Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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AP Exclusive: Big rigs often go faster than tires can handle

DETROIT (AP) -- Many tractor-trailers on the nation's roads are driven faster than the 75 mph their tires are designed to handle, a practice that has been linked to wrecks and blowouts but has largely escaped the attention of highway officials.

Nearly all truck tires have been built for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph since the middle of last decade, when drivers across the vast majority of the U.S. were allowed to go no faster than 65 or 70 mph.

But 14 states, mainly west of the Mississippi River, now have speed limits of 75, 80, even 85 mph in part of Texas. Some of those states acted without consulting the tire industry.

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Bull trots on: Stocks grind higher for 9th straight quarter

NEW YORK (AP) -- The bull market slowed to a trot but didn't stop this winter.

Stocks have been buffeted since the start of the year by plunging oil prices, a surging dollar and worries about the timing of a potential rate increase by the Federal Reserve. None of that has been enough to keep the market from logging a small gain in the first three months of the year.

It is the ninth straight quarter that the Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen. The index has only had three other stretches that long since World War II.

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Charter nabs Bright House in latest pay-TV deal

NEW YORK (AP) -- Charter buying Bright House for $10.4 billion is the latest big deal in the pay-TV industry.

Companies want to merge as costs for channels like ESPN have shot up, while their video subscribers have dipped and online video providers like Netflix become more popular. Combining gives them more negotiating power against programmers such as The Walt Disney Co.

Last year, Comcast said it was buying Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, and AT&T is purchasing DirecTV for $48.5 billion. Both are under long-running regulatory reviews.

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Google, Microsoft battle drives down prices for PCs, tablets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google is releasing its cheapest Chromebook laptops yet, two versions priced at $149 aimed at undercutting Microsoft's Windows franchise and gaining ground in even more classrooms.

Various PC manufacturers have been working with Google to design lightweight laptops running on the Chrome operating system since 2011. The newest versions are made by Hisense and Haier. Hisense's Chromebook can be ordered beginning Tuesday at Walmart.com and Haier's version can be bought at Amazon.com.

Their arrival coincides with Microsoft's rollout of a lower-priced Surface tablet in an effort to reach students and budget-conscious families. Pre-orders for that device began Tuesday, too.

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US home prices rise modestly, weigh on affordability

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose at a steady pace in January, pushing prices up at a faster pace than wages and putting more homes financially out of reach for would-be buyers.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.6 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier, S&P said Tuesday. That is up from growth of 4.4 percent in December.

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US consumer confidence rises in March

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An improving job market drove U.S. consumer confidence higher this month after a dip in February, a promising sign for the economy as it heads into spring.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 101.3 in March from revised 98.8 reading in February.

Confidence has risen to the highest levels since before the Great Recession started in December 2007. A year ago, the index stood at 83.9.

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Fast-food labor organizers plan actions for April 15

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fast-food labor organizers say they're expanding the scope of their campaign for $15 an hour and unionization, this time with a day of actions including other low-wage workers and demonstrations on college campuses.

Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fight for $15, said Tuesday the protests will take place April 15 and are planned to include actions on about 170 college campuses, as well as cities around the country and abroad.

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Lufthansa: Co-pilot told flight school of depressive episode

BERLIN (AP) -- Lufthansa knew six years ago that the co-pilot of the passenger plane that crashed in the French Alps last week had suffered from a "serious depressive episode," the German airline said Tuesday.

The airline said that as part of its internal research it found emails that Andreas Lubitz sent to the Lufthansa flight school in Bremen when he resumed his training there in 2009 after an interruption of several months.

In them, he informed the school, where he had started studying in 2008, that he had suffered a "serious depressive episode," which had since subsided.

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NYC blast probe highlights problem of stealing gas

NEW YORK (AP) -- It was a run-of-the-mill complaint — a smell of gas — with a troubling explanation: Someone had improperly tapped into a Manhattan building's gas line, and it was leaking.

The issue was quickly resolved. But seven months later, authorities suspect another round of gas-pipe tampering caused a fiery explosion at the same building, killing two people, injuring nearly two dozen and leveling three buildings in all.

While officials caution that they aren't certain of the cause of last week's blast in New York's East Village, it is highlighting a long-known problem with potentially deadly consequences: untrained schemers rigging up pipes to save money by siphoning natural gas.

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Distillers: Stiff whiskey law stifles town's boozy revival

TRIMBLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Booze, bikes and rock 'n' roll.

That's the plan for economic development in this otherwise sleepy town of Trimble, tucked away among the corn and soybean fields of northwestern Tennessee.

The only thing standing in the way, say distillers Michael Ballard and Jesse James Dupree, is the state's stuffy law restricting how spirits must be made so they can be marketed as "Tennessee Whiskey." They've found an unexpected ally in the conservative Koch brothers, whose political muscle they hope can help persuade lawmakers to vote for repeal.

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Program to put 'Kids Eat Right' logo on Kraft Singles ending

NEW YORK (AP) -- A program to put a dietitian group's "Kids Eat Right" logo on Kraft Singles has reached an early expiration date.

Kraft Foods and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decided to end the partnership because "misperceptions are overshadowing the campaign," Kraft said in a statement. The decision comes after a petition by dietitians called for an end to the partnership, saying putting the logo on packages amounted to an endorsement of the cheese product. The petition also called for transparency about the terms of the deal that allowed Kraft to use the logo.

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Etsy expects IPO to raise as much as $267 million

NEW YORK (AP) -- Online crafts retailer Etsy says it expects to raise as much as $267 million from an initial public offering values the company at up to $1.78 billion.

The New York company says its IPO will include 16.7 million shares, and it expects them to price at $14 to $16 each.

Etsy said Tuesday in a regulatory filing that it was selling 13.3 million of the shares. If the shares price at $16, Etsy's market value would be $1.78 billion.

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IBM to invest $3 billion in 'Internet of Things' unit

NEW YORK (AP) -- IBM is investing $3 billion to build an "Internet of Things" division aimed at harnessing the massive trove of data collected by smartphones, tablets, connected vehicles and appliances and using it to help companies better manage their businesses.

IBM estimates that 90 percent of all data generated by mobile and "smart" devices is never analyzed. The Armonk, New York, company hopes to change this by teaming up with companies like Twitter and the Weather Co., the owner of the Weather Channel, and developing cloud-based data services and tools for app developers.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 200.19 points, or 1.1 percent, to 17,776.12. The S&P 500 index slid 18.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,067.89. The Nasdaq composite lost 46.56 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,900.88.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.08 to close at $47.60 a barrel in New York. Oil finished down $2.16, or 4.3 percent, for the month. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.18 to close at $55.11 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.1 cents to close at $1.780 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.3 cents to close at $1.718 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.4 cents to close at $2.640 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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