Business Highlights


Don’t bet your shirt on a great 2014 for stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t bet your shirt on a repeat performance.

That’s the message from some of the nation’s biggest investment firms as the Dow Jones industrial average has closed this week above 16,000 for the first time and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is on the cusp of its best year in a decade with a gain of 25.9 per cent.

Although investment professionals still are optimistic, investors shouldn’t expect such outsized gains will be repeated.


To spin or not to spin: Does Microsoft need Xbox?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates donned a cool leather jacket when he first introduced the Xbox onstage in 2000. More than a decade later, the video game console is still the hippest brand in Microsoft’s portfolio.

But as the company begins selling its first new Xbox in eight years on Friday, some critics say Microsoft should spin the gaming unit off. They argue that Xbox distracts management from the company’s fast-growing cloud computing business and its effort to catch up to rivals in tablet and smartphone sales.


Foreign trainees in Japan face exploitation

KAIZU, Japan (AP) — When Chinese textile worker Wang Mingzhi heard he could more than triple his income with a three-year stint working in Japan as an apprentice, he eagerly paid a broker $7,300 in fees and deposit money.

From afar, Japan seemed a model of prosperity and order. Japanese government backing of the training program he would enter the country under helped ease worries about going abroad. But when he joined the ranks of 150,000 other interns from poor Asian countries working in Japan, Wang was in for a series of shocks including withheld wages and little recourse.

Faced with a shrinking workforce and tight restrictions on immigration, Japanese employers are plugging labour shortages by relying on interns from China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. The training program is intended to help developing countries by upgrading the technical expertise of their workers but critics say it is abused by some employers who see it as a source of cheap labour.


Vice chairman? Downfall of ex-bank boss grips UK

LONDON (AP) — He was a bank boss, but had no apparent banking experience. He was a Methodist minister, but got busted for allegedly buying cocaine and downloading porn at work.

The spectacular downfall of Paul Flowers, the former chairman of Britain’s Co-operative Bank, was a tale made for the tabloids. His troubles began with the near collapse of the bank he was heading. They came to a head this week when a newspaper released footage that showed him handing cash to a dealer selling drugs including crystal meth and ketamine, a farm animal tranquillizer used recreationally as a hallucinogen.

Flowers, 63, has apologized for his “stupid and wrong behaviour,” but his humiliation continues.

He was arrested late Thursday as part of a drug investigation, as more shadowy details are being dug up about his life.


National restaurant chains expand in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — When the Dairy Queen opened in Anchorage in 2006, it was big news. People stood in a line that stretched for two blocks just to get an ice cream cone, and drive-thru traffic backed up just as long.

Residents weren’t just excited about the treats. They were elated that the Dairy Queen was in the city at all.

For years, Alaska might as well have been on another planet, so far off the radar of the big national restaurant chains that those in the Lower 48 had become used to — and maybe even grown tired of.

It was too costly and the logistics too daunting to run a restaurant in the state. Now, restaurants are rushing in.


Loud cellphone talkers next bane of air travellers?

NEW YORK (AP) — Airline passengers have already been stripped of their legroom, hot meals and personal space. Now, they might also lose their silence.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting its longtime prohibition on making cellphone calls on airplanes, saying it is time “to review our outdated and restrictive rules.”

But for many passengers, that would mean the elimination of one of the last sanctuaries from our hyper-connected world. Everybody wants the ability to stay connected while travelling, but nobody wants to be trapped next to some guy yapping away during the entire trip from New York to Las Vegas.


By The Associated Press=

The S&P 500 index rose nine points, or 0.5 per cent, to close at 1,804.76 Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 55 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 16,064.77. The Nasdaq gained 22 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,991.65

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery fell 60 cents to close at $94.84 in trading in New York. Wholesale gasoline slipped 2 cents to $2.73 a gallon. Heating oil rose added 3 cents to $3.04 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $3.77 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used in many U.S. refineries, rose 97 cents to $111.05 in London.