Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Now arriving on time: Your flight and suitcase

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ U.S. airlines are more punctual and less likely to lose your bag than at any time in more than two decades.

Travelers still have to put up with packed planes, rising fees and unpredictable security lines, but they are late to fewer business meetings and are not missing as many chances to tuck their kids into bed.

Nearly 84 percent of domestic flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled time in the first half of the year â¿¿ the best performance since the government started keeping track in 1988.

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Google fined $22.5M for latest privacy breakdown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Google is paying a $22.5 million fine to settle the latest regulatory case questioning the Internet search leader's respect for people's privacy and the integrity of its internal controls.

The penalty announced Thursday by the Federal Trade Commission matches the figure reported by The Associated Press and other media outlets last month. It's the most that the FTC has ever fined a company for a civil violation.

The rebuke resolves the FTC's allegations that Google Inc. duped millions of Web surfers who use Apple Inc.'s Safari browser.

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US economic outlook brightens on jobs, trade data

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The outlook for the U.S. economy brightened a little Thursday after new data pointed to improvement in hiring and greater exports.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, the Labor Department said. Economists noted that the level suggests the modest job creation in July could carry over into August.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $42.9 billion in June from $48 billion in May, the Commerce Department said in a separate report. That's the lowest level in 18 months.

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UN agency: Global food prices up sharply in July

ROME (AP) â¿¿ International food prices rose sharply in July after three months of decline, driven by a spike in grain and sugar prices, a United Nations report said Thursday.

Severe drought gripping the U.S. Midwest has sent corn prices soaring by almost 23 percent and expectations of worsened crop prospects in Russia because of dry weather sent world wheat prices up 19 percent.

The U.S. is the world's No. 1 exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat and the price hikes are expected to be felt across the international marketplace, hurting poor food-importing countries, according to a study by British charity Oxfam.

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E-Trade ousting its CEO; naming chairman to post

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ E-Trade Financial has ousted its CEO, Citigroup veteran Steven Freiberg, just two years into a four-year contract as the online broker deals with declining trading.

The company said Thursday that it's looking for a new CEO as it adjusts its business strategy, which is focused on strengthening its financial position. It named its chairman to the top spot until a permanent replacement can be found.

E-Trade has been struggling as individual consumers pull money out of the stock market. The New York company's net income dropped 16 percent in the April-June quarter as investors made far fewer trades than a year ago. Faced with less trading activity, E-Trade said it was focusing on managing costs and dialing back on risk to strengthen earnings.

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JPMorgan revises 1Q profit down amid trading probe

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ JPMorgan Chase on Thursday formally revised its first-quarter financial results to show a lower profit, after finding that traders at its main investment arm had overstated the value of certain derivatives.

The reduction followed the bank's internal investigation into the nearly $6 billion in trading losses revealed in recent months.

JPMorgan reiterated that it had discovered that some traders may have tried to conceal the size of losses from a soured bet. The "London Whale" trades involved complicated hedging strategies intended to reduce the bank's risk, but actually increased it when they backfired.

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Gas prices rise; officials wait to enter refinery

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ A fire at one of the nation's largest oil refineries helped push West Coast gas prices close to $4 a gallon Thursday, as the same federal team that investigated the Gulf Coast spill waited to inspect the unit that was knocked out by the blaze.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board team was standing by with state and company inspectors to do structural and environmental tests to see if it was safe to enter the unit and determine when production might resume after the Monday night fire.

In all, five separate investigations will be done.

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Wendy's transformation push starts to take hold

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The Wendy's Co.'s push to transform itself as a higher-end hamburger chain is showing early signs of taking hold.

The Dublin, Ohio-based fast food company says a key sales figure rose 3.2 percent in the second quarter, helped by renovated restaurants, new menu items such the Spicy Guacamole Chicken Club sandwich and a new TV ad campaign.

Sales at restaurants open at least 15 months is a key gauge because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.

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Nordstrom 2nd-quarter profit down 11 percent

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Nordstrom is reporting an 11 percent decline in second-quarter net income, as results were affected by the timing of the biggest sale of the year.

But the Seattle-based upscale retailer is also increasing its full-year earnings guidance and accelerating growth plans for its Rack chain.

Sales have rebounded since late 2009 for Nordstrom and many other luxury retailers as well-heeled shoppers have gotten more comfortable with splurging again.

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T-Mobile loses subscribers, smartphones flat

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The long slide of T-Mobile USA continued in the latest quarter, as the country's No. 4 cellphone company lost subscribers and struggled to sign people up for smartphones.

The company, a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG, said on Thursday that it lost a net 205,000 subscribers in the second quarter, a record for the period.

Among phone subscribers under contract, it lost 557,000 subscribers, also the highest number of the second quarter. Phone subscribers on contract-based plans pay the most, and are the bread-and-butter of large wireless carriers.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.45 points, or 0.08 percent, to 13,165.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 was virtually flat, rising 0.58 points to 1,402.80. The Nasdaq edged up 7.39 to 3,018.64.

Benchmark oil rose 1 cent to $93.36 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, gained $1.08 to $113.22 per barrel in London.

Natural gas prices rose 1.2 cents to $2.945 per 1,000 cubic feet, although they had gained more than 10 cents earlier on a government supply report.

Heating oil increased 2.91 cents to $3.045 per gallon. Gasoline futures gained 2 cents to $3.00 per gallon.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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