Update on the latest business

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Associated Press

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 4:02 AM

WALL STREET

Stocks rise on hopeful signs for the US economy

NEW YORK (AP) — Many forces have been feeding Wall Street's rally — record corporate earnings, small investors finally buying again, signs the U.S. economy may be strengthening, central banks flooding the financial system with money. But one of the biggest, and least appreciated, reasons for the rally has been buybacks.

Flush with cash and a world of opportunity at their doorstep, companies have been offering big money to buy back their own stock. The market research firm to Birinyi Associates calculates that big U.S. companies have given the go-ahead for $286 billion of buybacks this year, up 88 percent from the same period last year.

However, the buybacks obscure the fact that nearly every other big player in the stock market, including pension funds, local and state governments and investment brokerages have been selling more than they've been buying.

Last week ended with another surge upward. The Dow rose 121 points to close at 15,354. The S&P 500 climbed 17 points to 1,667, and the Nasdaq added 33 points to 3,499.

WORLD MARKETS

Asian stocks rise on signs of steady US recovery

BANGKOK (AP) — Evidence of a steady economic recovery in the U.S. helped push Asian stock markets higher today.

A gauge of future economic activity issued Friday rose more than expected, a sign that the world's biggest economy is improving. Consumer confidence also rose, offsetting several lackluster reports on slowing manufacturing and an increase in applications for unemployment benefits.

Investors will have a slew of data to sift through this week.

Benchmark crude oil fell below $96 a barrel. The dollar fell agains the euro and the yen.

ECONOMY-THE WEEK AHEAD

Business events and economic reports scheduled for the coming week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fresh reports on the housing market highlight a relatively week for economic data.

The National Association of Realtors releases its report on existing home sales on Wednesday, while the Commerce Department has numbers on new home sales on Thursday. Both reports are for April.

Eyes will be on the Federal Reserve and its chairman on Wednesday. The Fed releases minutes from its April interest-rate meeting and Ben Bernanke testifies about the economy before the Joint Economic Committee.

Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims as usual on Thursday, while Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

On Friday, the Commerce Department is out with its April numbers on durable goods orders.

BUSINESS ECONOMISTS SURVEY

Economists predict increase in consumer spending

Consumer spending is likely to pick up this year while government spending declines at a faster rate, according to a survey of business economists.

The economists predict that the U.S. economy will grow 2.4 percent this year and 3 percent next year. That's unchanged from their forecast in February.

But they are more bullish on consumer spending and the housing market than they were three months ago. That partly reflects a more positive view on unemployment.

The survey was released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.

UNITED AIRLINES-787

United to restart 787 flights on Monday

UNDATED (AP) — An embarrassing episode for Boeing is coming to an end as its newest airliner, the 787, returns to service.

The planes are returning after being grounded for four months by the federal government because of smoldering batteries on 787s owned by other airlines. The incidents included an emergency landing of one plane, and a fire on another. The incidents never caused any serious injuries.

The company had delivered 50 of the planes worldwide.

The grounding forced United Airlines to delay planned international flights and hurt its first-quarter earnings by $11 million. Others, including Japan Airlines and South America's LATAM Airlines Group, also said profits were reduced. LATAM said it still had to make payments on the plane and pay for crews and maintenance. It expects to resume flying soon.

United's first 787 flight is scheduled for 11 a.m. from Houston to Chicago. United says it saw strong demand for the flight.

YAHOO EVENT

Report: Yahoo nearing $1.1B acquisition of Tumblr

NEW YORK (AP) — Yahoo may be on the verge of closing its biggest acquisition under CEO Marissa Mayer, as she tries to attract more traffic and advertising to the Internet company's website.

The technology news site All Things D is reporting that Yahoo's board will meet Sunday night to consider whether to approve a proposed $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, a popular online service for sharing stories, photos and other content.

The report from All Things D cited anonymous sources.

If Yahoo's board signs off on the deal, it could be announced Monday.

In an invitation sent Friday, Yahoo Inc. promised to unveil "something special" Monday evening in New York. The event is being held in a Times Squares lounge located about two miles away from Tumblr's headquarters.

Mayer will be there to make the announcement.

