Business Highlights


Poll: Americans more upbeat about own finances than economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new poll finds that Americans feel a whole lot better about their own situations than the economy as a whole in this election year.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds just 42 per cent of adults consider the U.S. economy to be good while two-thirds say their own households are faring well.

But the anxiety shows on an individual basis too, with only one-third saying they’d be very confident of finding another job if they were laid-off. And despite their own financial gains, many people worry about risks beyond their control — from a volatile stock market to another economic downturn.


More work, more pay? New rule extends overtime to millions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More than 4 million U.S. workers will become newly eligible for overtime pay under rules issued Wednesday by the Obama administration.

The rule seeks to bolster overtime protections that have been eroded in recent decades. A diminishing proportion of workers have benefited from overtime regulations, which require employers to pay 1 1/2 times a worker’s wage for work that exceeds 40 hours a week.

Under the new rules, the annual salary threshold at which companies can deny overtime pay will be doubled from $23,660 to nearly $47,500. That would make 4.2 million more salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. Hourly workers would continue to be mostly guaranteed overtime.


Fed’s surprise message: June hike likely if economy improves

WASHINGTON (AP) — Catching many investors off guard, the Federal Reserve made clear Wednesday that an interest rate hike in June is likely if the economy keeps improving.

The minutes of their most recent meeting in late April showed that Fed officials widely felt it would be time to raise rates at their June 14-15 meeting as long as hiring and economic growth strengthened and inflation showed signs of accelerating toward the Fed’s 2 per cent target rate.

The Fed had voted 9-1 in April to keep rates unchanged while noting that threats from the global slowdown had eased.


Stocks end mostly unchanged after key Fed minutes released

NEW YORK (AP) — New signs that interest rates may be heading higher sent stocks flitting between gains and losses Wednesday, but the major indexes ended up closing pretty much where they started.

Stocks held onto gains through the first part of the day, but in the afternoon the Federal Reserve released minutes of its last meeting suggesting it was more open to raising rates than many had thought. Caught unaware, investors started dumping utilities and other high dividend payers that had been in favour for much of the year.

Bond prices fell sharply, sending long-term interest rates higher.


Target reports declining revenue in first quarter

NEW YORK (AP) — Target easily beat first-quarter profit expectations, but slowing sales for the retailer created some unease.

Target’s weak store sales and its expectations for this quarter, released Wednesday, pushed shares down sharply and shares of almost every retailer followed suit in what is shaping up to be a miserable year for the sector.

Target CEO Brian Cornell blamed the cold and wet spring for weakening sales. And he said shoppers also remained cautious about spending money, he said. They still came to Target to stock up on goods, but made fewer quick trips.


Lowe’s like Home Depot, puts up big numbers as housing booms

NEW YORK (AP) — Lowe’s on Wednesday reported surging first-quarter profits as key sales metrics jumped in the midst of a strong recovery in the U.S. housing market.

The company boosted its outlook for the year, as did its rival, Home Depot on Tuesday. Home improvement stores continue to distance themselves from a retail sector that can’t seem to get shoppers through the door, or to spend much money when they do.

Lowe’s profit jumped 31.4 per cent to $884 million, or 98 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, were 87 cents per share, topping market forecasts. Revenue rose 7.8 per cent to $15.23 billion, also beating analyst expectations.


Raymond James fined $17M for anti-money laundering lapses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Industry regulators have fined Raymond James $17 million, accusing the financial services firm of widespread failures in its controls against money laundering.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Wednesday it was the biggest fine it has imposed related to deficiencies in anti-money laundering programs. FINRA said that Raymond James failed over several years to detect suspicious activity in client investment accounts and to report it to government authorities.

The brokerage industry’s self-policing organization said the firm’s failure was especially serious because it already had been censured and fined in 2012 for the same problems.


Study finds high rate of repossessions in auto title loans

NEW YORK (AP) — People who put their cars up as collateral for what are supposed to be short-term emergency loans are being hit with interest rates of 300 per cent, a high rate of repossession and long repayment periods.

That’s according to a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released Wednesday. The report is the first by federal regulators to look at the auto title lending industry, which has grown significantly since the recession but remains banned in half the country. The results could lead to additional regulations on the industry.


LinkedIn confirms 2012 hack exposed 117M user passwords

NEW YORK (AP) — LinkedIn says a 2012 breach resulted in more than 100 million of its users’ passwords being compromised — vastly more than previously thought.

The business social network confirmed Wednesday a purported hacker’s claim that 117 million passwords were stolen in the breach. It previously said 6.5 million user passwords were compromised.

LinkedIn says it’s working to determine just how many of the passwords in question are still being used three years after the breach and is in the process of resetting them.


Mitsubishi Motors president to resign over mileage scandal

TOKYO (AP) — Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Tetsuro Aikawa said Wednesday that he will step down to take responsibility for the mileage cheating scandal unfolding at the Japanese automaker.

Aikawa has denied personal involvement in wrongdoing, but it is common for executives at major Japanese companies to resign to show remorse. His resignation is expected to become final on June 24, upon shareholders’ approval. A successor was not announced.

Mitsubishi reiterated as part of its latest findings that top management had not ordered the mileage scam, but employees had been under tremendous pressure to get better mileage.


Record crushed, diamond intact: Oppenheimer Blue draws $58M

GENEVA (AP) — The “Oppenheimer Blue” diamond sold Wednesday for more than 56.8 million Swiss francs ($58.2 million), including fees, crushing the previous record for the most expensive diamond ever sold at auction.

The 14.62-carat stone went to an unidentified buyer for a hammer price of 50.6 million Swiss francs — which excluded fees and the buyer’s premium. That obliterated the pre-sale estimate range of between 38 million and 45 million francs.

The final tally also blew away the previous record for a diamond sold at auction by nearly $10 million: The 12.03-carat polished “Blue Moon” diamond went for $48.5 million in Geneva in November.


The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 3.36 points, less than 0.1 per cent, to 17,526.62. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index rose 0.42 points, less than 0.1 per cent, to 2,047.63. The Nasdaq composite climbed 23.39 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4,739.12.

U.S. crude oil fell 12 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to close at $48.19 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 35 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $48.93 a barrel in London. In other trading, wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.65 a gallon, heating oil gained 2 cents to $1.48 a gallon and natural gas fell 5 cents to $2 per 1,000 cubic feet.