After near-stall in late 2012, US economy picks up
WASHINGTON (AP) — After nearly stalling in late 2012, the American economy quickened its pace early this year despite deep government cutbacks. The strongest consumer spending in two years fueled a 2.5 per cent annual growth rate in the January-March quarter.
The question is: Can it last?
Federal spending cuts, higher Social Security taxes and cautious businesses are likely to weigh on the economy in coming months.
Most economists say they think growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, is slowing in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of about 2 per cent. Many predict growth will hover around that subpar level for the rest of the year.
Controllers to return; flight delays sway Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — Furloughed air traffic controllers will soon be heading back to work, ending a week of coast-to-coast flight delays that left thousands of travellers frustrated and furious.
Unable to ignore the travellers’ anger, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation Friday to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to withdraw the furloughs. The vote underscored a shift by Democrats who had insisted on erasing all of this year’s $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts, not just the most publicly painful ones, for fear of losing leverage to restore money for Head Start and other programs with less lobbying clout and popular support.
With President Barack Obama’s promised signature, the measure will erase one of the most stinging and publicly visible consequences of the budget-wide cuts known as the sequester.
Big brands rejected Bangladesh factory safety plan
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — As Bangladesh reels from the deaths of hundreds of garment workers in a building collapse, the refusal of global retailers to pay for strict nationwide factory inspections is bringing renewed scrutiny to an industry that has profited from a country notorious for its hazardous workplaces and subsistence-level wages.
After a factory fire killed 112 garment workers in November, clothing brands and retailers continued to reject a union-sponsored proposal to improve safety throughout Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry. Instead, companies expanded a patchwork system of private audits and training that labour groups say improves very little in a country where official inspections are lax and factory owners have close relations with the government.
In the meantime, threats to workers persist. In the five months since last year’s deadly blaze at Tazreen Fashions Ltd., there were 41 other “fire incidents” in Bangladesh factories — ranging from a deadly blaze to smaller fires or sparks that caused employees to panic, according to a labour organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO umbrella group of American unions. Combined, the recent incidents killed nine workers and injured more than 660, some with burns and smoke inhalation and others with injuries from stampedes while fleeing.
Baby food shortage in Europe due to China demand
BERLIN (AP) — Yong-Hee Kim still can’t believe that in a prosperous country like Germany, powdered baby formula would ever be rationed and that she would have to scour shops in the German capital to find the right brand for her 13-month-old son.
But that’s what has happened since major retailers in Germany this year began limiting sales of leading brands of baby formula. Parents in Britain, the Netherlands and Hong Kong have faced similar restrictions.
The reason for the sudden shortage is a quirk of globalization — one that illustrates the complexities of supply and demand in a wired world.
Parents thousands of miles away in China have been using the Internet or tapping friends and relatives in Europe to buy up stocks of high quality European-produced formula — often paying much higher prices than they would here.
Burger King 1Q earnings soar, revenue shrinks
Burger King’s first-quarter earnings more than doubled even though revenue fell, as the fast-food chain trimmed several restaurant-related expenses.
The Miami-based company had warned earlier this month that sales at established restaurants were expected to fall during the quarter, and they wound up declining 1.4 per cent. That includes a 3 per cent drop in the United States and Canada.
Burger King said competition and a strong first quarter last year hurt U.S. and Canadian sales comparisons to this year’s quarter. But it said sales from those countries rallied in March due in part to promotions like the $1.29 Whopper Jr.
Chevron profit down 4.5 per cent on lower oil prices
NEW YORK (AP) — Chevron Corp.’s net income fell 4.5 per cent in the first quarter as oil prices fell and refinery output declined.
Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company, has delivered better profit margins than the other energy majors in recent years because a big part of its production mix is oil, which has been fetching high prices. Rivals, like Exxon Mobil, produce more natural gas in the U.S, where gas prices have been low.
But crude prices fell across the globe in the first three months of this year as Europe remained mired in recession and growth in China slowed. That reduced Chevron’s revenue and profit.
Japan allows airlines set to resume 787 flights
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s transport minister said Friday the government will allow Japanese airlines to resume flying grounded Boeing 787s once they complete installation of systems to reduce fire risk in problematic lithium ion batteries.
The ministry gave the official approval Friday evening following a formal safety order from U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
The 50 Dreamliner jets in service worldwide were grounded in mid-January after incidents with smouldering batteries occurred aboard two different planes. Japan’s All Nippon Airways was the launch customer for the technologically advanced airliner and has 17 of the jets. Japan Airlines has seven.
Deals site LivingSocial says it’s been hacked
WASHINGTON (AP) — Online deals service LivingSocial said Friday that its website was hacked, and the personal data of more than 50 million customers may have been affected.
The company said customers’ names, email addresses, dates of birth and encrypted passwords may have been compromised by the cyberattack. But it said the database that stores customer credit-card information was not accessed or affected.
The Washington, D.C-based company said it was working with law enforcement officials to investigate the attack and was contacting customers in nearly all of the countries where it operates.
AT&T to sell home automation, security packages
NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T Inc. is launching its home security and automation service in 15 cities Friday, with an eye toward getting customers hooked on security cameras, thermostats and locks they can control from phones and tablets.
AT&T’s “Digital Life” packages will be sold in cellphone stores in markets including Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. The company plans to roll the offering out to 50 markets by the end of the year.
The home monitoring and automation field is dominated by security firms such as ADT Corp. Other phone and cable companies sell security packages, but AT&T is going further than competitors by developing its own technology and selling it nationwide, not just where it provides local phone service. It has set up monitoring centres, in Dallas and Atlanta.
Smartphones overtake ‘dumb’ phones worldwide
NEW YORK (AP) — Research firm IDC said more smartphones than “dumb” phones are being made this year, a milestone in a shift that’s putting computing power and Internet access in millions of hands worldwide.
Manufacturers shipped 216 million smartphones worldwide in the first three months of this year, compared with 189 million regular cellphones, according to a study IDC released late Thursday. IDC said smartphones made up 51.6 per cent of the 419 million mobile phones shipped.
In the U.S., smartphones overtook regular cellphones in 2011. IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said Friday that the shift to a global majority of smartphones is now being driven by consumers in developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 11.75 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 14,712.55. The S&P 500 index dropped 2.92 points, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 1,582.24. The Nasdaq composite fell 10.72 points to 3,279.26, a decline of 0.3 per cent.
Benchmark oil for June delivery fell 64 cents to $93 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price oil from the North Sea used by many U.S. refiners, dropped 25 cents to $103.16 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
Gasoline rose 2 cents to $2.83 per gallon. Heating oil was flat at $2.90 a gallon. Natural gas lost 2 cents to $4.15 per 1,000 cubic feet.