BUSINESS

Business Highlights

05/13/2015 06:06 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT
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RX for Baltimore economy: More residents with money to spend

BALTIMORE (AP) — The fragility of Baltimore's economy was exposed by Freddie Gray's death from a spinal injury suffered while in police custody.

The tragedy unleashed protests, looting and a widespread recognition that Baltimore's poor have long lacked job opportunities. But it also revealed the easily overlooked absence of a stable upper-middle class, the same group that has revitalized cities such as New York and Washington. Baltimore is actively seeking to bring these people back, since their spending power could help restore neighbourhoods, expand the economic base and energize what has been a tentative comeback for the 620,000-person city.

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More celebrity women taking on role of business owner

NEW YORK (AP) — These days, one of the most-coveted roles among A-list actresses is business owner.

Oscar winner Halle Berry is one of the latest female celebrities to start a business. She launched Scandale Paris last year, a line of lingerie sold at Target stores.

For decades, famous faces have been hired by big corporations to sell hair dye, lipstick and high-end fashion. But now, more female celebrities are taking control and starting their own businesses. It's also helping some balance career and motherhood.

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US retail sales flat-line in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. shoppers kept their spending in check in April, as modest wage growth over the past year keeps family budgets tight.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales were unchanged last month after rising 1.1 per cent in March. Sales have risen just 0.9 per cent over the past 12 months. Steady hiring has yet to spark significantly higher incomes.

The retail sales report also raises the possibility that nasty winter weather can't entirely explain the recent lacklustre consumer spending in prior months, since the anticipated spring rebound has not materialized.

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US businesses increase stockpiles 0.1 per cent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles slightly in March, as sales picked up for the first time since July.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that business stockpiles rose 0.1 per cent in March after a 0.2 per cent gain in February. Sales rose 0.4 per cent in March, ending seven straight months of declines or no gains. Over the past 12 months, sales have fallen 2.1 per cent.

The inventories reflect expectations by business of future customer demand, possibly signalling whether the economy is strengthening or weakening.

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Macy's sales to overseas tourists pinched by stronger dollar

CINCINNATI (AP) — Macy's is feeling a big chill from international tourists because their money isn't going as far as it used to.

The strong dollar has crimped spending by overseas visitors at Macy's stores in big cities like New York, Las Vegas and Chicago. That contributed to a 13 per cent decline in profit in the first quarter, the company said Wednesday.

The company said bad winter weather and a slowdown at West Coast ports also hurt sales.

Shares of Macy's fell 2.5 per cent Wednesday even as the company raised its quarterly dividend.

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More vehicles recalled for problem Takata air bag inflators

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. are expanding their recalls over problem air bags made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp. by another 6.5 million vehicles.

Toyota said Wednesday it was recalling nearly 5 million more vehicles globally for the air bag inflator problem. Some 637,000 of the vehicles are in the United States. In Japan, it is recalling nearly 1.4 million vehicles.

The recall affects 35 models globally, including the Corolla subcompact, RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Tundra pickup, produced from March 2003 through November 2007.

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Frontier Airlines CEO steps down citing personal reasons

DALLAS (AP) — The CEO of Frontier Airlines resigned and was replaced by the carrier's chairman and president, who vowed to improve a record of frequent flight delays and customer complaints.

Frontier said Wednesday that Dave Siegel stepped down for personal reasons.

Siegel's departure came the same day that consultants J.D. Power ranked Frontier last in a survey of customer satisfaction. On Monday, the federal government said that Frontier had the highest complaint rate and the worst on-time performance among the nation's 14 leading airlines in March.

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Wal-Mart to test unlimited shipping service for $50 per year

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will test a new unlimited shipping service for online shoppers this summer that will be priced below Amazon's widely popular $99 per year Prime service.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the shipping subscription service will cost customers $50 a year. Products will arrive in three days or less.

Wal-Mart offers a grocery delivery and pickup service in five markets. But the unlimited shipping program marks a substantial commitment and underscores how serious the retailer is about accelerating the growth of its online business, which has seen a slowdown.

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DuPont wins proxy fight against Peltz's Trian Fun

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Dupont shareholders on Wednesday flatly rejected a contentious campaign by one of the most powerful investor firms in the U.S. for seats on the board of the 212-year-old chemical company.

Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management L.P., a major shareholder, had sought more influence at DuPont, saying that the company was falling short of its potential. CEO Ellen Kullman has resisted Peltz's campaign vigorously, saying that he had mischaracterizing DuPont's performance.

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Danaher buying Pall for about $13.56 billion

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (AP) — Danaher will spend approximately $13.56 billion to acquire Pall Corp., a company that makes water filtration systems for airplane manufacturers, public works companies and notably, biopharmaceuticals.

Danaher also announced Wednesday that it will split into two publicly traded companies.

Pall's life sciences segment had $1.5 billion in revenue in 2014, comprising more than half of the company's total revenue for the year. The life sciences unit serves customers in the biopharmaceutical market, food and beverage and medical end markets.

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California golf courses tee up water-saving measures

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) — At first glance, nothing seems amiss at this lush, members-only golf club in one of the priciest communities in Orange County. A bubbling fountain gurgles out of an artificial lake. Emerald-green fairways stretch into the distance. Golf carts zoom across the grass like white ants.

But behind the man-made stream and arcing sprinklers, California's epic drought is reshaping the course at El Niguel Country Club and dozens of others statewide.

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Owens-Illinois to spend $2.15B buying Vitro businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — Beer and wine bottle maker Owens-Illinois will pay about $2.15 billion to buy the food and beverage glass container business of the Mexican company Vitro.

Owens-Illinois Inc. said Wednesday that the all-cash deal will bolster its stake in Mexico's packaging market and start helping its earnings by the first year after it closes. In the third year, the company expects it to add about 50 cents per share.

Shares of Owens-Illinois jumped 9 per cent before markets opened and after the company announced the acquisition

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Facebook pushes to improve benefits, pay for contractors

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is pushing for higher pay and improved benefits for the janitors, cooks and other workers who support its employees.

The world's largest online social network is implementing a set of new standards for its U.S.-based contractors who do a "substantial amount of work" with Facebook.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, announced the changes in a blog post late Tuesday. The new standards include a minimum wage of $15 an hour, at least 15 paid days off per year, and for those who don't receive paid parental leave, a $4,000 "new child benefit" for new parents.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.74 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 18,060.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 0.64 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 2,098.48. The Nasdaq composite added 5.50 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,981.69.

The price of U.S. oil fell 25 cents to $60.50 in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 5 cents to $66.81 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose less than a penny to $2.041 a gallon. Heating oil rose .05 cent to $2.005 a gallon. Natural gas gained 3.8 cents to $2.935 per 1,000 cubic feet.