AP News

Business Highlights


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Weak US jobs report still provides cause for hope

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a second straight month, weak U.S. job growth has raised concern that the economy has lost the vigor it showed late last year.

A tepid gain of 113,000 jobs in January followed December's puny increase of 75,000 — far below last year's average monthly gain of 194,000.

Yet the jobs report the government issued Friday offered cause for optimism. Solid hiring last month in areas like manufacturing and construction point to underlying strength.

And in a healthy sign, more people began looking for jobs in January. A sizable 115,000 formerly unemployed people also said they found jobs. Their hiring reduced the unemployment rate to 6.6 percent, the lowest in more than five years.

Most economists say they think hiring will strengthen during 2014 as the economy improves further.

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Stocks rebound to post gain for the week

NEW YORK (AP) — As comebacks go, this one was a couple of days in the making.

On Friday, the U.S. stock market rebounded from a deep slump earlier in the week to muster the first positive five-day stretch after three weeks of declines.

The day's modest gains added to a strong finish for stocks a day earlier, enough for the Dow Jones industrial average to eke out a 0.6 percent gain for the week, while the S&P 500 index finished up 0.8 percent. Both are still down for the year.

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Race to enroll young and healthy for new insurance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a rapidly approaching deadline, the White House and its allies are racing to enroll young people in new insurance plans offered under President Barack Obama's signature health care law, a sweeping effort that underscores how crucial the so-called young invincibles are to the measure's success.

An army of workers and volunteers is targeting people between the ages of 18 and 34 on college campuses, in bars, and even in laundromats. The recruiting effort is based in part on lessons learned from Obama's presidential races, which revolutionized the way campaigns tracked voters.

More than any other group, participation from the young invincibles will be crucial to the law's success. Young people tend to be healthier, and the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that they need to make up about 40 percent of enrollment in the new health program to balance out the higher costs of insuring older, sicker people.

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Hackers may have used Pa. company to hit Target

NEW YORK (AP) — The hackers who stole millions of customers' credit and debit card numbers from Target may have used a Pittsburgh-area heating and refrigeration business as the back door to get in.

If that was, in fact, how they pulled it off — and investigators appear to be looking at that theory — it illustrates just how vulnerable big corporations have become as they expand and connect their computer networks to other companies to increase convenience and productivity.

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Oil briefly tops $100 as demand for fuel rises

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil briefly rose above $100 a barrel Friday for the first time this year on rising demand for fuel and some positive sentiment about the U.S. job market.

Heating oil supplies have declined as a cold and snowy winter has homeowners constantly cranking up the thermostat. The Energy Department said Wednesday that supplies of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, fell by 2.4 million barrels last week and are now 12 percent below year-ago levels.

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US to get approximately $17.2T debt limit Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is getting a new borrowing cap Friday, almost four months after Washington defused October's government shutdown and debt crisis.

The new cap on borrowing is expected to be about $17.2 trillion. It means Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will have to employ bookkeeping maneuvers to keep the government functioning until Congress further raises the borrowing limit.

In a letter Friday to congressional leaders, Lew warned that he has less maneuvering room now than he had last year, when such "extraordinary measures" bought five months of time for the government to keep borrowing at the previous $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

Lew said that he could not be confident that the extraordinary measures would last beyond Feb. 27.

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Obama signs farm bill that trims food stamps

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law an agriculture spending bill that will spread benefits to farmers in every region of the country, while trimming the food stamp program that inspired a two-year battle over the legislation.

As he penned his name on the five year measure at Michigan State University, Obama said the wide-ranging bill "multitasks" by helping boost jobs, innovation, research and conservation.

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Postal Service had $354 million first-quarter loss

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Postal Service lost $354 million over the last three months, and officials warned that mounting losses could lead to cash flow problems for the rest of the year, the agency said Friday.

The loss was far less than the $1.3 billion in the comparable quarter the previous fiscal year, but Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe continued to press Congress to give the agency more flexibility to manage its finances.

The report for the financial quarter ending December 31 comes as Congress works toward fixing the agency's troubled finances. On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill that would end Saturday mail delivery and make permanent a temporary hike in the cost of a first-class stamp, which went from 46 to 49 cents on Jan. 26.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 165.55 points, or 1.1 percent, to 15,794. 08. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 23.59 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,797.02. The Nasdaq composite increased 68.74 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,125.86.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery gained $2.04, or 2.1 percent, to close at $99.88 a barrel the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas fell 15 cents, or 3 percent, to $4.78 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, rose $2.38, or 2.2 percent, to $109.57 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London, the highest close since Dec. 31. Heating oil futures gained 6 cents to $3.05 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline futures increased 7 cents to $2.75.


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