Business Highlights


Google unveils $10-a-month ‘All Access’ music plan

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google on Wednesday launched a subscription-based music service, allowing users of Android phones and tablets to listen to their favourite songs and artists for a monthly fee.

The streaming service, called All Access, is available in the U.S. for $9.99 per month after a 30-day free trial. It will be available in other countries later. For those who start the trial by June 30, the monthly fee is $7.99.

All Access will be competing with Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and other popular music services. Apple, the biggest seller of online music, does not have a subscription-based service.

Google Inc. announced the music service along with expansions to its game services and tools for coders at its annual software developers’ conference in San Francisco.


Eurozone recession is now longest in currency bloc

PARIS (AP) — The eurozone is now in its longest ever recession — a stubborn slump that has surpassed even the calamity that hit the region in the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

The European Union statistics office said Wednesday that nine of the 17 EU countries that use the euro are in recession, with France a notable addition to the list. Overall the eurozone’s economy contracted for the sixth straight quarter, shrinking by 0.2 per cent in the January-March period from the previous three months.

Though the contraction is an improvement on the previous quarter’s 0.6 per cent decline, it’s another unwelcome report for the single-currency bloc as it grapples with a debt crisis that has prompted governments to slash spending and raise taxes.


US wholesale prices fall 0.7 per cent, most in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sharp drops in fuel and food costs reduced a measure of U.S. wholesale prices in April by the most in three years. Outside those volatile categories, inflation stayed tame.

The producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7 per cent in April from March, the Labor Department said Wednesday. It was the second straight monthly decline and the steepest since February 2010.

Lower inflation means the Federal Reserve has more leeway to continue its aggressive policies to boost economic growth. If there were signs that inflation was picking up, the Fed might be forced to raise interest rates.


AP Exclusive: Health reforms penalize some Native Americans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When Liz DeRouen needs any kind of health care services, from diabetes counselling to a dental cleaning, she checks into a government-funded clinic in Northern California’s wine country that covers all her medical needs.

Her care and the medical services for her children and grandchildren are paid for as part of the government’s treaty obligations to American Indian tribes dating back nearly a century. But under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, DeRouen and tens of thousands of others who identify themselves as Native Americans will face a new reality.

They will have to buy their own health insurance policies or pay a $695 fine from the Internal Revenue Service unless they can prove that they are “Indian enough” to claim one of the few exemptions allowed under the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all Americans carry insurance.


US factory output falls 0.4 per cent in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturers cut back on production in April, as auto companies cranked out fewer cars, factories made fewer consumer goods and most other industries reduced output. The weakness suggests economic growth may be slowing.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that factory output dropped 0.4 per cent in April, the third decline in four months.

Production of autos and auto parts fell 1.3 per cent in April. The drop is likely temporary because automakers are reporting stronger sales.


US homebuilder confidence rises in May from April

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rebounded this month, reflecting improved sales trends during the spring home-selling season and the strongest outlook for sales over the next six months in more than six years.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday rose to 44 in May from 41 in April. The increase for May was the first month-to-month gain since December.

Measures of interest by prospective buyers and current sales conditions also improved from April’s reading.


Macy’s 1Q profit rises 20 per cent on solid sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s Inc. reported a 20 per cent increase in first-quarter profit even though cool temperatures and economic worries dampened some of its shoppers’ spending on spring clothes.

The company, which also operates the upscale chain Bloomingdale’s, is raising its dividend to 25 cents per share from 20 cents. It also announced an additional $1.5 billion in stock buybacks.

Macy’s, a standout among its peers throughout the economic recovery, is the first of the major retailers to report first-quarter results that should provide insight into Americans’ mindset heading into the summer season. The latest results show that while the job market is improving and housing market is recovering, Macy’s and others that cater to middle-income shoppers still face hurdles.


Cisco fiscal 3Q net income rises 14 per cent

NEW YORK (AP) — Cisco says its net income rose 14 per cent in the latest quarter, and says it is seeing “some good signs” in the U.S. and other markets.

The maker of computer networking equipment says it earned $2.48 billion, or 46 cents per share, in its fiscal third quarter, which ended April 27. Excluding one-time items Cisco earned 51 cents per share. Revenue increased 5 per cent, to $12.22 billion from $11.59 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected 49 cents per share and $12.18 billion in revenue.

Cisco’s performance is widely regarded as a way to assess the state of the technology industry. That’s because the San Jose, Calif., company cuts a broad swath in selling its routers, switches, software and services to corporate customers and government agencies around the world.


Trade group slams global safety pact

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, is slamming a global pact to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh, backed by mostly European retailers. At the same time the association is offering few details to an alternative plan it’s pushing that it believes is more flexible.

More than two dozen brands have agreed to sign on to a five-year, legally binding contract that requires that they help pay for fire safety and building improvements in Bangladesh. Notably missing from the pact are U.S. firms, except PVH, the New York-based parent company of Tommy Hilfiger.

In a release Wednesday, the retail trade group criticized the pact for having a “one-size-fits-all” approach and says it leaves retailers open to legal action.


Southwest to save by delaying delivery of planes

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines Co. is delaying delivery of new airplanes and filling the gap with used planes to reduce spending over the next five years.

It’s also raising its dividend and could soon buy back more of its own shares.

Southwest said Wednesday that it will delay 30 firm orders for Boeing 737 jets, which CEO Gary Kelly said would cut capital spending through 2018 by more than $500 million. The airline is also giving up or delaying options for additional planes.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60.44 points to close at 15,275.69, an increase of 0.4 per cent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 8.44 points to 1,658.78, up 0.5 per cent. The Nasdaq composite rose 9.01 points to 3,471.62, a gain of 0.3 per cent.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 9 cents to finish at $94.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 99 cents to $103.50 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to finish at $2.87 a gallon. Heating oil was flat at $2.88 a gallon. Natural gas added 5 cents to end at $4.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.