was the biggest advance since October. Total business sales were up a solid 0.7 per cent in April after a 1.1 per cent rise in March, which had been the biggest monthly sales increase in 10 months.

The encouraging sales gains are expected to prompt businesses to keep ordering more goods to restock their shelves. That rising demand should help boost factory production and fuel the overall economy.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate up to 4.20 pct

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week for a second straight week but remained near historic lows.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for a 30-year loan increased to 4.20 per cent from 4.14 per cent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage jumped to 3.31 per cent from 3.23 per cent.

Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in mid-2013 have made homes less affordable for would-be buyers. At the same time, a limited supply of homes is available to buy. Mortgage rates are about a quarter of a percentage point higher than they were at the same time last year.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 109.69 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 16,734.19.

The S&P 500 was down 13.78 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,930.11.

The Nasdaq shed 34.30 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 4,297.63.

West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark U.S. oil, rose $2.13, or 2 per cent, to close at $106.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose more sharply, gaining $3.07, or 2.8 per cent, to $113.02 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 8 cents to $3.08 a gallon.

Natural gas gained 25 cents to $4.76 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Heating oil added 9 cents to $2.99 a gallon.

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