Business Highlights


$50 oil shouldn’t pose major threat to consumers, economy

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil topped $50 a barrel this week for the first time since July, delivering a cash infusion to oil producers and a lift to beaten-down energy stocks.

The arrival of higher energy prices isn’t necessarily bad news for consumers — at least not yet. Analysts expect gasoline and airline fares to stay relatively low at least through the summer travel season.

Analysts say oil prices could rise further, but most have a cap around $60 to $65 a barrel. While global production has slowed, supplies are still more than ample enough to meet demand.


US stocks finish mixed as 2-day climb comes to an end

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks barely budged Thursday as investors moved cautiously after two days of large gains. Utilities and phone companies rose the most thanks to a decline in bond yields, while chemicals companies and banks surrendered some of their recent gains.

Stocks alternated between small losses and gains and moved more on individual news than broad trends. Retailers Dollar Tree and Costco rose after they reported strong quarterly results. That made them exceptions in a difficult quarter for the industry.


‘It’s the fear of the unknown’ – UK small biz key to EU vote

LONDON (AP) — It’s the voices of small business that may play a big factor on the decision of whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union.

The country’s 5.4 million small and medium-size enterprises account for 99 per cent of Britain’s businesses and employ 15.6 million people.

While the media has focused on the fact that most large companies back EU membership, opinion is divided among smaller firms. When the Federation of Small Businesses surveyed its members last year, it found that 47 per cent supported EU membership and 41 per cent wanted to leave. However, a February poll found that 42 per cent said their votes could still be swayed.


In Gawker fight, Hogan has billionaire in his corner

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hulk Hogan’s courtroom cage match with Gawker has apparently been bankrolled by a high-tech billionaire with a grudge against the news-and-gossip site.

Two months after Hogan won a $140 million invasion-of-privacy verdict against Gawker for posting a sex tape of him, news reports say the pro wrestler is secretly backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007, and the Gawker empire has run a number of stories skewering Facebook.


Sears posts wider loss, looks at options for Kenmore, others

NEW YORK (AP) — Long-struggling retailer Sears says it plans to try to leverage its strongest brands like Kenmore and Craftsman to help sustain itself as it posted a larger first-quarter loss Thursday and said sales fell at its Kmart and namesake stores.

The chain said it’s looking at options for prized brands that also include DieHard and Sears Home Services, including possible partnerships or deals that could expand their distribution and service offerings. It gave no specifics, but said it believes the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands can grow significantly with an expanded presence outside of Sears and Kmart.


China accuses US of hampering trade with steel duties

BEIJING (AP) — China accused the United States on Thursday of hampering trade after Washington imposed duties of up to 450 per cent on Chinese steel in its latest response to a flood of low-priced imports.

The Ministry of Commerce complained U.S. regulators discriminated against Chinese suppliers by using incorrect standards for deciding what production cost and market prices should have been.

Beijing faces mounting criticism from the United States and Europe that it is exporting steel at unfairly low prices to clear a backlog in its glutted home market. Western governments say that hurts their producers and threatens thousands of jobs.


Takata taps financial adviser as recall costs mount

TOKYO (AP) — Faced with mounting costs from a global recall of air bags, Japanese supplier Takata Corp. has hired the advisory firm Lazard to engineer a restructuring of its finances, likely with the help of some of its biggest customers.

Takata air bags can deploy with too much force, spewing shrapnel into the vehicle. They are responsible for at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Takata recently agreed to recall an additional 40 million air bag inflators in the U.S. Globally, Takata may be forced to recall more than 100 million inflators and analysts estimate the cost of making replacement parts could total tens of billions of dollars.


McDonald’s CEO says company is making changes customers want

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s, under intense pressure in a competitive industry, sought to reassure its shareholders Thursday that it is making changes to its food and service that customers want.

CEO Steve Easterbrook recounted adjustments he’s overseen since taking the job early last year, such as improving order accuracy, and the launch of an all-day breakfast menu in the U.S. He also said the company is working on more convenient ways for customers to get food, such as ordering kiosks and delivery in select markets.

McDonald’s Corp. is “fundamentally changing perceptions,” he said at the annual meeting.


FDA approves first drug-oozing implant to control addiction

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials on Thursday approved a new option for Americans struggling with addiction to heroin and painkillers: a drug-oozing implant that curbs craving and withdrawal symptoms for six months at a time.

The first-of-a-kind device, Probuphine, arrives as communities across the U.S. grapple with a wave of addiction tied to opioids.

The implant from Braeburn Pharmaceuticals is essentially a new delivery system for an established drug, buprenorphine, which has long been used to treat opioid addiction. But its implantable format could help patients avoid relapses that can occur if they miss a medication dose.


Uber to expand its Africa operations

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Uber is expanding in Africa. The ride-hailing company said Thursday that it plans to start operating in the capitals of Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania within a month.

Uber already operates in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria and five cities in South Africa — Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Uber’s South African operation will experiment with a cash payment option in addition to the electronic payment system in its app, said Alon Lits, the company’s general manager in sub-Saharan Africa.


Court upholds $3M judgment against Gerber Products Co.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A sharply divided Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said a baby food manufacturer must pay more than $3 million to workers for the time they spent dressing and undressing into uniforms and protective gear.

In a 4-3 ruling, the high court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Gerber Products Co. should have compensated more than 800 workers at its Fort Smith facility for the time they spent changing into uniforms, donning protective gear such as ear plugs and washing their hands, as well as undressing after their shifts ended.


The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 23.22 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,828.29. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 0.44 points to 2,090.10. The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.88 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,901.77.

U.S. crude slipped 8 cents to $49.48 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 15 cents to $49.59 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil declined 1 cent to $1.50 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $1.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.