Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

___

After Alps crash, some experts ponder flights without pilots

NEW YORK (AP) -- To improve airline safety, maybe we need to remove the pilots.

That radical idea is decades away, if it ever becomes a reality. But following the intentional crashing of Germanwings Flight 9525 by the co-pilot, a long-running debate over autonomous jets is resurfacing. At the very least, some have suggested allowing authorities on the ground to take control of a plane if there is a rogue pilot in the cockpit.

The head of Germany's air traffic control agency on Wednesday became the latest to raise such a prospect.

___

Why banks made more money last quarter

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street and Main Street gave banks a boost last quarter.

Fees from corporate mergers and commissions from trading fueled profits at big financial firms. But average Americans also helped by taking out more home loans and paying off their debts.

___

Google shaking up search recommendations on smartphones

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google is about to change the way its influential search engine recommends websites on smartphones in a shift that's expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.

The revised formula, scheduled to be released Tuesday, will favor websites that Google defines as "mobile-friendly." Websites that don't fit the description will be demoted in Google's search results on smartphones while those meeting the criteria will be more likely to appear at the top of the rankings — a prized position that can translate into more visitors and money.

___

G-20 finance officials confronting global weakness

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Finance officials from the world's major economies are searching for the right mix of policies to bolster a still-weak global recovery nearly six years after the Great Recession while confronting a range of new threats from a soaring U.S. dollar to a big drop in oil prices.

The financial officials from the Group of 20 nations were also expressing concerns about potential market instability once the Federal Reserve starts increasing a key interest rate which has been at a record low near zero since late 2008.

___

Higher US gas prices sparked modest inflation in March

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Higher-priced gasoline slightly boosted consumer prices in March, a sign that some of the effects of cheaper oil are fading and that inflation may be edging up to healthier levels.

The consumer price index rose 0.2 percent last month, the Labor Department said Friday. Inflation moved at that same pace in February, which ended three straight monthly declines caused largely by falling oil and gas prices.

___

Gauge of US economy rises slim 0.2 percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An index designed to predict the future health of the economy slowly crept upward for the third straight month, a sign that the pace of growth has been weakening since the start of 2015.

The New York-based Conference Board said Friday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in March, after gains of 0.1 percent in February and 0.2 percent in January.

Building permits were the weakest part of the index, while slowdowns in average working hours and new factory orders have also been in a drag over the past six months.

___

China regulator clamps down on borrowing to buy stocks

BEIJING (AP) -- China's securities regulator is tightening control over lending to small stock investors in an attempt to cool an overheated stock market.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission has banned a type of financing called an umbrella trust, tightened control over other financing and told brokerages to limit potential risks, the commission said in a statement Friday.

___

Transportation officials issue oil train safety measures

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An emergency order requiring trains hauling crude oil and other flammable liquids to slow down as they pass through urban areas and a series of other steps to improve the safety were announced Friday by the Department of Transportation.

The Obama administration has been under intense pressure from members of Congress as well as state and local officials to ensure the safety of oil trains that traverse the country after leaving the Bakken region of North Dakota. To get to refineries on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, oil shipments travel through more than 400 counties, including major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Newark and dozens of other cities.

___

Barbie shows signs of life as Mattel plots comeback

NEW YORK (AP) -- Things are finally looking up for Barbie.

Mattel, the toy company behind the plastic dolls, said there were some signs of improving demand for Barbie ahead of its planned makeover of the brand, including Barbie dolls with different skin tones, eye colors and nose shapes to better relate to multicultural girls and their mothers.

The El Segundo, California, company also reported better-than expected financial results for the first quarter and its shares rose more than 5 percent on Friday.

___

Mylan skeptical of rumored Teva bid; hasn't received offer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Generic drugmaker Mylan, citing media speculation that Teva Pharmaceutical may be eyeing it as a takeover target, says it doubts that regulators would approve such a deal and says it is committed to its current strategy as a stand-alone company.

In a news release Friday, Mylan said that it hasn't received an offer and described the idea that Teva might want to buy it as a rumor.

The Dutch company said anti-trust regulators probably wouldn't approve a deal between Mylan and Teva because their businesses overlap in major ways. It said it would thoroughly examine an offer if it received one.

___

Bloomberg blames 'internal network issue' for global outage

LONDON (AP) -- Bloomberg LP's trading terminals, which are used by most of the world's biggest financial firms, went down for a few hours Friday due to apparent technical problems, a crash that prompted the British government to postpone a planned 3 billion-pound ($4.4 billion) debt issue.

Users said the outage started as trading was about to get in full swing around 8 a.m. in London, which along with New York is one of the world's largest financial centers, particularly in foreign exchange and bond markets. When trading began in the U.S. a few hours later, most customers were up and running. But for most, at least two and a half hours were lost.

___

Interior seeks feedback on fees for drilling on federal land

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration took a first step Friday toward a possible increase in fees charged for oil and gas companies to drill on federal lands.

The Bureau of Land Management issued a notice seeking public comment on whether regulations are needed to give the government more flexibility in setting its fees.

Government auditors have consistently questioned whether the 12.5 percent royalty now being charged is too low. But a low royalty rate also encourages oil and gas exploration, and any increase would likely raise protests from industry and others that it will lessen production and increase prices at the pump.

___

Glaxo recalls flu vaccine due to potency problem

WASHINGTON (AP) -- GlaxoSmithKline is recalling remaining doses of a popular four-in-one flu vaccine because of effectiveness problems.

The company alerted U.S. customers Tuesday that the vaccine can lose potency over time and fail to adequately protect against some strains of the flu. The Flulaval Quadrivalent Thimerosal-free vaccine in prefilled syringes is designed to protect against four strains of influenza virus.

___

US senator says it's time to put a woman on the $20 bill

CONCORD, New Hampshire (AP) -- The first woman to serve as both governor and U.S. senator is backing a campaign to put a female face on the $20 bill.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen filed legislation this week that would create a citizens panel to recommend an appropriate choice to the treasury secretary. She is hoping to build on the work of Women on 20s, a national campaign pushing for new $20 bills by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

___

Verizon slices up the bundle, lets customers choose

NEW YORK (AP) -- Under pressure from an expanding number of cheaper online video services, the long-dominant bundle of channels offered by pay-TV companies is becoming a bit more flexible.

Verizon said Friday that it would let customers pick groups of channels that interest them, a plan that is separate from the traditional bundle that has been offered to customers for years.

___

By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 279.47 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,826.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 23.81 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,081.18. The Nasdaq composite slid 75.98 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,931.81.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 97 cents to close at $55.74 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude finished up 8 percent for the week, however. Brent crude fell 53 cents to close at $63.45 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to close at $1.930 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.6 cents to close at $1.882 a gallon. Natural gas rose 0.5 cent to close at $2.634 per 1,000 cubic feet.

View Comments (145)