Update on the latest in business:
US stocks solidly higher in afternoon trading
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are on pace to notch solid gains on the last day of trading ahead of the Easter holiday weekend. Technology stocks, which were big decliners earlier in the week, powered much of the market’s climb. Banks, industrial companies and health care stocks also helped lift the market. Investors were weighing the latest company earnings and new economic data showing spending by U.S. consumers rose modestly last month.
The S&P 500 index rose 30 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,635 as of 1:32 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 297 points, or 1.3 percent, to 24,145. The Nasdaq added 81 points, or 1.2 percent, to 7,030.
The market is coming off a two-day losing streak and is on course to end the month with a loss. Today also marks the last day of trading for the first quarter. The S&P 500 is on track to finish the quarter with a loss for the first time since the third quarter of 2015.
US consumer spending up modestly in February as incomes rose
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their spending just 0.2 percent in February, while their incomes were boosted by increased wages and business owners’ income.
The Commerce Department says the modest spending increase followed an equal gain in January and a rise of 0.4 percent in December. Incomes increased a healthy 0.4 percent.
The report came as a new indication emerged of a healthy job market. The number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits dropped by 12,000 last week to 215,000 — the lowest level in 45 years. It’s a sign that employers anticipate solid growth and want to hold onto their workers.
A closely watched signpost, consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
President Trump goes after a favorite target, Amazon
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is going after Amazon again.
Trump said in a tweet today, “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”
Amazon shares dropped 4.4 percent Wednesday after Axios reported that Trump has wondered if there was a way to “go after” the company with antitrust or competition laws.
Amazon fought for years against collecting sales tax but now collects taxes nationwide. And while the Postal Service has lost money for years, online shopping has led to growth in its package-delivery business.
Airlines post better on-time record in latest US report
UNDATED (AP) — U.S. airlines started the year showing a slight improvement in keeping flights on time.
The Transportation Department says that 79.6 percent of flights in January arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, compared with 76 percent in the same month last year.
But January’s performance was worse than December, when 80.3 percent of flights arrived on time.
Alaska Airlines posted the best on-time rating at 88.9 percent, while JetBlue Airways was last at 65.8 percent.
Airlines canceled 3 percent of domestic flights in January, up from 2 percent a year earlier and 1.2 percent in December.
The monthly Transportation Department report has been expanded to cover 18 airlines including several smaller ones such as Allegiant Air.
BARCLAYS-MORTGAGE SECURITIES SETTLEMENT
Barclays to pay $2 billion to US to settle mortgage suit
NEW YORK (AP) — Barclays has agreed to pay $2 billion in civil penalties to the U.S. government to settle a lawsuit alleging that it was involved in a fraudulent scheme to sell residential mortgage-backed securities.
The announcement was made today by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
The Justice Department sued Barclays Bank and several of its U.S. affiliates in late 2016 over the sale of risky mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2007.
Barclays CEO Jes Staley says in a statement that the settlement was “fair and proportionate.”
Long-term US mortgage rates move little; 30-year at 4.44 pct
WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates moved little this week after a months-long stretch of increases.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked down to 4.44 percent from 4.45 percent last week. The benchmark rate averaged 4.14 percent a year ago.
Rates are relatively low by historical standards, but they have shot up from an average that remained below 4 percent last year. Mortgage rates rose steadily in January, February and early March, as interest rates generally increased in response to higher levels of government debt and expectations of rising inflation. Last week’s slight gain was the 10th increase in 11 weeks.
The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 3.90 percent this week from 3.91 percent last week.
Lawyer for victim’s family says matter with Uber ‘resolved’
PHOENIX (AP) — The family of an Arizona woman killed when struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle is reported to have reached a settlement with the company.
Cristina Perez Hesano, an attorney for relatives of Elaine Herzberg, would only say that the matter “has been resolved.”
Herzberg was killed March 18 as she walked her bike across a dark street in Tempe, a Phoenix suburb.
Uber representatives are declining to comment. The company previously expressed sympathy for Herzberg’s family.
Uber suspended its autonomous vehicle testing program after the crash. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended the company’s testing privileges Monday.
Tempe police and federal agencies are investigating the crash.
US exchange operator CME takes over Britain’s Nex for $5.4B
LONDON (AP) — U.S. financial exchange operator CME is taking over London-based peer Nex in a deal that values the British company at 3.9 billion pounds ($5.4 billion).
CME and Nex say that Nex shares will be paid 10 pounds each, a premium of about 49 percent to their closing price on March 15, when an offer was first made.
Chicago-based CME says the deal will give it a greater presence in Europe and Asia. It expects savings of about $200 million by the end of 2021 by cutting costs.
It is the biggest deal for the CME since it bought the Nymex in New York in 2008. Last year, the CME launched trading of futures in bitcoin, the most widely known virtual currency.
Volkswagen: We’ll buy your diesel back if it’s banned
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen is seeking to reassure German customers that they can trade in their new diesel auto if the car is banned from the road by cities trying to meeting air pollution limits.
The company says the guarantee applies to new cars bought from a Volkswagen dealer from April 1 through the end of the year, and would be good for three years.
The German courts have ruled that cities with high pollution levels can impose diesel driving bans. That follows Volkswagen’s 2015 scandal over diesels rigged to cheat on emissions tests. Diesel sales have fallen.
Volkswagen along with BMW and Daimler say that the newest diesels meet tightened emissions standards and emit less carbon dioxide, making them essential to meeting European Union limits on greenhouse gases.
McDonald’s expands worker tuition benefits, citing tax law
NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s, is expanding its 3-year-old education benefits program, tripling the amount of money some workers can get each year to help pay for college or trade school tuition. The fast-food company announced the decision, citing the new U.S. tax law and the tightening job market.
McDonald’s is also changing its eligibility rules, which it says will double the amount of workers who qualify to 400,000.
Other chains, including Starbucks, have given workers bonuses or boosted benefits because of the Republican tax law. Large employers have also had a hard time attracting and keeping workers because of historically low unemployment rates.
McDonald’s Corp. says restaurant crew members will be able to get up to $2,500 per year for tuition, an increase from $700. Managers can receive up to $3,000 per year, an increase from $1,050.
Casino authority auctions off 92 properties in Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey casino authority has auctioned off nearly 100 excess properties, grossing more than $570,000.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority sold 92 properties overall in 23 packages during Wednesday’s auction at the Atlantic City Convention Center with Max Spann Real Estate.
The auction included 16 packages, or 84 lots, with developable land and seven packages, or eight lots, of nonconforming lots. The sales grossed $574,000 overall
The Press of Atlantic City reports a similar auction in December netted more than $1.6 million in revenue.
UK economy grows slightly more than thought in 2017
LONDON (AP) — Official figures show that the British economy grew a bit more than previously thought last year.
The Office for National Statistics said 2017 growth was revised up to 1.8 percent from 1.7 percent previously. The economy has fared better than many thought after the Brexit vote in June 2016, with exporters in particular enjoying a lower pound.
Still, the 2017 growth performance was the worst since 2012 and doesn’t change the underlying picture that the country’s economy has slowed sharply since the Brexit vote in June 2016.
Brexit remains the biggest uncertainty surrounding the British economy. With a year to go until Britain officially leaves the EU, it remains unclear how the country will be trading with its main export market after Brexit.