Business Highlights


Wal-Mart’s push on animal welfare hailed as game changer

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart’s push to get its suppliers to give farm animals fewer antibiotics and more room to roam is expected to have a big impact on the food industry, experts say.

Though the steps are voluntary, Wal-Mart, which sells more food than any other store, has a history of using its retail muscle to change the way products are made and sold across the retail industry.

Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that it’s asking meat producers, eggs suppliers and others to use antibiotics only for disease prevention or treatment, not to fatten their animals, a common industry practice.


Toyota promises to help find cause of Takata airbag defects

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota vowed to help pinpoint the cause of a defect in air bags used in more than 50 million vehicles worldwide, saying the auto industry risks losing the trust of car buyers if the problem drags on unresolved.

The air bags, made by Takata Corp. of Japan, can deploy with too much force, potentially causing injury or even death.

Takata this week agreed to a broader recall that doubled the number of air bags needing repair in the U.S. to 34 million. Toyota is one of 11 automakers recalling their vehicles.


Federal data: As oil production soars, so do pipeline leaks

The oil pipeline leak that fouled a stretch of California coastline this week reflects a troubling trend in the nation’s infrastructure: As U.S. oil production has soared, so has the number of pipeline accidents.

Since 2009, the annual number of significant accidents on oil and petroleum pipelines has shot up by almost 60 per cent, roughly matching the rise in U.S. crude oil production, according to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.


Tuk-tuk taxi maker aims to make inroads in US

DENVER (AP) — They’re ubiquitous in Asia, swarming the bustling streets of Bangkok, New Delhi and Beijing.

Now, a company that manufactures tuk-tuks — the three-wheeled motorized rickshaws that have moved the masses for more than a century and go by many other names in Asia, Africa and Latin America — aims to make inroads in the United States.

The Tuk Tuk Factory, based in Amsterdam, has signed a licensing agreement with Denver-based eTuk USA to allow the company to manufacture and sell an electric version of the vehicle.


China’s mega-tours draw attention abroad, critique at home

BEIJING (AP) — All-expenses-paid trips to reward top salespeople aren’t unusual, but direct marketing companies that are the Chinese versions of Amway, Avon and Herbalife are taking it to an extreme by sending thousands abroad on package tours.

One company is sending 12,700 salespeople to Thailand on a tour that continues until next week. The Infinitus herbal supplement company has outfitted the sales reps with uniforms, the same luggage and even the same umbrellas.


US consumer prices ticking up as Fed weighs first rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Core consumer prices outside of food and energy posted the biggest increase in April in more than a year, suggesting that an improving U.S. economy is finally starting to lift prices. That could prompt the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates later this year.

Overall consumer prices edged up 0.1 per cent for the third straight rise, the Labor Department said Friday. Overall gains were held back by a 1.3 per cent drop in energy costs.


Yellen: 1st rate hike likely by year end if economy improves

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday she expects to begin raising interest rates later this year — if the job market improves and the Fed is confident inflation will climb closer toward its target rate.

She described the U.S. economy as “well positioned for continued growth,” but at the same time highlighted a number of headwinds that threaten progress. Wages have been disappointing and too many people who want full-time jobs and instead working part-time, she said. She also noted a lacklustre housing recovery and modest business investment.

The Fed has kept its key benchmark rate at a record low near zero since December 2008.


Currency tumbles as Venezuelans look to unload bolivars

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A staggering plunge in the free-market value of Venezuelan currency sent people scrambling to sell off their depreciating bolivars Friday.

DolarToday, a widely followed website that tracks exchanges made near the Colombian border, reported that the bolivar had lost a quarter of its value over the last seven days.

Everyone in smartphone-obsessed Caracas seemed to learn of the crash at the same time as the DolarToday app, a ubiquitous tool in the South American country, sent out a series of messages announcing the new rates under the headline “hyperinflation!”


Deere boosts guidance as construction offsets ag swoon

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Solid sales of its construction equipment offset a global agricultural slowdown for Deere, the company said Friday. It also raised its outlook for the year and its shares rose nearly 4 per cent Friday.

Deere’s most profitable business is making and selling its green tractors and other farming equipment, but with less demand for large farm equipment, Deere is relying more on its backhoes, excavators and other construction equipment to grow sales. A surge in home construction in the U.S. is likely helping. In April, builders broke ground on homes at the fastest pace in more than seven years, according to the Commerce Department.


Private equity fund buying Cincinnati-based Frisch’s

CINCINNATI (AP) — Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants are being sold to a private equity fund, the company announced Friday, ending family operation of the Cincinnati-based chain that dates to a 1939 drive-thru.

Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. said NRD Partners I will buy all outstanding shares for $34 each, or some $175 million.

The regional chain of the iconic Big Boy mascot and namesake two-burger sandwich owns some 95 family restaurants in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Its website states it has another 26 operated in the region by licensees. Frisch’s says it owns the “Big Boy” trademark in Kentucky and Indiana, and in most of Ohio and Tennessee.


Tobacco firms get partial win over claims on smoking effects

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s largest tobacco companies must inform consumers that cigarettes were designed to increase addiction, but not that they lied to the public about the dangers of smoking, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a partial win for cigarette makers in the long-running legal fight that began in the Clinton administration in 1999. In this latest round, the companies objected to running court-ordered advertisements that would have branded themselves as liars.


Target settlement with MasterCard fails to get bank support

NEW YORK (AP) — A $19 million deal between Target and MasterCard to settle lawsuits stemming from the retailer’s massive pre-Christmas 2013 data breach has been scrapped, because it failed to get enough support from the affected banks and credit unions.

While the rejection sends the companies back to the drawing board, advocates for the financial institutions said they were pleased, claiming that the settlement would have provided compensation for just a fraction of the losses.


Adult dating site investigating possible breach of user data

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — The operator of a popular adult dating website said Friday it’s investigating a potential security breach, following reports that hackers stole names, email addresses and information about the sexual preferences of up to 4 million members.

Britain’s Channel 4 news outlet reported that hackers posted some of the information on an obscure website after stealing account data from the operator of, which claims 64 million members worldwide use its service to “hook up, find sex or meet someone hot now.”


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 53.72 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 18,232.02. The S&P 500 index lost 4.76 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,126.06. The Nasdaq composite edged down 1.43 points to 5,089.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1 to close at $59.72 a barrel in New York. U.S. oil finished the week between $59 and $60 for the fourth straight week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.17 to close at $65.37 in London. time. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.8 cents to close at $2.054 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3.3 cents to close at $1.953 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.2 cents to close at $2.887 per 1,000 cubic feet.