Dow average gains, holds on to 15,000 level
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average is set to open the day's trading above 15,000. It breached the landmark level for the first time Tuesday and climbed again on Wednesday. Investors are hoping the blue-chip index continues its advance today.
The Dow closed up about 49 points, or 0.3 percent, at 15,105 yesterday. The index is 15.3 percent higher for the year. The S&P 500 index was nearly 7 points higher, or 0.4 percent, at 1,632, extending its advance for 2013 to 14.5 percent.
In other trading, the Nasdaq composite gained 16 ½ points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,413. And the Russell 2000, an index of smaller stocks, rose 2 ½ points, or 0.3 percent, to 970.41.
Asia stocks mixed after China inflation report
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed today as investors weighed an interest rate cut in South Korea against rising inflation in China.
In announcing that it was lowering the rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.5 percent, the Bank of Korea became the latest central bank to take steps to boost flagging economic growth.
The Chinese government issued a report showing that inflation rose slightly in April, which could temper any stimulus response by Beijing to China's shaky economic recovery. The rise was driven by a 4 percent gain in food costs.
Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $96 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.
Greek finance minister: Economic recovery in sight
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's finance minister says he believes Greece's battered economy will begin to recover starting next year, with the country's massive unemployment rate starting to fall from the end of 2014 onwards.
Speaking in an interview broadcast Thursday morning on state-run NET television, Yannis Stournaras said the government's aim was to achieve a primary surplus — a surplus without taking into account interest payments on outstanding debt — by the end of this year.
Stournaras says this would allow the country to ask its international creditors for some further debt relief.
Greece has been relying on billions of euros in international rescue loans since mid-2010 after excessive debt and a huge budget deficit left it facing imminent bankruptcy.
China's April inflation rises to 2.4 percent
BEIJING (AP) — China's inflation rose slightly in April amid concern about the strength of its economic recovery.
The government reported Thursday that consumer prices rose 2.4 percent over a year earlier, accelerating from March's 2.1 percent gain. That still is well below the government's target of 3.5 percent for the year.
Inflation is forecast to rise gradually as a shaky economic recovery boosts consumer demand. But mixed signals about factory activity, which slowed in April, and doubts about the strength of trade have raised questions about whether the recovery is gaining traction.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic news set for release today
UNDATED (AP) — Investors will be looking to the weekly unemployment figures this morning to get a reading on how well the labor force is faring. A Commerce Department report on wholesale trade inventories for March could also give investors some insight into the nation's economic activity.
Also today, mortgage giant Freddie Mac will report on the weekly mortgage rates.
In corporate news, selected chain retailers will release April sales comparisons. And Japanese electronics maker Sony will reports quarterly financial results.
Obama pressed to do more on jobs, stagnant wages
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's slowly improving jobs picture hides problems like stagnant wages and fewer working hours that strike directly at President Barack Obama's base of support — young people, racial minorities and the less affluent.
As the president launches a new focus on jobs, his traditional allies contend that Obama has put too much of an emphasis on a deficit-cutting grand bargain with Republicans at the expense of creating jobs.
New college graduates face a downbeat labor market. The unemployment rate for workers under age 25 with at least a bachelor's degree has averaged 8.2 percent, compared to 5.4 percent in 2007.
A new study found that nearly 2 million private-sector employees paid with taxpayer dollars earn wages too low to support a family.
PAID SICK LEAVE
NYC Council OKs sick days plan, seen as key step
NEW YORK (AP) — A plan to make businesses give workers paid sick time has passed the New York City Council. The vote is seen as a big step in a national push for the benefit.
Lawmakers voted Wednesday to require paid sick leave for an estimated 1 million workers who don't have it now. About 300,000 more would get unpaid sick time, so they couldn't be fired for staying home when ill. It wouldn't take effect for a year.
A mayoral veto is expected, but so is an override.
Advocates see the measure as a watershed. The city would be the most populous place to approve such a law.
