Japan central bank revamps policy to boost economy
TOKYO (AP) — Japan is taking aggressive action to lift consumer prices, encourage borrowing and help pull the world's third-largest economy out of a long slump.
Like the U.S. Federal Reserve, Japan's central bank plans to flood its financial system with more money — its most far-reaching step to date to get consumers and companies to borrow and spend.
The Bank of Japan's action will also drive down the value of the yen. A cheaper currency will make Japanese goods — from Toyota cars to Sony TVs — less costly overseas. And it will make U.S. and other exports more expensive in Japan.
Where US economy has, and hasn't, yet recovered
WASHINGTON (AP) — From household wealth to spending at stores, many of the U.S. economy's vital signs have recovered from the damage done by the Great Recession.
Home foreclosures and layoffs have dropped to pre-recession levels. Economic output has rebounded. And the Dow Jones industrial average is in record territory.
So is the economy back to full health? Not quite.
Not with unemployment at 7.7 percent and with 3 million fewer jobs than when the recession began. And while the housing market is improving, that engine of economic growth and job creation still has far to go before it can be declared healthy.
US rate on 30-year mortgage slips to 3.54 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages crept closer to their historic lows this week, a trend that could help the housing recovery strengthen.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan edged down to 3.54 percent from 3.57 percent last week. That's near the 3.31 percent reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage declined to 2.74 percent from 2.76 percent last week. The record low of 2.63 percent also was reached in November.
Facebook unveils 'Home' for Android phones
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — With its new "Home" on Android gadgets, Facebook aims to put its social network at the center of people's mobile experiences.
If users choose to download Facebook's Home software beginning April 12, the social network will become the hub of their Android smartphones. A phone from HTC that comes pre-loaded with Home will also be available starting that day, with AT&T Inc. the carrier.
The idea behind the software is to bring Facebook content right to the home screen, rather than requiring users to check apps. "Home" comes amid rapid growth in the number of people who access Facebook from phones and tablet computers. Of its 1.06 billion monthly users, 680 million log on to Facebook using a mobile gadget.
US unemployment aid applications jump to 385,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week by 28,000, the third straight increase.
Weekly applications increased to a seasonally adjusted 385,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the highest level since late November. The gain pushed the four-week average, a less volatile measure, to 354,250.
A Labor Department spokesman says the figures may have been affected by the Easter holiday. The department says the holiday's timing varies from year to year, which makes it difficult to adjust for school closings and other seasonal factors that can alter the data.
US is halfway to Obama 5-year export-doubling goal
WASHINGTON (AP) — Suddenly, outsourcing is on the way out and insourcing on the way in as the U.S. trudges unevenly toward President Barack Obama's goal of doubling American exports around the world by the start of 2015.
So far, export levels are about halfway to his mark.
Obama set the five-year target in his January 2010 State of the Union address and recently has picked up his drumbeat, telling his export advisory council last month the nation was "well on our way" to his goal. "The question now becomes: How do we sustain this momentum?"
While economists and industry leaders generally expect the ambitious target to be missed, impressive gains already booked in American manufacturing and exporting suggest such a miss may not be by that much.
Possible deal could cut ex-Enron CEO's sentence
HOUSTON (AP) — A possible agreement that could reduce the prison sentence of former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling for his role in the collapse of the once mighty energy giant is being discussed, according to the Justice Department.
The possibility of a sentencing agreement in the case was made public this week in a notice to victims of Enron's collapse.
The notice did not specify how Skilling's sentence could be impacted if an agreement is reached. Skilling has been in prison since December 2006. He is currently serving his sentence in a low-security facility outside of Denver.
MF Global trustee criticizes Corzine, executives
WASHINGTON (AP) — A trustee overseeing MF Global says a risky trading strategy and "negligent conduct" by former CEO Jon Corzine and his top managers contributed to the brokerage firm's collapse in late 2011.
A report issued Thursday by the trustee, former FBI director Louis Freeh, said Corzine and his team ignored the advice of MF Global's chief risk officer regarding trading strategy.
The report said they also failed to fix gaps in the firm's system for monitoring its cash flows and customer funds.
Walgreen clinics expand care into chronic illness
Walgreen Co. has stretched the reach of its drugstore clinics beyond treating ankle sprains and sinus infections to handling chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
The company, based in Deerfield, Ill., said Thursday that most of its roughly 370 in-store Take Care Clinics now will diagnose, treat and monitor patients with some chronic conditions that are typically handled by doctors.
Drugstore clinics, which are run by nurse practitioners or physician assistants, have grown popular in recent years as a convenient and less expensive way to treat relatively minor illnesses when a patient doesn't have a doctor or if their physician isn't available. But the clinics have been broadening their scope of care: Walgreen's decision follows a move by competitor CVS Caremark Corp. a few years ago to start monitoring chronic conditions at most of its 640 MinuteClinics.
Best Buy stores to feature Samsung kiosks
NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Best Buy jumped on Thursday after it announced plans to create store-within-store kiosks for Samsung products — a vote of confidence from a major consumer electronics retailer that the brick-and-mortar format is still an important way to sell products.
Best Buy shares rose more than 16 percent.
The Minneapolis-based company has battled the "showrooming" effect as more and more people browse in stores and then buy items cheaper online. That has led to fears that the big-box store format is growing obsolete.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 55.76 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 14,606.11. The Nasdaq composite rose 6.38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,224.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.29 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,559.98.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down $1.19 to $93.26 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, fell 77 cents to $106.34 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Heating oil fell 4 cents to $2.97 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5 cents to $3.95 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline futures fell 2 cents to $2.90 a gallon.