Stocks edge higher after encouraging jobs reports
NEW YORK (AP) — There's more evidence of an improving job market and that helped lift the stock market yesterday.
A pair of employment reports also boosted the yield on 10-year Treasury notes to 3 percent, the highest level since July 2011.
On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that the four-week average of applications for unemployment benefits fell in the past month to its lowest point since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession officially began.
Also, a survey from the payroll company ADP showed that American businesses added 176,000 jobs in August, fewer than in June and July but roughly in line with the monthly average for the year.
The encouraging news came one day before the government releases its closely watched report on job growth for August. Many investors believe strong growth will ensure that the Federal Reserve will start to reduce, or "taper," its bond-buying program later this month.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6 1/2 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 14,937 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,655. The Nasdaq composite gained nearly 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,658.
Asia stocks tentative ahead of US jobs report
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets have been tentative ahead of the U.S. government's monthly jobs report.
Jitters remain over Syria's civil war and whether the U.S. will launch a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad's regime for an alleged chemical attack against civilians in suburban Damascus last month.
Meanwhile, signs of a strengthening U.S. labor market are adding to hopes that the recovery of the global economy is gaining traction.
Japan's Nikkei fell on profit-taking after four sessions of gains. The benchmark index was down 1.4 percent to 13,868.82. Other key indexes in South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong and Shanghai were all up 0.2 - 0.4 percent.
Oil prices were down slightly in Friday trading. Benchmark oil for October delivery gained $1.14 Thursday, settling at $108.37.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic events scheduled for today:
WASHINGTON — Wall Street traders will be focused today on the Labor Department's August employment data.
Analysts predict a solid gain of 177,000 jobs for August, just below this year's monthly average of 192,000. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.4 percent.
The August employment report will be the most significant economic data to be released before the Federal Reserve meets Sept. 17-18. Many economists expect the Fed to decide then to slow its monthly bond purchases.
Also, there will be some news from Europe. The G20 global economic summit closes today in St. Petersburg, Russia.
China's yuan joins world's most traded currencies
HONG KONG (AP) — A report says China's currency, the yuan, has joined the ranks of the world's most traded currencies for the first time.
The Bank for International Settlements said in a report Thursday that the yuan became one of the top 10 traded currencies, driven by a big rise in offshore trading.
The rise of the yuan in foreign exchange markets highlights the growing power of China's economy, the world's second largest.
Turnover in trades involving yuan surged to $120 billion a day on average in 2013 from $34 billion in 2010, when the last survey was done. Still, that figure is dwarfed by the dollar, euro and yen.
China's leaders want the yuan, which is not yet fully convertible, to become an international currency and have been promoting its use.
MGM Resorts ordered to rehire whistleblower
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is ordering MGM Resorts International to rehire a whistleblower and pay $325,000 in restitution.
OSHA says the MGM condominium subsidiary the Signature at MGM Grand fired the employee for speaking up about co-workers allegedly violating Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
The employee told a supervisor that colleagues were forecasting to potential buyers, telling them about expected revenue and occupancy rates, even though they were not licensed to do so.
MGM has the option of appealing the decision, but will still need to immediately offer to rehire the employee and make the $325,000 payment.
Ken Atha, OSHA administrator in San Francisco, said on Thursday that the decision reaffirms the right of employees to report SEC violations.
VW letter to Tenn. workers confirms talks with UAW
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Volkswagen managers are confirming in a letter to employees that the automaker is in talks with the United Auto Workers about establishing a German-style "works council" at its Tennessee assembly plant.
The letter is signed by the plant's chairman and CEO, Frank Fischer, and by Sebastian Patta, the facility's vice president for human resources. It was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The managers acknowledge in the letter that questions about labor representation at the plant are a matter of "lively discussion."
The company states in the letter that it's engaged in talks with the UAW because in the United States a works council can only be established through an established trade union. Some experts and Republican elected officials, such as Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, have disputed whether that's a requirement.
GULF OIL SPILL-TRIAL
BP, feds offer dueling Gulf spill estimates
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Less than a month before a high-stakes trial resumes, BP and the federal government have offered conflicting estimates of how much oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the blowout of the company's Macondo well triggered a deadly explosion.
In a court filing Thursday, BP urges U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to use an estimate of 2.45 million barrels, or nearly 103 million gallons, in determining how much oil spilled into the Gulf in 2010 and calculating any Clean Water Act fines.
Justice Department experts estimate that around 4.2 million barrels, or approximately 176 million gallons, spilled into the water.
The second phase of a trial designed to determine how much more money London-based BP PLC and its contractors owe for the 2010 disaster is scheduled to start on Sept. 30.
SKorea bans fishery products from Fukushima region
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea is banning all fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region because of what it calls growing public worry over radiation contamination that has reportedly prompted a sharp decline in fish consumption.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a statement Friday that it made the move because of insufficient information from Tokyo about what will happen in the future with contaminated water leaking from the a crippled nuclear plant into the Pacific.
Seoul imposed a partial ban on Japanese fish following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a meltdown at the Fukushima plant. All fishery products from Fukushima and seven other nearby prefectures are now banned.
Scientists have found high levels of radioactive cesium in fish near the plant. Fisheries off Fukushima are closed.
ART IN THE WORKPLACE
Corporations do more to put art on public display
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Corporate art buying in North American has fallen off since the boom days of the 1970s and 1980s. But even as the economy improves, some companies are buying less art but doing more to put their works out for the public to enjoy.
According to the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, there are about 1,500 corporations in the world with art collections.
The directory's editor, Shirley Reiff Howarth, says that since 2000, the percentage of collections listed as "ongoing," or still being added to, has dropped from 55 percent to about 40 percent. But while the volume of buying has gone down, educational programs have increased.
She says collections being are used for more than simply enhancing the walls of the company and its image.
Former Sen John Ensign opens Vegas animal hospital
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two years after resigning from Congress amid an ethics probe involving his extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer, former U.S. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada is opening a luxury animal hospital in Las Vegas.
Ensign, who was a veterinarian before he became a politician, is launching the Boca Park Animal Hospital today.
His website touts his history of fighting animal cruelty and supporting the Humane Society in Congress.
The 10-year congressman opened two Las Vegas animal hospitals before entering the Senate in 2001.
He says he spent the six months after his resignation getting up to speed on current veterinary practices and volunteering with Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, a Las Vegas nonprofit that offers a low-cost spay and neuter clinic.
The two-term Republican senator resigned from office in May 2011 as the Senate Ethics Committee was finalizing a report that said there was evidence he had broken laws. But the Justice Department did not pursue criminal charges against him.