Business Highlights


US jobless rate falls to 7-year low; Fed move still unclear

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. unemployment fell to a seven-year low of 5.1 per cent last month, but hiring slowed — a mixed bag of news that offers few clues to whether the Federal Reserve will raise rock-bottom interest rates later this month.

The Labor Department report, issued Friday, was closely watched because it will be the last snapshot of the job market before the Fed meets in two weeks. And overall, it painted a picture of an economy growing at a modest but steady pace seven years after the Great Recession.

But it wasn’t the unambiguous signal many on Wall Street were hoping for.


China’s stock rescue jolts companies, reform plans

BEIJING (AP) — Tonhe Electronics is a casualty of Beijing’s frantic effort to stop a stock market bust.

The maker of electrical equipment, part of a technology industry the ruling Communist Party wants to promote, hoped to raise 200 million yuan ($32 million) from an initial public offering of stock to build a research and development centre.

Then share prices collapsed and Beijing cancelled stock sales by Tonhe and more than two dozen other companies as part of its desperate effort to stem the slide. Now the company in the central city of Shijiazhuang is in limbo.


Disney unveils Star Wars toys amid marketing blitz

NEW YORK (AP) — The release of the new Star Wars movie may still be months off, but Disney is unleashing its full marketing “Force” behind the launch of hundreds of toys and other items related to the film.

The massive marketing blitz, which Disney has named “Force Friday,” spans all kinds of media and included an 18-hour global “unboxing” streamed live on YouTube. Meanwhile, major toy retailers around the world opened their doors and held special events when the toys first became available just after midnight Friday. Among the first cities was Hong Kong with toy stores open at midnight.


McGraw-Hill Education files for $100M IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — Educational content maker McGraw-Hill Education plans to go public.

Best known as a publisher of textbooks and instructional materials, the company is now investing heavily in developing digital content and technology like its “Reading Wonders” and “Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies” programs.

It filed for an IPO that was valued at up to $100 million, according to a form filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Home decorating retailer At Home files for IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — At Home Group, a chain of stores that sells furniture, rugs and other home goods, said Friday that it plans to become a publicly-traded company.

The company, founded in 1979, was formerly called Garden Ridge until it changed its name last year. At Home has 94 stores around the country. Stores opened at least a year averaged more than $6 million in sales annually, the company said. Its average store is 120,000 square feet.


Toyota to invest $50M in car-tech research at Stanford, MIT

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Toyota is investing $50 million with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in hopes of gaining an edge in an accelerating race to phase out human drivers.

The financial commitment announced Friday by the Japanese automaker will be made over the next five years at joint research centres located in Silicon Valley and another technology hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


From eggs to trees, USDA promotional programs controversial

WASHINGTON (AP) — The slogans are familiar: “The Incredible Edible Egg,” ”Pork: The Other White Meat,” and “Got Milk?”

They’ve all been part of promotional campaigns overseen by the Agriculture Department and paid for by the industries that vote to organize them. While the idea is simple — an industry-wide promotional campaign at no cost to the government — they’ve often generated controversy, been misunderstood and at times have operated with little oversight.


Timber business booming throughout northeast Florida

LIVE OAK, Fla. (AP) — The towering grove of century-old longleaf pines surrounding Roger Ward’s family home is a rare site in this verdant swath of north-central Florida — most pines here are cut and processed for profit as soon as their 15-to-18-year growth cycle is complete.

The demand for timber worldwide is booming and this remote section of Florida, along with other timber-growing regions of the southeastern U.S., are benefiting. Dozens of lumber mills and pine straw, bark and wood pellet processing plants have sprung up in north Florida to take advantage of the unique soil composition, lengthy growing season and warm, moist climate in which pine trees thrive.


Canada dismisses Chevron appeal in Ecuador rainforest case

TORONTO (AP) — The Supreme Court of Canada on Friday dismissed an attempt by oil giant Chevron to block Ecuadorian villagers from using an Ontario court to collect billions in damages over rainforest pollution.

The 7-0 ruling allows the case to proceed.

Lawyers have fought for years in several countries over who’s responsible for pollution in the Ecuadorian rain forest. They have argued that the case should be heard in Canada because U.S.-based Chevron has a Canadian subsidiary.


Boeing names its new Apollo-style spacecraft the Starliner

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing already has the Dreamliner. Now it also has the Starliner.

The aerospace giant announced the name of its future space fleet Friday. More than 200 people, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, NASA and Boeing officials, and a bevy of former astronauts, gathered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to celebrate the grand opening of Boeing’s commercial crew and cargo processing facility.

Once a space shuttle hangar, the transformed building will serve as home to the Starliner. Its first launch with a crew to the International Space Station is targeted for 2017.


Wave of new Windows 10 devices on show at Berlin tech fair

BERLIN (AP) — Computer manufacturers are unveiling the first big batch of devices running Windows 10 at the IFA home electronics show opening in Berlin on Friday.

The industry has seen sluggish sales in recent years as consumers opt to spend their money on smartphones and tablets instead, so many companies are pinning their hopes for a revival in the PC market on the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system.


BlackBerry will buy security company Good Technology for $425M

NEW YORK (AP) — BlackBerry said Friday that it will make another security-related acquisition, buying Good Technology for $425 million in cash.

BlackBerry, once known for making smartphones, is now trying to focus on software that lets IT departments manage mobile devices. The company said Good Technology will help it offer a unified secure platform for mobile devices that runs on any operating system. It said Good Technology has about $160 million in annual revenue, while BlackBerry has reported about $3 billion in revenue in its last four fiscal quarters.


In India, bail demands keep the poor imprisoned for years

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Sixteen-year-old Suraj Chaudhry has been waiting for most of his life: for lawyers, for justice, for his father’s eventual release from the prison after 14 years.

His father should have been let out in 2003, but the impoverished family could not pay the 24,000 rupee bail (then worth $522, now worth $360) set by the court in the north Indian city of Lucknow. Suraj says his father was framed for murder because he was from the outcast “dalit” community, also known as “untouchables,” within India’s ancient system of caste hierarchies.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 272.38 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 16,102.38. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 29.91 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 1,921.22. The Nasdaq composite slipped 49.58 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4,683.92.

U.S. crude fell 70 cents to close at $46.05 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.07 to close at $49.61 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.9 cents to close at $1.418 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.3 cent to close at $1.596 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to close at $2.655 per 1,000 cubic feet.