Business Highlights


Banks fined more than $5B, to plead guilty to market rigging

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four of the world’s biggest banks agreed Wednesday to pay more than $5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to rigging the currency markets — a rare instance in which federal prosecutors have wrung an admission of criminal wrongdoing from a major financial institution.

Traders at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland were accused of working together to manipulate rates on the foreign exchange market, where hundreds of billions of dollars and euros change hands back and forth.


Why many experts missed this: Cheap oil can hurt US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — If there was one thing most economists agreed on at the start of the year, it was this: Plunging oil prices would boost the U.S. economy.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

The economy is thought to have shrunk in the January-March quarter and may barely grow for the first half of 2015 — thanks in part to sharp cuts in energy drilling. And despite their savings at the gas pump, consumers have slowed rather than increased their spending.

At $2.71 a gallon, the average price of gas nationwide is nearly $1 lower than it was a year ago. In January, the average briefly reached $2.03, the lowest in five years.


Target beating Wal-Mart in race for turnaround

NEW YORK (AP) — Target is beating Wal-Mart in the race to beef up sales.

Target Corp. on Wednesday reported a nearly 52 per cent surge in its first-quarter profit on strong sales of more profitable items like fashion and baby products, evidence that its efforts to turn around its business are paying off.

The results handily beat Wall Street expectations on all fronts, and the Minneapolis-based retailer boosted the bottom end of its annual profit outlook.


Despite growth uptick, full recovery still far for Europe

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Europe’s economy has been down so long, even a bit of growth looks like recovery.

Markets were cheered, to be sure, by last week’s figure showing an improvement in the eurozone’s growth to 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. Cheap oil helped, as has the launch of a 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) monetary stimulus by the European Central Bank.

But that can’t mask the currency union’s long-term sluggishness.


Small business is key in presidential campaign playbook

NEW YORK (AP) — Small businesses aren’t in the dire straits they were four years ago, but presidential candidates aren’t letting go of an issue they think will get them votes.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has made small business one of the top items on her campaign agenda. Republican Ted Cruz says the primary problems hurting small companies are the health care law, taxes and government regulations. Republican Rand Paul says the tax law is burdening small business and slowing the economy.


Fed minutes indicate June rate hike unlikely

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve policymakers largely agreed when they met last month that it would be too early to start raising interest rates in June, as they debated whether the economy’s winter weakness would fade or persist.

While “a few” Fed officials believed that the U.S. economy would be ready to raise rates in June, they were outnumbered by “many” Fed officials who viewed it as “unlikely” that the economic data would be strong enough to justify a hike next month.


Swiss bank UBS settles US legal cases for $545 million

BERLIN (AP) — Swiss bank UBS says it is pleading guilty to wire fraud and is paying $545 million to settle U.S. cases of market manipulation.

The bank said Wednesday that under the deal with U.S. authorities it will be granted conditional immunity from prosecution in a Department of Justice probe on the manipulation of foreign exchange rates. UBS AG said it was the first to report to the DOJ potential misconduct by banks in forex markets.


Johnson & Johnson expects lucrative return on drug pipeline

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson is predicting big returns from its prescription drug business, both financially and medically, as it develops treatments and strategies to intervene earlier and prevent or reduce the damage from several conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

The world’s biggest maker of health care products said Wednesday that it plans to seek approval by 2019 for more than 10 new medicines, each with blockbuster potential — at least $1 billion in annual sales.


Lowe’s 1Q profit up on sales growth, but still disappoints

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Lowe’s sales and profit rose in the first quarter as the housing market began to thaw, but the performance was far from what Wall Street had expected and shares slid 4 per cent Wednesday.

The performance was a stark contrast to that of its rival, Home Depot Inc., which beat almost all projections Tuesday and raised its outlook for the year.

Investor hopes may have been buoyed even further this week after the U.S. released data that appeared to reveal a housing market on the cusp of a boom. According to the Commerce Department, housing starts last month increased to a pace that has not been seen since the start of the recession.


McDonald’s shuts down restaurant amid protest over low wages

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) — McDonald’s shut down a restaurant near its headquarters Wednesday after the area was swamped by hundreds of protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union.

The restaurant was closed because of traffic concerns, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s. The company also told employees in a building targeted by protesters they should work from home, she said.


ConAgra to pay $11.2M to settle salmonella criminal case

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — ConAgra Foods agreed Wednesday to pay $11.2 million, a sum that includes the highest criminal fine ever in a U.S. food safety case, to settle a federal charge that the company shipped Peter Pan peanut butter tainted with salmonella from a plant in Georgia, sickening more than 600 people and triggering a massive recall eight years ago.

Federal prosecutors filed a single misdemeanour charge of shipping adulterated food against the Omaha, Nebraska, based company along with a plea deal Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Georgia. No company executives were charged.


Study: 23 pct of US adults with health coverage underinsured

Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults who were insured all last year lacked adequate protection from big medical bills based on their income, according to Commonwealth Fund research.

The non-profit foundation estimates that about 31 million people between the ages of 19 and 64 were underinsured due in part to the out-of-pocket expenses they have to pay for care. That includes deductibles, or payments a patient has to make before most coverage begins.


House votes to repeal country-of-origin meat labeling law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. House committee has voted to get rid of labels on packages of meat that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” labeling law for meat on Wednesday — just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of it. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States,” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 26.99 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,285.40. The S&P 500 index closed down 1.98 points to 2,125.85. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.71 points, less than 0.1 per cent, to 5,071.74.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 99 cents to close at $58.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.01 to close at $65.03 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 4.6 cents to close at $2.041 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.7 cents to close at $1.946 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.3 cents to close at $2.915 per 1,000 cubic feet.