Critics fear it could burden small businesses. Opponents also say government should let employees and businesses set their own sick time arrangements.
RealtyTrac: US home repossessions fell in April
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new report says fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were repossessed by lenders last month, the latest indication that the nation's foreclosure woes are waning.
Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac says home repossessions nationally fell 20 percent in April from the previous month and were down 32 percent from a year earlier.
RealtyTrac says foreclosure starts, the initial step in the process that can eventually lead to a home being foreclosed upon, dipped 4 percent last month from March and tumbled 28 percent from April last year.
Even so, homes scheduled for auction in states where the courts play a role in the foreclosure process hit the highest level in more than two years.
Most homes lined up for public auction end up going back to lenders, which opens the door for the properties to be placed on the market as sharply discounted foreclosed homes.
Still, according to Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac, the prospect that a flurry of those homes set for auction last month will end up on the market is good news for the housing market.
JPMorgan received 'Wells-type' notice
NEW YORK (AP) — JPMorgan says federal energy regulators are investigating some of its bidding practices in power markets.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase & Co. says it received a "Wells-type" notice from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March.
FERC said it may bring action against J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and some of its personnel.
JPMorgan says the agency concluded that its J.P. Morgan Energy Ventures unit had submitted misleading information in response to a FERC investigation.
News Corp 3Q beats Street on pay TV, 'Pi'
LOS ANGELES (AP) — News Corp. beat Wall Street's forecast for the January-March quarter, helped by growing revenue from pay TV networks including Fox News Channel and FX, and the hit 20th Century Fox movie "Life of Pi."
The company controlled by billionaire Rupert Murdoch also benefited from raising its stake in satellite TV company Sky Deutschland. It now holds a majority stake.
Net income jumped to $2.85 billion, or $1.22 per share, from $937 million, or 38 cents per share, a year ago.
Excluding items such as the one-time $2.1 billion profit related to Sky Deutschland, adjusted earnings came to 36 cents per share, a penny better than expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.
Revenue rose 14 percent to $9.54 billion, also better than the $9.14 billion expected by analysts.
MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT FIX
Fed announces mistakes made in mortgage settlement
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says some 96,000 borrowers who received checks to compensate them for wrongful foreclosures on their mortgages will be getting an additional check to correct for errors in the initial payment.
The Fed said the affected borrowers received initial compensation amounts that were too low because of errors made by Rust Consulting, the company handling the payments.
The new checks will make up the difference between the amounts that should have been paid and the lower amount paid by Rust. Borrowers are being told to cash both the original check and the new checks, which will be mailed around May 17. The borrowers affected had loans serviced by former subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Wrigley halts caffeinated gum
WASHINGTON (AP) — Wrigley says it is taking a new caffeinated gum off the market temporarily as the Food and Drug Administration investigates the safety of added caffeine.
The company said Wednesday that it has stopped new sales and marketing of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum "out of respect" for the agency.
The FDA said it would investigate added caffeine in foods just as Wrigley rolled out Alert late last month. A stick of the gum is equivalent to half a cup of coffee.
Wrigley North America President Casey Keller said in a statement to The Associated Press that the company now has a greater appreciation for the FDA's concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply. He said the company has "paused" production and sales of the gum.
49ers reach stadium naming rights deal with Levi's
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers and Levi Strauss & Co have reached an agreement for a $220 million, 20-year naming rights deal for the team's future stadium in Santa Clara.
Levi's CEO Chip Bergh and 49ers CEO Jed York announced the deal Wednesday at Levi's Plaza in San Francisco. While the stadium will be in the heart of technology-rich Silicon Valley, the San Francisco-based apparel company will hold the name: Levi's Stadium.
The upcoming season will be the 49ers' last at historic Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The team is planning to move to the new $1.2 billion stadium, about 45 miles south in Santa Clara and adjacent to the 49ers practice facility, for the 2014 season.
The 49ers are bidding for the Super Bowl in 2016 and 2017 with hopes of landing one.