US retailers report May sales declines NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Although consumer confidence may be increasing, it's not showing up at the cash register yet. Many retailers posted disappointing May sales on Thursday, and food and necessities remained high on shoppers' lists. According a Goldman Sachs/ICSC tally, overall same-store sales fell 4.6 percent, worse than the 3 percent drop predicted. The lower-than-expected results did not include Wal-Mart stores, which in recent months has boosted total results but has stopped reporting monthly figures. Last month's same-store sales had edged up with Wal-Mart, but excluding the world's largest retailer, May was the 10th straight month of same-store sales ___ Jobless benefit rolls fall, initial claims dip WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ The number of people on the unemployment insurance rolls fell slightly for the first time in 20 weeks, while the tally of new jobless claims also dipped, the government said Thursday.
The Labor Department report provides a glimmer of good news for job seekers, though both drops were small and the figures remain significantly above the levels associated with a healthy economy. The job market likely will remain weak well into next year, according to estimates from government and private economists. The department also said U.S. workers were more productive in the first quarter than previously estimated, as rapid layoffs forced companies to make do with fewer employees. ___ Bank, energy stocks pull market higher NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Stocks rose for the fifth time in six days following a rally in financial and energy shares. Analysts have upgraded bank stocks and oil prices hit fresh highs for the year. Investors gained some confidence in the prospects for the overall economy after the number of workers continuing to receive unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell for the first time in 20 weeks. Analyst upgrades of bank stocks and rising oil prices attracted investor dollars to those parts of the market. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.96, or 0.9 percent, to 8,750.24.
___ SEC charging ex-Countrywide CEO Mozilo with fraud WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Federal regulators on Thursday charged Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., and two other company executives with civil fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission's civil lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, also accuses Mozilo of illegal insider trading. Countrywide was a major player in the subprime mortgage market, the collapse of which in 2007 touched off the financial crisis that has gripped the U.S. and global economies. Mozilo, 70, is the most high-profile individual to face formal charges from the federal government in the aftermath of the crisis. ___ Oil rises to new high for 2009, near $70 barrel NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Oil prices on Thursday set a new high for the year, buoyed by a weaker dollar and the first drop in unemployment since January.
Benchmark crude for July delivery was up $2.69 to settle at $68.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil climbed as high as $69.60 earlier in the day. In London, Brent prices rose $2.83 to settle at $68.71 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. Oil prices have rallied for three months, and they soared this week to their highest levels since November. Crude now fetches nearly twice its February price, mostly on the expectation that the dismal U.S. economy could be stabilizing. ___ Chrysler dealers question franchise terminations NEW YORK (AP) ¿ A parade of Chrysler dealers slated to lose their franchises took the stand Thursday in the automaker's bankruptcy protection case, one choking back tears, as they touted their sales and service records and questioned how they were chosen for termination. Just under 20 dealers were sworn in at the beginning of the day, but only about 14 testified, and no Chrysler officials took the stand. Arguments on the motion are scheduled for Tuesday.
It was unclear when U.S. Judge Arthur Gonzalez will rule on Chrysler's motion to cancel the dealerships' franchise agreements, or how this will effect Chrysler's plans to sever ties with them effective Tuesday. ___ European, British central banks keep rates steady LONDON (AP) ¿ The European Central Bank and the Bank of England both kept official interest rates at record lows on Thursday, adopting a cautious holding stance amid fledgling signs of an economic recovery across Europe. Both banks warned against celebrating the end of the recession too early, with the ECB lowering its growth forecast for next year. The ECB provided more details on its plans to pump some 60 billion euros into the banking system through purchases of covered bonds ¿ a measure that appeared to stop short of further monetary expansion ¿ while the Bank of England reiterated its commitment to a 125 billion pound ($205 billion) program to inject newly created money into the economy by buying government and corporate bonds. ___
Biogen Idec says Icahn candidate wins board seat CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) ¿ Biogen Idec says a candidate nominated by activist shareholder Carl Icahn won a seat on the drug maker's board of directors as part of a contentious proxy fight, but the votes are still too close to call on a second seat. Icahn claims his portfolio manager Dr. Alexander J. Denner and Dr. Richard C. Mulligan, a Harvard Medical School professor, have won seats on the board. Biogen says Denner won a place on the board, but it will rely on the tabulation of votes by the an independent elections inspector before announcing the results for the final board member. ___ United goes jet shopping with Boeing and Airbus UNDATED (AP) ¿ United Airlines confirmed on Thursday that it will seek bids from airplane makers Boeing Co. and rival Airbus for a major jet order that could be placed as soon as this fall. The nation's third-largest airline said it will look for proposals to replace its widebody fleet over several years, as well as its Boeing 757s.
Unlike other carriers that have at least kept their toes in the new-jet pool, United has held back on ordering new airplanes. It has been shrinking to try to match the flying it does with remaining demand, and it's working on eliminating its Boeing 737 fleet altogether. ___ Intel to buy software maker Wind River for $884M SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) ¿ Intel Corp. said Thursday it will buy software maker Wind River Systems Inc. for $884 million in an all-cash deal that will help the world's largest computer chip maker expand beyond the PC market. Intel said the purchase will benefit its processor and software offerings for embedded systems and mobile devices, which run the gamut from smart phones to networking equipment. Though the recession has hurt demand for PCs in general, there has been growing demand for products containing the company's lower-powered Atom processor, which is used in small electronics like the stripped-down laptops known as netbooks. The acquisition may be a way for Intel to beef up Atom-related offerings. By The Associated Press
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.96, or 0.9 percent, to 8,750.24. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.70, or 1.2 percent, to 942.46, and the Nasdaq composite rose 24.10, or 1.3 percent, to 1,850.02. Benchmark crude for July delivery was up $2.69 to settle at $68.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil climbed as high as $69.60 earlier in the day. In London, Brent prices rose $2.83 to settle at $68.71 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. In other Nymex trading, gasoline for July delivery rose 6.05 cents to settle at $1.9621 a gallon and heating oil gained 4.56 cents to settle at $1.784 a gallon. Natural gas for July delivery added 4.4 cents to settle at $3.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.