Business Highlights

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US employers add 162K jobs; rate falls to 7.4 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added 162,000 jobs in July, a modest increase and the fewest since March. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 per cent, a hopeful sign.

Unemployment declined from 7.6 per cent in June because more Americans found jobs, and others stopped looking and were no longer counted as unemployed.

Still, Friday’s report from the Labor Department pointed to a less-than-robust job market. It suggested that the economy’s subpar growth and modest consumer spending are making many businesses cautious about hiring.

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Dell CEO ups ante in buyout battle for PC maker

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) — Just when it looked as if he might be vanquished, Dell CEO Michael Dell has regained the advantage in a lengthy battle to buy the slumping personal computer maker that he founded nearly 30 years ago. He did it by persuading the company’s board to accept a slightly better offer that adds a one-time dividend in exchange for a pivotal change in how shareholders will vote on the deal.

The latest twist in the six-month saga emerged Friday shortly before Dell Inc. was scheduled to hold a shareholder vote on the company’s proposed sale to Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners for $24.4 billion, or $13.65 per share.

Michael Dell wants to further diversify a company that has had trouble adapting to the growing use of smartphones and tablet computers over the desktops and laptops that Dell Inc. makes. He believes he has a better chance of turning the company around in the long term if it is in private hands, away from the quarter-to-quarter scrutiny of Wall Street.

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Tepid jobs news barely dents stock market advance

NEW YORK (AP) — A tepid jobs report Friday barely dented a summer rally on the stock market.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended the week 1 per cent higher after breaking through 1,700 points for the first time Thursday. The index has risen for five of the last six weeks. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 per cent and is on a streak of six weekly gains.

On Friday, indexes dropped in early trading after the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in July, curbing optimism that the economy is poised to pick up strength in the second half of the year. The market gradually recovered throughout the day and major indexes ended slightly higher. The gains were enough to set all-time highs for the Dow and S&P.

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US consumer spending up 0.5 per cent in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their spending in June at the fastest pace in four months even though their income growth slowed.

Consumer spending rose 0.5 per cent in June compared with May, when spending was up 0.2 per cent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the best gain since a 0.7 per cent rise in February.

Income growth slowed to a 0.3 per cent rise in June, weaker than May’s 0.4 per cent gain.

The hope is that strong consumer spending will help boost a lacklustre economy to faster growth in the second half of this year. But for that to happen, economists say income growth needs to accelerate.

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Chevron’s 2Q profit falls on lower oil prices

Chevron’s latest quarterly profit was huge — $5.37 billion — but down 26 per cent from last year due to lower oil prices, less production, and maintenance work at some refineries.

The results mirrored lower profit at Exxon Mobil and Shell, and they also lagged Wall Street expectations. In afternoon trading Friday, Chevron shares were down $2.02, or 1.6 per cent, to $124.42.

Consumers aren’t likely to feel sorry for Chevron — not after they fill their tanks at the national average of $3.63 for a gallon of gas. And Chevron’s quarterly profit was much fatter than those at Google, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson — like Chevron, they all rank among the 10 biggest companies by stock market value.

But for the second-biggest U.S. oil company, Chevron Corp.’s haul was considered disappointing because a year ago it earned $7.21 billion.

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Chinese court rules against J&J in monopoly suit

BEIJING (AP) — Health care giant Johnson & Johnson has become the latest global company accused of misconduct in China after a court ordered it to pay damages to a distributor in a lawsuit brought under an anti-monopoly law.

The ruling by a Shanghai court expands use of the vaguely worded, 5-year-old anti-monopoly law and raises the possibility of action against other foreign companies. It comes amid Chinese investigations of possible bribery, price-fixing and other misconduct by global suppliers of milk, pharmaceuticals and other products.

Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of “vertical monopoly” for setting minimum prices its distributors could charge for surgical sutures, according to Thursday’s ruling. The court said that caused the Chinese distributor to lose potential sales and awarded 530,000 yuan ($85,000) for lost profits.

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FDA defining what “gluten-free” means on packages

WASHINGTON (AP) — A label that reads “gluten-free” will now mean the same thing for all food, regardless of which kind you buy.

After more than a six-year delay, the Food and Drug Administration has set a new standard for labels that will make shopping easier for consumers on gluten-restricted diets. Until now, the term “gluten-free” had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.

Under an FDA rule announced Friday, products labeled “gluten-free” still won’t have to be technically free of wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. But they will have to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won’t get sick if they eat it.

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Toyota profit up on cheap yen, forecasts raised

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. said its profit for the first quarter of the fiscal year nearly doubled from a year ago, and set an ambitious, worldwide production goal that would break industry records if reached.

The Tokyo-based maker of the Prius hybrid and Camry sedan said profit for the April-June quarter rose to 562.1 billion yen ($5.6 billion) after getting a big boost from a weak yen.

The company also set a worldwide production goal for the 2013 calendar year at 10.1 million vehicles, which would be an industry record, while it stuck to its global vehicle sales goal for the year at 9.96 million vehicles. That puts it in a neck-and-neck race with U.S. rival General Motors Co. for the crown of world’s top automaker.

The company also raised its full-year earnings forecast to 1.48 trillion yen ($14.8 billion), up nearly 54 per cent from the previous year. Quarterly sales jumped 14 per cent to 6.25 trillion yen ($62.6 billion).

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30 points, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 15,658 Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose three points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,709. The Nasdaq rose 13, or 0.4 per cent, to 3,689.

Benchmark crude for September delivery fell 95 cents to close at $106.94 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil fell 3 cents to end at $3.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to finish at $3.35 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to end at $2.99 a gallon.

Brent crude, traded on the ICE Futures exchange in London, fell 59 cents to finish at $108.95 per barrel.

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