Business Highlights


Why some trends sapping US growth may persist, others won’t

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy nearly stopped growing in the January-March quarter, squeezed by a combination of factors that will either fade (a harsh winter) or persist (a stronger dollar).

Growth was a barely discernible 0.2 per cent annual rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That’s the poorest showing in a year and a sharp deceleration from a 3.6 per cent rate in the second half of last year.

Most economists expect growth to rebound in the coming months as short-lived problems, such as a West Coast port strike, dissipate. But the rebound isn’t likely to be that healthy, as the high value of the dollar and other trends continue to weigh on growth.


Recession not over yet for retailers, other small businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — The recession isn’t a dim memory for many small businesses.

Nearly two-thirds of owners in a Bank of America survey said their companies are still recovering from the downturn that officially ended nearly six years ago.

Only 21 per cent of the owners surveyed last month said their businesses have fully recovered.


Noting slower economy, Fed appears no closer to a rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve downgraded its view of the U.S. economy Wednesday after a winter in which growth nearly froze. The Fed offered no sign that a rate increase might be coming soon.

The Fed acknowledged that economic barometers have weakened of late, in part because of temporary factors. It noted in a statement that growth has slowed, business investment has softened and exports have declined.

It also reiterated that before raising rates, it needs to be “reasonably confident” that low inflation will move back up to the Fed’s 2 per cent target.


Bud Light: Sorry for saying it removes ‘no’ from vocabulary

NEW YORK (AP) — Bud Light should have kept the word “No” handy in this case.

Anheuser-Busch is apologizing for ad copy that appeared on bottles saying Bud Light removes the word ‘no’ from drinkers’ vocabulary.

Photos of the bottles went viral on social media Tuesday with widespread complaints about the slogan, particularly at a time of national debate about college rape.


Requiem for a clam strip: Last 2 HoJo restaurants soldier on

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (AP) — Howard Johnson’s restaurants — the once-ubiquitous orange-roofed eateries that nourished baby boomers before the rise of burgers and burritos — have almost disappeared.

The HoJo’s on the main strip of this Adirondack Mountain resort town and another in Bangor, Maine, are the last two restaurants operating under the famous name.

Like pay phones and parking lot photo kiosks, Howard Johnson’s restaurants are almost meaningless to millennials but strike a nostalgic chord with those in middle age. But stiff competition from McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets eventually took a toll on the slow-to-change food chain.


Booming China film industry mines Web for oddball talent

BEIJING (AP) — The Internet, data on online usage and private investment are driving changes in China’s film industry.

The market is developing at a faster pace than in the U.S. and Europe while viewing habits are less entrenched and easier to change.

But the influx of new money isn’t chasing cinematic quality, say film critics and industry observers, who don’t foresee homegrown Chinese films attracting a global audience.


SEC pushes for display of link between pay and performance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have taken a step toward requiring public companies to show the relationship between the compensation of their top executives and the company’s financial performance.

The 3-2 vote Wednesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission on the so-called “pay for performance” rules follows a 2013 proposal that would require companies to disclose the pay gap between CEOs and ordinary employees.

The hot-button issue of executive compensation took on greater prominence during the 2008 financial crisis. Outsize pay packages were blamed for encouraging disastrous risk-taking and short-term gain at companies at the expense of long-term performance.


Pending US home sales increase in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the third straight month of gains as housing heats up with the start of the spring buying season.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.1 per cent to 108.6 last month. The index has climbed 11.1 per cent over the past 12 months after having dipped in 2014.

The number of signed contracts are at their highest level since June 2013.


US seeks criminal charges against Lumber Liquidators

NEW YORK (AP) — The Justice Department is seeking criminal charges against Lumber Liquidators in an ongoing investigation over imported products.

The company revealed the Justice Department push in a regulatory filing Wednesday while also posting a surprise loss for the quarter and announcing the departure of its chief financial officer.

The CBS news show “60 Minutes” reported in March that the company’s laminate flooring made in China contained high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. According to a regulatory filing, the Justice Department is seeking charges under the Lacey Act which, among other things, bans illegally sourced wood products.

The best estimate of the probable loss that may result from the Justice Department action is about $10 million, the company said.


Microsoft opens Windows 10 to Apple, Android apps

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft hopes to get more people using the next version of its Windows software on all kinds of devices, by giving them access to many of the same apps they’re already using on Apple or Android phones.

In a major strategy shift, a top executive told an audience of several thousand software developers Wednesday that Microsoft will release new tools to help them quickly adapt the apps they’ve built for Apple or Android gadgets, so they will work on smartphones, PCs and other devices that use the new Windows 10 operating system coming later this year.

Windows 10 is the centerpiece of Microsoft’s ambitions to regain the stature it commanded when Windows-based PCs dominated the computing world.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 74.61 points, or 0.4 per cent, or 18,035.53 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 7.91 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 2,106.85. The Nasdaq declined 31.78 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5,023.64.

The price of U.S. crude oil rose $1.52 to $58.58 a barrel in New York Wednesday, its highest closing price of the year. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, climbed $1.20 to $65.84 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.6 cents to close at $2.018 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.2 cents to close at $1.948 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6.9 cents to close at $2.606 per 1,000 cubic feet.