Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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Feds seek to manage Takata air bag recall, speed up repairs

DETROIT (AP) -- Exploding air bags made by Takata Corp. are so dangerous that U.S. safety regulators want to manage a massive recall so cars can be fixed faster.

On Tuesday, Takata doubled the size of its recall to 33.8 million air bags, making it the largest recall in U.S. history. The air bags can inflate with too much force, sending metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers. So far the problem has caused six deaths, including five in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in paperwork posted Thursday, says the recall involving 11 manufacturers has created a patchwork of solutions that may not fix the problem quickly enough. The agency, for the first time in its history, has started the legal process asking for input on how it can control production, delivery and installation of replacement air bag inflators.

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CVS paying $10.4B in cash for drug distributor Omnicare

CVS Health will pay more than $10 billion for pharmaceutical distributor Omnicare in a deal primed to feed its fast-growing specialty drug business and tap a lucrative and growing market: care for the elderly.

The acquisition announced Thursday will give one of the biggest U.S. pharmacy benefits managers national reach in dispensing prescription drugs to assisted living and skilled nursing homes, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other care providers. Omnicare's long-term care business operates in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

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Renters appear more satisfied in many pricey US cities

WASHINGTON (AP) -- High rents are worth it.

At least that's the sentiment of apartment dwellers in New York, San Francisco and Washington, who say they're more satisfied living in those cities than do renters in far more affordable areas such as Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Detroit.

The finding comes from a survey released Thursday by Apartment List, a San Francisco-based company that helps renters find homes. It dovetails with other evidence that people are spending more on rent yet avoiding home ownership given the high cost of a down payment.

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McDonald's CEO 'proud' of pay hike; protesters want more

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said Thursday he was "incredibly proud" of a decision to bump pay for some workers, even after protesters called on the company to do more outside its annual shareholder meeting.

Easterbrook, who stepped into his role in March, is fighting to revive sluggish sales and convince people that McDonald's is a "modern, progressive burger company." But the push comes at a time when protests for pay of $15 an hour and a union have been spreading around the country.

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Mideast youth unemployment rises amid post-Arab Spring chaos

KITTEH, Jordan (AP) -- Fawziyeh Sharif and dozens of other young women who make jeans for the U.S. market in a factory in this village in northern Jordan consider themselves lucky — even though they spend 48 hours a week bent over sewing machines for minimum wage.

Sharif, 24, landed her first-ever job when the Ivory Garments Factory opened last year and created employment in an area where options had largely been limited to men joining the army and women staying home. Sharif said the job boosted her confidence and that she hopes to work her way up to section supervisor.

Yet for millions of young people in the Middle East and North Africa, jobs remain out of reach and the problem has only worsened in the post-Arab Spring turmoil. Regional youth unemployment stands at 29.5 percent, the world's highest rate.

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US home sales slide in April amid listing shortage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing U.S. homes slipped in April due mainly to relatively few listings and rising prices, providing evidence of the housing sector's uneven recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million. April marked the second straight month of the sales rate topping 5 million homes. Purchases have recovered from a disappointing 2014 because strong job growth and low mortgage rates have generated more would-be buyers.

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Applications for US jobless aid up, but from very low level

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, though the number of applications remains at a historically low level that is consistent with a healthy job market.

Weekly applications increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell to a fresh 15-year low of 266,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low readings indicate that most employees have solid job security. Businesses also appear to be confident enough in the economy to keep their workers.

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Manufacturing in Philly area grew at a slower pace in May

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Manufacturing growth in the Philadelphia region slowed a bit in May, one of several recent signs the U.S. economy is barely improving after an anemic start to the year.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Thursday that its index of factory activity slipped to 6.7 in May from 7.5 the previous month. Any reading above zero indicates that manufacturing is expanding.

Still, the index has been stuck in single digits for the first five months of this year. That compares with a recent high of 40.2 in November.

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Gauge of US economy jumps 0.7 percent in April

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An index designed to predict the future health of the economy rose in April by the largest amount in nine months, a sign that the economy is beginning to accelerate from a sharp slowdown during the winter.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.7 percent last month, the biggest advance since a 1 percent rise last July. The March increase was also revised up to show a 0.4 percent gain, better than the initial 0.2 percent estimate. Those two gains followed a decline of 0.2 percent in February.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage slips to 3.84 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged slightly lower this week after rising for three straight weeks.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked down to 3.84 percent this week from 3.85 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages slipped to 3.05 percent from 3.07 percent.

Last week both rates reached their highest level since mid-March, rising along with the yield on 10-year Treasury notes — reflecting some signs of improvement in the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate dropped last month to 5.4 percent, the lowest since May 2008.

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Whites moving to Detroit, city that epitomized white flight

DETROIT (AP) -- Whites are moving back to the American city that came to epitomize white flight, even as blacks continue to leave for the suburbs and the city's overall population shrinks.

Detroit is the latest major city to see an influx of whites who may not find the suburbs as alluring as their parents and grandparents did in the last half of the 20th century. Unlike New York, San Francisco and many other cities that have seen the demographic shift, though, it is cheap housing and incentive programs that are partly fueling the regrowth of the Motor City's white population.

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Gap's 1Q profit down 8 percent on currency fluctuations

NEW YORK (AP) -- Gap Inc. reported an 8 percent decline in its first-quarter profit, as results were hurt by currency fluctuations and persistent sluggish sales at its Gap and Banana Republic stores.

The San Francisco-based company, however, stuck with its annual profit outlook

Gap is among the companies struggling with the impact of the strong dollar as sales in foreign currencies are worth less once they are translated back into the U.S dollars. But the retailer is also grappling with uneven performance of its brands. The company's Old Navy brand has been a bright spot, while it's trying to turn around weak business at Banana Republic and Gap.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.34 of a point to 18,285.74. The S&P 500 closed up 4.97 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,130.82. The Nasdaq composite rose 19.05 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,090.79.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.74 to close at $60.72 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.51 to close at $66.54 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 4.1 cents to close at $2.082 a gallon. Heating oil rose 4 cents to close at $1.986 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.4 cents to close at $2.949 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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