Business Highlights


Cleaner air could mean higher electric bills

NEW YORK (AP) — Electricity prices are probably on their way up across much of the U.S. as coal-fired plants, the dominant source of cheap power, shut down in response to environmental regulations and economic forces.

New and tighter pollution rules and tough competition from cleaner sources such as natural gas, wind and solar will lead to the closings of dozens of coal-burning plants across 20 states over the next three years. And many of those that stay open will need expensive retrofits.

The Energy Department predicts retail power prices will rise 4 per cent on average this year, the biggest increase since 2008. By 2020, prices are expected to climb an additional 13 per cent, a forecast that does not include the costs of coming environmental rules.


Gov’t: Airlines should disclose bag, seat fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — Going to bat for confused passengers, the government is proposing that airlines be required to disclose fees for basic items like checked bags, assigned seats and carry-on bags so consumers know the true cost of flying.

Under new regulations proposed Wednesday by the Transportation Department, detailed fee information would have to be provided wherever passengers buy tickets.

The rule would also require airlines to share fee information with travel agents and online ticketing services, which account for about 60 per cent of ticket sales. Fee information is now usually available only through airlines.

The rule doesn’t cover fees for early boarding, curbside check-in and other services.


China signs 30-year deal for Russian natural gas

SHANGHAI (AP) — China signed a landmark $400 billion deal Wednesday to buy natural gas from Russia, binding Moscow more closely to Beijing at a time when President Vladimir Putin’s relations with the West have deteriorated to the lowest point ever.

China’s president also called for an Asian security arrangement that would include Russia and Iran and exclude the United States.

The 30-year gas deal gives Moscow an economic boost at a time when Washington and the European Union have imposed sanctions against Russia and Europe has threatened to cut its gas imports to punish the Kremlin over the crisis in Ukraine.

The agreement enables Russia to expand the market for its gas, which now goes mostly to Europe.


EBay asks users to change password after breach

NEW YORK (AP) — E-commerce site eBay is asking users to change their password after a cyberattack compromised a database containing encrypted passwords.

The company says there is no evidence of any unauthorized activity and no evidence any financial or credit card information was stolen.

EBay says its investigation is active and it can’t comment on the specific number of accounts affected, but says the number could be large, so it is asking all users to change their passwords. EBay had 145 million active users at the end of the first quarter.


GM adds 218,000 subcompacts to growing recall list

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has added yet another recall to its growing list.

The recall of 218,000 Chevrolet Aveo subcompact cars is the company’s 29th this year, bringing the total number of recalled GM vehicles in the U.S. to around 13.8 million. That breaks GM’s previous annual record of 10.75 million set in calendar year 2004.

The new recall, posted Wednesday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, covers Aveos from the 2004 through 2008 model years. The daytime running light module in the dashboard centre stack can overheat, melt and catch fire. GM is aware of an unspecified number of fires due to the problem, but the company says it does not know of any injuries or deaths.


US charges egg company, 2 execs in 2010 outbreak

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa company and two executives were charged Wednesday with selling the eggs responsible for a 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people and led to an unprecedented recall of 550 million eggs.

Egg industry titan Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster were charged with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

Quality Egg LLC, which includes the Decosters’ former network of chicken and egg-laying farms, was charged with introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce for selling products with labels that made the eggs appear to be not as old as they actually were. The company is also charged with bribing a public official for an alleged attempt to influence a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.


Target 1Q profit falls 16 pct as breach takes toll

NEW YORK (AP) — Target cut its annual profit outlook Wednesday and said its first-quarter earnings fell 16 per cent as it took another hit from a massive customer data breach and a troubled expansion in Canada.

The third-largest U.S. retailer, based in Minneapolis, also issued a second-quarter profit projection below analysts’ expectations.

Target also said it doesn’t expect its six straight quarters of traffic declines to reverse this year in what analysts say is the most tumultuous time in its history.


Tiffany shines in the first quarter

NEW YORK (AP) — Tiffany & Co.’s net income spiked 50 per cent in the first quarter as worldwide sales jumped by double digits and the company boosted prices. The quarter’s results beat expectations and the jeweler raised its earnings guidance for the year.

Tiffany, known for its iconic turquoise gift boxes, reported Wednesday that net income rose to $125.6 million, or 97 cents per share during the three months ended April 30. That handily beat the 78 cents per share Wall Street was looking for and is up from $83.6 million, or 65 cents per share, last year.


Minutes: Fed began weighing options for rate rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has begun to discuss the tools it could use to finally pull back the extraordinary stimulus it’s provided the U.S. economy since 2008. But Fed officials plan further discussions and have set no timetable for any increase in interest rates.

Minutes of the Fed’s April 29-30 meeting released Wednesday show that officials discussed how to unwind the support they’ve given the economy once they decide to begin raising the Fed’s key short-term rate. That rate has remained at a record low near zero since December 2008.

The minutes stressed that the discussion should not be viewed as a signal that an increase in short-term rates is imminent.


Emily Post Institute updates business etiquette

NEW YORK (AP) — Much has changed about workplace and business etiquette since Emily Post was dispensing advice herself.

Post died in 1960, but her family has carried on her love of good manners through the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont. The latest from the Posts is a third edition of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business,” released this month by William Morrow.

Great-great-granddaughter Lizzie Post said an update was needed to take into account the explosion in social media and digital communications, along with a more casual work environment in many fields.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 158.75 points, or nearly 1 per cent, to close at 16,533.06. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 15.20 points, or 0.8 per cent, to at 1,888.03. The Nasdaq composite index added 34.65 points, or 0.9 per cent, to finish at 4,131.54.

Benchmark U.S. crude for July delivery gained $1.74 to close at $104.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has now gained 4 per cent for the month of May. Wholesale gasoline gained 3 cents to $2.99 a gallon. Natural gas fell 8 cents to $4.47 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil was flat at to $2.95 a gallon. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil, added 86 cents to $110.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.