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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 06, 2012 5:37 pm

Business Highlights

By The Associated Press


US hiring slows amid uncertainty about economy

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. job market slowed in March as companies hit the brakes on hiring amid uncertainty about the economy's growth prospects. The unemployment rate dipped, but mostly because more Americans stopped looking for work.

The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, down from more than 200,000 in each of the previous three months.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent. The rate has dropped nearly a full percentage point since August and is now at its lowest level since January 2009.


First-quarter earnings could derail market's climb

For the stock market, it was a triumphant first quarter. But for earnings growth, the past three months were just ho-hum.

Analysts are expecting earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index to decline 0.1 percent compared to a year ago, according to FactSet. It's a tiny number but a significant turning point. Earnings growth was on a winning streak for the previous nine quarters. Year-over-year earnings growth has been at least 10 percent for all but the most recent period, when it was 6 percent.

The reasons for the expected slowdown range from global (a weak Europe hurts everybody) to mathematical (it's hard to top double-digit quarters). Whatever the cause, the stagnation in earnings growth is a stark reminder that the economy's problems are far from solved. Just three months ago, analysts were predicting 3 percent earnings growth for the first quarter.


US consumers borrow more in February to buy cars

WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans took out more loans to buy cars and attend school in February but used their credit cards less frequently for the second straight month.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumers increased borrowing by $8.7 billion, the sixth straight monthly increase.

The jump in borrowing was driven by $11 billion increase in the category that mostly measures demand for auto and student loans. Borrowing on credit cards fell by $2 billion after a $3 billion decline in January.

Total consumer borrowing rose to seasonally adjusted $2.52 trillion. That's nearly at pre-recession levels and up from a post-recession low point of $2.39 trillion reached in September 2010. Borrowing had tumbled for more than two years during and immediately after the recession.


US executives at bailed-out firms have pay cut

WASHINGTON (AP) - Top executives at three companies bailed out by U.S. taxpayers during the 2008 financial crisis were ordered to take pay cuts by the federal government.

The Treasury Department says nearly 70 executives at American International Group Inc., Ally Financial Inc. and General Motors Co. had their annual compensation reduced by 10 percent. The CEOs of each company had their pay frozen at 2011 levels.

All three companies have yet to repay what they received from the $700 billion bailout and therefore are subject to pay cuts.


Wendy's paid CEO $4.6 million for last quarter of 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Wendy's gave its new CEO a pay package worth $4.6 million for the last four months of 2011.

Emil Brolick was hired last September after Wendy's ended its failed marriage with fellow fast-food chain Arby's. The 63-year-old Brolick has been on a mission to reinvent Wendy's as a higher-end burger chain by focusing on quality ingredients, top-tier employees and remodeled restaurants.

Brolick's compensation for the final quarter of the year included salary of $338,462, a bonus of $500,000, an incentive-based bonus of $533,026 and stock and option awards worth $3.2 million, according to a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Facebook leaning toward Nasdaq, reports say

NEW YORK (AP) - Facebook will list its shares with Nasdaq, according to media reports.

That would be a big win for the Nasdaq, which competes fiercely with NYSE Euronext Inc., especially for an initial public offering as large as Facebook's, pegged at $5 billion.

The New York Times and CNBC cited anonymous sources on the potential listing.


American cancels nearly 300 more DFW flights

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - American Airlines canceled another 296 flights Friday as repairs continued on planes grounded by hail damage in Texas, but it hoped to be nearly back to normal operations Saturday.

Spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the cancellations Friday affected flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American's biggest hub.

Since Tuesday's storms, American and its American Eagle affiliate have canceled about 1,900 flights. Huguely said they expected only 27 cancellations Saturday.


Kodak proposes bonuses, withdraws benefits cut

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Eastman Kodak Co. is seeking permission to pay about 300 executives and other employees a total of $13.5 million in bonuses to persuade them to stay with the company as it reorganizes under bankruptcy protection.

The Rochester-based photography company said the targeted employees have knowledge and skills critical to help the business emerge from Chapter 11 and would be difficult to replace if they left to pursue other offers. They include 119 middle managers who would share $8.5 million of the sum.

Also this week, Kodak told retirees it has withdrawn for now its motion to end supplemental health care benefits for about 16,000 Medicare-eligible retirees. The company will instead create a retirees committee to examine the issues of medical and survivor benefits.


NYC auction offering Titanic-related artifacts

NEW YORK (AP) - An admission ticket to the launch of the Titanic and a first-class dinner menu for the ocean liner's first night at sea are among dozens of Titanic-related artifacts being auctioned this month, exactly 100 years after the ship struck an iceberg and sank.

The Bonhams auction on April 15 also includes a handwritten account by Arthur Rostron, the captain of the Carpathia, the first ship to arrive on the disaster scene after picking up the Titanic's distress call.

Nearly all of the 88 documents and objects relate to either the crew or the passengers aboard the ship or to the actual April 15, 1912, disaster.


By The Associated Press(equals)

U.S. stock and commodity markets were closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.