Update on the latest in business:


Associated Press

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 3:02 AM


Stocks gain for sixth day on strong jobs growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is beginning the week on a very optimistic note.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67 ½ points to close at 14,397 on Friday, logging a sixth straight increase.

The S&P 500 rose 7 points to 1,551 and the Nasdaq composite advanced 12 points.

The rally continued after the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs in February and the jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January.

The strong job growth signals that employers are confident about the economy despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.

Optimism that hiring is picking up has been one of the factors bolstering the stock market this year. Stocks have also gained on evidence the housing market is recovering and company earnings are growing.

Stocks have also been boosted by continuing economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve.


Asia stocks rise after strong US jobs report

BANGKOK (AP) — A strong U.S. jobs report helped propel Asian stock markets higher today.

The U.S. government reported that the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January and that employers added far more jobs in February than expected, despite higher taxes and cuts in government spending.

The good news overshadowed a credit downgrade slapped on Italy by Fitch Ratings Agency on Friday. Fitch said the country's inconclusive election that left no party in clear control of the government harmed the chances of Italy moving ahead with economic reforms.

Benchmark crude oil fell and remained under $92 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro but rose against the yen.


Business events scheduled for this week

WASHINGTON — There are no major economic reports due out today but the government releases some data tomorrow.

Among the reports scheduled for release on Tuesday are the Labor Department's January survey on job openings and labor turnover and Treasury's federal budget for February.

Also Tuesday, The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Richard Cordray to lead the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.


AP source: Obama poised to pick Perez for Labor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two people familiar with the White House deliberations say President Barack Obama is poised to select Justice Department official Thomas Perez as the next labor secretary.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement has not yet been made.

Perez is head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and previously served as Maryland's labor secretary. He is expected to have solid support from organized labor and the Hispanic community, which is eager to have Hispanic representation in Obama's cabinet.

Perez was the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland, where he served from 2002 to 2006.

If confirmed, he would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January to return to her native California.

The White House declined to comment.


US gas prices drop 6 cents over past 2 weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of a gallon of gasoline has dropped six cents over the past two weeks. It's the first decrease in gas prices since late December.

The Lundberg Survey of fuel prices reports the price of a gallon of regular is $3.74. Midgrade costs an average of $3.91 a gallon, and premium is $4.04.

Diesel was down four cents to $4.13 gallon.

Of the cities surveyed in the lower 48 states, Billings, Mont., has the nation's lowest average price for gas at $3.31. Los Angeles has the highest at $4.23.


China issues plan to streamline government

BEIJING (AP) — China is issuing a plan to streamline government ministries, doing away with the powerful Railways Ministry, creating a super-agency to regulate the media and realigning other bureaucracies in a bid to boost efficiency.

The plan introduced Sunday to the rubber-stamp national legislature is being pushed by the newly installed Communist Party leadership and reflects its priorities to reduce waste and address quality of life issues for a more prosperous, demanding society.

Among the changes, the corruption-plagued Railways Ministry will be split, its regulatory responsibilities going to the Transport Ministry and its operations to a commercial entity. The food and drug agency will see a boost in authority, and two censorship arms, one of broadcasters and one for print media, will be merged.


Stringer leaving Sony in June, hands over to Hirai

TOKYO (AP) — Howard Stringer, who fought to bring a divided and struggling Sony Corp. together as the Japanese electronics and entertainment company's first foreign president, is retiring as chairman in June.

He announced his departure in New York in a speech at the Japan Society Friday. That was confirmed by Tokyo-based Sony Sunday.

Stringer, a Welsh-born American, became president in 2005, when the once glorious maker behind the Walkman portable music player first started getting seriously slammed by the flashier Apple Inc. and cheaper nimbler Samsung Electronics Co.

Stringer said he was ready to retire after having handed over the helm to Kazuo Hirai last year, who was leading Sony well.

Stringer said he will do charity work in education and medicine, and continue chairing the American Film Institute.


Congress wants role as Obama pushes trade agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is embarking on an aggressive trade agenda that could lower barriers and increase exports to Asia and Europe. To make that a reality, though, it may first have to negotiate a little closer to home — with Congress.

The administration hopes to wrap up talks by October on the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would reduce duties on a wide range of goods and services in the world's most vibrant trading area.

President Barack Obama has also announced plans to initiate free trade talks between the United States and the European Union, the world's two largest economies.

But first, he must persuade Congress to agree not to change terms of treaties once negotiators have agreed on them. Lawmakers could still reject the pacts.


Budget cuts force military jets to drop air shows

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Deep budget cuts in Washington mean military flight teams will likely be no-shows at air shows across the U.S. starting this spring, leaving dozens of host cities bracing for thinner crowds and lost tourism dollars.

When $85 billion in automatic cuts kicked in March 1, the Air Force canceled shows at bases from Florida to Arizona and grounded its formation-flying pilots, the Thunderbirds. The Army's Golden Knights parachute team also canceled performances. The Navy's famous Blue Angels said only that military commanders intend to cancel their April shows, though nothing is officially canceled yet.

John Cudahy of the International Council of Air Shows says at least 150 U.S. air shows each year count on military performers. Without them, he estimates up to a third of the shows might cancel altogether.


EA apologizes for 'SimCity' launch woes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The creators of "SimCity" are hoping players don't move on after connectivity issues plagued the game's launch last week.

The updated entry in the 24-year-old metropolis-building franchise released last Tuesday requires players to be online — even if they're constructing virtual cities in the single-player mode. Several gamers weren't able to log on after "SimCity" launched, prompting some retailers to stop selling the Electronic Arts Inc. game.

Lucy Bradshaw, general manager at "SimCity" developer Maxis, said more people logged on than the developers anticipated and they've been increasing server capacity since the snafu.

Bradshaw said EA would give players a free PC game to compensate for the hassles. Players who registered copies of "SimCity" will receive details on how to download the free game March 18.


Maine lobster fishery certified as sustainable

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An international organization that certifies fisheries as being sustainably run has given its seal of approval to the Maine lobster fishery.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced Sunday that the London-based Marine Stewardship Council has designated the fishery as meeting its standards for responsible fishing practices. The announcement was made at the annual International Boston Seafood Show.

Shucks Maine Lobster President John Hathaway says the designation allows the industry to market itself as sustainably run and differentiate itself from the Canadian lobster fishery. Fisheries that make the cut can use the MSC's ecolabel, a seal that assures consumers that the seafood was not overfished or harvested in a way that harms the ocean.

The Marine Stewardship Council has certified nearly 200 fisheries.


Disney's 'Oz' bewitches box office with $80M debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Oz the Great and Powerful" clicked with moviegoers.

Disney's 3-D prequel to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" earned $80.3 million and debuted at No. 1 at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. "Oz" reportedly cost $200 million with another $100 million in estimated marketing costs. The film stars James Franco as the wizard and Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz as the three witches he encounters in the mystical realm of Oz.

The Warner Bros. 3-D action extravaganza "Jack the Giant Slayer" stomped out second place with $10 million.

The Universal comedy "Identity Thief" captured $6.3 million at No. 3.

The FilmDistrict revenge drama "Dead Man Down" starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace opened in the No. 4 position with $5.43 million.