S&P 500 closes at a record high, beating 2007 mark
NEW YORK (AP) — For the second time in less than a month, the stock market marched past a milepost on its long, turbulent journey back from the Great Recession, toppling another record left over from the days before government bailouts and failing investment banks.
The Standard & Poor's 500 closed at a new high Thursday, three weeks after another popular market gauge, the Dow Jones industrial average, topped its own closing record. The S&P capped its best quarter in a year, rising 10 percent. The Dow had its best first quarter in 15 years, climbing 11 percent.
The reaction on Wall Street was muted — more of a dull buzz than a victory cry. Investors warned clients not to get overly excited.
Scooter ads face scrutiny from government, doctors
WASHINGTON (AP) — TV ads show smiling seniors enjoying an "active" lifestyle on a motorized scooter, taking in the sights at the Grand Canyon, fishing on a pier and high-fiving their grandchildren at a baseball game.
The commercials, which promise freedom and independence to people with limited mobility, have driven the nearly $1 billion U.S. market for power wheelchairs and scooters. But the ads from the industry's two leading companies, The Scooter Store and Hoveround, also have drawn scrutiny from doctors and lawmakers who say they make seniors think they need a scooter to get around when many don't.
Members of Congress say the ads lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary spending by Medicare, which is only supposed to pay for scooters as a medical necessity when seniors are unable to use a cane, walker or regular wheelchair. Government inspectors say up to 80 percent of the scooters and power wheelchairs Medicare buys go to people who don't meet the requirements. And doctors say more than money is at stake: Seniors who use scooters unnecessarily can become sedentary, which can exacerbate obesity and other disorders.
RIM successful in 4Q, but too early to declare a win
TORONTO (AP) — Research In Motion Ltd., once written off as dead amid fierce competition from more modern mobile devices like the iPhone, surprised Wall Street Thursday by returning to profitability and shipping more BlackBerry 10 phones than expected in the most recent quarter.
It will take several quarters, though, to know whether RIM is on a path toward a lasting turnaround. RIM just entered the crucial U.S. market with its new phone last week. And despite selling a million BlackBerry 10 phones in other countries, RIM lost subscribers for the second consecutive quarter.
Thursday's earnings report provided a first glimpse of how the BlackBerry 10 system, widely seen as crucial to the company's future, is selling overseas and in Canada since its debut Jan. 31. The 1 million new touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 phones were above the 915,000 that analysts had been expecting for the quarter that ended March 2. Details on U.S. sales are not part of the fiscal fourth quarter's financial results because the Z10 wasn't available there until after the quarter ended.
Cypriots anxious as banks reopen with limits
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Anxious Cypriots patiently waited in long lines to get to their accounts on Thursday after banks opened for the first time in nearly two weeks, following an international bailout to save the country's financial system.
Fearing a run on its banks, the tiny Mediterranean country imposed daily withdrawal limits of 300 euros ($384) for individuals and 5,000 euros for businesses — the first so-called capital controls that any country has applied in the eurozone's 14-year history.
Financial strains are building on families and businesses, and the recession in Cyprus is likely to deepen. The mood outside banks was calmer than feared. Many people said the withdrawal limits were probably necessary to keep a bad situation from spiraling out of control.
US economy expands at 0.4 percent rate
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster but still anemic rate at the end of last year. However, there is hope that growth accelerated in early 2013 despite higher taxes and cuts in government spending.
The economy grew at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in the October-December quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was slightly better than the previous estimate of 0.1 percent growth. The revision reflected stronger business investment and export sales.
Analysts think the economy is growing at a rate of around 2.5 percent in the current January-March quarter, which ends this week.
US jobless claims rise by 16,000 to 357,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by 16,000 last week, the second straight weekly increase. But the longer-term trend in layoffs remained consistent with an improved job market.
Applications increased to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 for the week ending March 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's up from 341,000 the previous week, which was revised slightly higher.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,250 to 343,000. Even with the gain, the average is only slightly higher than the previous week's five-year low of 340,750. Economists pay closer attention to the four-week average because it smooths out week-to-week fluctuations.
US rate on 30-year mortgage ticks up to 3.57 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages edged up this week but remained near historic lows. Low rates have helped drive the housing market's steady recovery.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan rose to 3.57 percent from 3.54 percent last week, still near the 3.31 percent level reached in November — the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage increased last week to 2.76 percent from 2.72 percent last week. The record low of 2.63 percent was also reached in November.
Boeing CEO says 787 is 'very close' to flying
WASHINGTON (AP) — Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said his company is "very close" to getting its troubled 787 Dreamliner jet flying again.
Two incidents involving batteries on 787s led the Federal Aviation Administration and regulators in other countries to ground the planes in January. Boeing is testing a redesign of the battery system.
The Chicago-based company conducted a test flight with the redesigned battery Monday. McNerney expects the tests to conclude in a few days and said the data should be conclusive enough to convince regulators to let the plane fly again.
He called the grounding a "frustrating experience" but said regulators are putting safety first.
NY top court OKs tax on online sellers like Amazon
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's highest court ruled Thursday that the state can collect sales tax from out-of-state retailers, rejecting claims by Amazon.com and Overstock.com that the tax law violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause.
The Court of Appeals said in a 4-1 ruling that the 2008 amendment meets the U.S. Supreme Court test that the sellers have "a substantial nexus" with the taxing state. Taxes apply when the online retailers generate at least $10,000 in annual sales to New Yorkers from in-state websites that earn commissions by bringing in potential customers through links to the big retailers.
Amazon.com, with corporate offices in Washington state, has an "Associates Program" through which its links appear on other websites. Overstock.com, based in Utah, suspended a similar "Affiliates" program in New York after the state statute was enacted.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 52.38 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 14,578.54. The S&P 500 rose 6.34 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,569.19. The Nasdaq composite index rose 11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,267.52.
Benchmark oil for May delivery gained 65 cents to close at $97.23 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was down 33 cents to finish at $109.38 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to end at $3.11 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 4 cents to end at $4.02 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil was flat at $2.92 a gallon.