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Business Highlights

May 4, 2017


House OKs GOP health bill, a step toward Obamacare repeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Relieved Republicans muscled their health care bill through the House Thursday, taking their biggest step toward dismantling the Obama health care overhaul since Donald Trump took office. They won passage only after overcoming their own divisions that nearly sank the measure six weeks ago. Beaten but unbowed, Democrats insisted Republicans will pay at election time for repealing major provisions of the law. They sang the pop song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” to the GOP lawmakers as the end of the voting neared. The Republicans seemed unworried, many of them busing to the White House for a victory appearance with the president.


Calorie counts still come to some menus, despite rule delay

NEW YORK (AP) — Calorie counts are popping up on some restaurant menus and for prepared foods at supermarkets, whether you want to see them or not. A federal regulation requiring food sellers to post the nutrition numbers by Friday was postponed again this week until next year, after years of delays amid opposition from pizza chains, convenience stores and grocers. But many chains had been scrambling to comply, and say they don’t plan to alter course right now.


Americans hang up on landlines as cellphone homes dominate

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. government study finds that homes and apartments with only cellphone service reached a majority for the first time in the last six months of 2016. On the flip side, nearly half of U.S. households still have a landline phone, even as it seems redundant in the era of cellphones. Some people want one for emergencies, others for older relatives to call. It’s also a popular way to deal with telemarketers: Just send them straight to the answering machine.


US trade deficit narrows in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March to the lowest level since October as both exports and imports fell. But the politically sensitive trade gap with China rose. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the gap in goods and services slipped to $43.7 billion, down from $43.8 billion in February. Exports dropped 0.9 percent to $191 billion, pulled down by falling auto exports. Imports fell 0.7 percent $234.7 billion as imports of crude oil and other petroleum products slid.


US productivity posts sharpest fall in a year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The productivity of American workers fell in the first quarter by the sharpest amount in a year, while labor costs increased. Productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the January-March quarter after rising at a 1.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the biggest decline since a 0.7 percent rate of decline in the first quarter of last year. Labor costs rose at a 3 percent rate, up from a 1.3 percent rate of increase in the fourth quarter.


US factory orders tick up in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories turned in the weakest performance in four months, although a key category that tracks business investment showed more strength. Factory orders edged up just 0.2 percent in March, a significant slowdown from February’s gain of 1.2 percent. It was also the poorest showing since orders fell 2.3 percent in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Despite the overall decline, a key category that tracks business investment rebounded to a 0.5 percent gain. That is the best showing since December’s 0.8 percent increase. The business category increased a small 0.1 percent in February.


US unemployment benefits drop 19,000 to 238,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week after two weeks of small gains. The Labor Department says weekly jobless claims dropped by 19,000 to 238,000, the lowest level in three weeks.


Average US 30-year mortgage rate edges down to 4.02 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates barely moved this week after rising last week for the first time in five weeks. The benchmark 30-year rate remained above the key threshold of 4 percent. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans ticked down to 4.02 percent from 4.03 percent last week. The rate stood at 3.66 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.


In latest airline video, Delta boots family from flight

DALLAS (AP) — Delta Air Lines is offering refunds and compensation to a California family that says they were forced off a plane and threatened with jail after refusing to give up one of their seats on a crowded flight. A video of the April 23 incident was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday and added to the list of recent encounters on airlines that have gone viral, including the dragging of a bloodied passenger off a United Express plane.


Viacom beats forecasts but investors fret ‘reteiring’

NEW YORK (AP) — Viacom’s second-quarter results easily beat Wall Street expectations, but its stock took a beating as investors feared it might lose revenue because a big cable provider moved to make some of the company’s prime channels more expensive. Company executives acknowledged Thursday that Charter Communications had “retiered” some of Viacom’s highest-profile channels — including Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and BET — into higher-priced bundles.


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.39 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,389.52. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.43 points to 20,951.47. The Nasdaq composite added 2.79 points to 6,075.34.

U.S. benchmark crude futures shed another $2.30, or 4.8 percent, to $45.52 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oils, fell $2.41, or 4.7 percent, to $48.38 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline lost 5 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $1.48 a gallon. Heating oil gave up 6 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $1.41 a gallon. Natural gas lost 4 cents to $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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