PEW SURVEY-RETIREMENT

Pew survey questions Gen X, baby boomer savings

NEW YORK (AP) — A research report by the Pew Charitable Trusts says younger baby boomers and Generation Xers face an uncertain retirement because of reduced savings, high levels of debt, and losses during the Great Recession.

The study found that members of Generation X, who are now between 38 and 47 years old, lost almost half their wealth between 2007 and 2010. Young baby boomers, who are between 48 and 57, lost more money but a smaller portion of their overall wealth.

The report says both of those groups are struggling to save enough money for retirement and are lagging older groups in terms of their savings. They also hold more debt than those groups did at similar points in their lives.

RETAILERS-BANGLADESH

Groups divided on Bangladesh safety overhauls

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation's largest retail industry organization is firing back Friday, saying that a legally binding global pact to make Bangladesh clothing factories safer would expose merchants to undue legal exposure.

The move comes as U.S. retailers face increasing pressure from a large coalition of religious groups and investors who are calling on them to work together to develop a plan.

More than 30 brands including Swedish retailer H&M, Benetton, and French retailer Carrefour have signed on to the 5-year agreement that requires them to help pay for fire safety and building improvements in Bangladesh.

But only two U.S. companies have signed on so far: PVH Corp., the New York-based parent company of Tommy Hilfiger, and Abercrombie & Fitch of New Albany, Ohio.

BERNANKE-TECHNOLOGY

Bernanke forecasts gains from computer technology

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says pessimists who are forecasting that the economy will not reap sizable benefits from the computer revolution are likely to be proven wrong.

Bernanke told a college graduating class Saturday that the long-range practical consequences of innovations such as faster computers and the Internet are hard to predict. But he said inventors have only scratched the surface of the commercial applications that can be obtained in such fields as medicine and clean energy.

Bernanke's remarks came in a commencement address at Bard College at Simon's Rock, a small liberal arts college in Great Barrington, Mass. Bernanke's son Joel graduated from the school in 2006.

The Fed chairman did not make any comments about interest rates in his speech.

SHELL-ARCTIC DRILL SHIP

Coast Guard to take testimony on Shell grounding

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Circumstances surrounding the grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill barge off a remote Alaska island will be explored in a public hearing in Anchorage.

The Coast Guard says a marine casualty investigation into the grounding of the Kulluk (CUL'-uk) will begin at noon Monday at the Loussac (LOO'-sak) Library and could last two weeks.

The Kulluk in late December was under tow and bound from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to a Seattle shipyard. It ran into rough Gulf of Alaska water.

It lost the connection to its towing vessel and ran aground off Sitkalidak (sit-kah-LEE-dak) Island on New Year's Eve.

Salvors floated the barge six days later, but damage to the ship played a role in Shell's decision not to drill in Arctic waters in 2013.

GAS PRICES

US gas prices up 11 cents over past 2 weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped 11 cents over the past two weeks.

The Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday says the price of a gallon of regular is $3.66. Midgrade costs an average of $3.84 a gallon, and premium is $3.98.

Diesel held steady at $3.93 gallon.

Of the cities surveyed in the lower 48 states, Tucson, Ariz., has the nation's lowest average price for gas at $3.18. Minneapolis has the highest at $4.27.

Sound: upcoming

BOX OFFICE

'Trek' does $70.6M but falls short of studio hopes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Star Trek: Into Darkness" has warped its way to a $70.6 million domestic launch from Friday to Sunday, though it's not setting any light-speed records with a debut that's lower than the studio's expectations.

The latest voyage of the starship Enterprise fell short of its predecessor, 2009's "Star Trek," which opened with $75.2 million.

Since premiering Wednesday in huge-screen IMAX theaters and expanding Thursday to general cinemas, "Into Darkness" has pulled in $84.1 million, well below distributor Paramount's initial forecast of $100 million. The film has added $80.5 million overseas.

The "Star Trek" sequel bumped "Iron Man 3" down to second-place after two weekends on top. Robert Downey Jr.'s superhero saga took in $35.2 million domestically and $40.2 million overseas, shooting its worldwide total to nearly $1.1 billion.

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