Business Highlights


More travellers sign up for airport programs, only to wait

NEW YORK (AP) — A growing number of travellers are signing up for the government’s expedited airport screening programs, only to face another wait.

After angry fliers missed flights this spring because of lengthy security lines, government officials promoted the PreCheck and Global Entry systems. The number of applicants for PreCheck more than tripled in a few months.

Now there is a new logjam. It can take weeks or even months to get an appointment for an interview needed to complete the enrolment. Travelers can try walking into an enrolment office without an appointment, but that can mean waiting for hours or even getting turned away.


Rising home prices lift US wealth, even as stocks fall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans’ household wealth rose in the first three months of this year as home values increased, offsetting a drop in stock prices.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that U.S. household net worth increased 1 per cent to $88.1 trillion in the first quarter. Americans’ stock and mutual fund portfolios shrank $160 billion, while home values jumped $498 billion. Savings in certificates of deposit and other bank accounts also rose. The rise in real estate values likely means the wealth increase was more widely shared than in many previous quarters, because home ownership is the primary source of middle-class wealth. Richer Americans rely more on financial assets.


Lenovo, Google unveil phone that knows its way around a room

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Lenovo smartphone unveiled Thursday will be clever enough to grasp your physical surroundings — such as the room’s size and the presence of other people — and potentially transform how we interact with e-commerce, education and gaming.

Today’s smartphones track location through GPS and cell towers, but that does little more than tell apps where you are. Tapping Google’s 3-year-old Project Tango , the new Phab2 Pro phone will use software and sensors to track motions and map building interiors, including the location of doors and windows.

That’s a crucial step in the promising new frontier in “augmented reality,” or the digital projection of lifelike images and data into a real-life environment.


Fewer Americans applied for jobless benefits last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign that employers are hanging on to workers despite a sluggish economy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment aid fell by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000. The less volatile four-week average dropped by 7,500 to 269,500.

Weekly jobless claims have come in below the historically low level of 300,000 for 66 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.


Average US 30-year mortgage rate slips to 3.60 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week after three straight weeks of increases. The drop followed a surprisingly weak employment report that deepened doubts about the economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.60 per cent from 3.66 per cent last week. That is well below its level a year ago of 4.04 per cent.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.87 per cent from 2.92 per cent.


More sponsors keep backing Sharapova despite 2-year ban

VIENNA (AP) — Two more sponsors reinforced their support of Maria Sharapova on Thursday, one day after the five-time Grand Slam champion was banned for two years for doping.

Racket supplier Head and bottled water company Evian followed Nike by saying they continue to back the 29-year old Russian player, who will appeal her suspension.

However, Avon announced it would not extend a partnership that was set to expire. But the beauty and personal care company said its decision had nothing to do with Sharapova’s doping ban.


Tesla to release lower-priced versions of Model S car

NEW YORK (AP) — Tesla said Thursday that it has started selling a cheaper version of its Model S car in an attempt to make its electric vehicles more affordable for more people.

The new version, called the Model S 60, starts at $66,000. An all-wheel drive version of the Model S 60 will start at $71,000. Both cost less that the current Model S 90D, which starts at $89,500.

Tesla said that when tax incentives and gas-savings are taken into account, the Model S 60 will have an effective cost of about $50,000.


FAA: No psychological testing needed of airline pilots

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled out requiring psychological testing for airline pilots in favour of enhanced mental health support programs in response to a crash last year in which a German pilot deliberately flew an airliner full of passengers into a mountainside, agency administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday.

Psychological tests are ineffective because they reveal a pilot’s mental health for only a moment in time without providing insight into whether the pilot will suffer problems later, Huerta said. Instead, he announced several steps the FAA and industry are taking to encourage more voluntary self-reporting by pilots of mental health problems.


Investigator: FDA still taking months to recall tainted food

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials failed to force a recall of peanut butter and almond products for three months after advanced DNA testing confirmed salmonella contamination, government investigators reported Thursday.

Despite new legal powers to compel recalls and sophisticated technology to fingerprint pathogens, the Food and Drug Administration allowed some food-safety investigations to drag on, placing consumers in jeopardy, according to the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The internal watchdog said the FDA needs to pay “immediate attention” to the problem and follow clear procedures to get manufacturers to promptly recall tainted foods.


21 states suing Delaware over abandoned money orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twenty-one states on Thursday sought more than $150 million in uncashed money orders from Delaware, where more than 1 million businesses take advantage of friendly incorporating laws and unclaimed financial property is a major source of state revenue.

A lawsuit filed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court is another escalation in an ongoing dispute involving uncashed money orders from Dallas-based MoneyGram, which has been submitting unclaimed money to Delaware.

MoneyGram is incorporated in Delaware — just like more than half of all publicly traded companies in the U.S., and about two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies. Delaware benefits significantly from rules that ultimately routes unclaimed property to the company’s state of incorporation instead of the state of origin.

As a result, abandoned property is the third-largest source of general fund revenue for Delaware, and is expected to total more than half a billion dollars in the current fiscal year.


The Dow Jones industrial average sank 19.86 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,985.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 3.64 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,115.48. The Nasdaq composite shed 16.03 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,958.62.

U.S. crude shed 67 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $50.56 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 56 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $51.95 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.55 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 15 cents to $2.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.