Business Highlights

By The Associated Press


US adds just 88,000 jobs; rate drops to 7.6 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring. The slowdown may signal that the economy is heading into a weak spring.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate dipped to 7.6 percent, the lowest in four years, from 7.7 percent. But the rate fell only because more people stopped looking for work. People who are out of work are no longer counted as unemployed once they stop looking for a job.

The percentage of working-age adults Americans with a job or looking for one fell to 63.3 percent in March, the lowest such figure in nearly 34 years.


KFC to offer easy-to-eat boneless chicken

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ In case Americans want to scarf down their fast-food even faster, KFC is stripping the bones out of its chicken.

The fast-food chain says it's introducing deep-fried boneless chicken pieces on April 14 as an alternative to its traditional breast, thigh and drumstick pieces.

The new offering reflects the growing popularity of nuggets and strips that are easier to eat on the go, as well as Americans' seemingly endless desire for more convenient foods. KFC says nearly four out of five servings of chicken sold in the U.S. are now boneless.


Facebook barges into Google turf with Home

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Facebook Home, the new software that takes over the front screen of a smartphone, is a bit of a corporate home invasion. Facebook is essentially moving into Google's turf, taking advantage of software the search giant and competitor created.

Home will operate on phones running Google Inc.'s Android software and present Facebook status updates, messages and other content on the home screen, rather than making the user fire up Facebook's app. The software will be available for users to download on April 12 and will come preloaded on a new phone from HTC Corp., sold by AT&T Inc. in the U.S.

Google gives away Android, the most popular smartphone software in the world, in the hope that it will steer phone users toward Google services, such as Maps and Gmail, and the ads it sells. Compared with ads targeting PC surfers, mobile ads are a small market, but it's growing quickly. Research firm eMarketer expects U.S. mobile ad spending to grow 77 percent this year to $7.29 billion.


US consumer borrowing up $18.2 billion in February

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans borrowed more in February to buy cars and attend school, but were more careful with their credit cards.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumer borrowing rose $18.2 billion in February from January. That's up from a gain of $12.7 billion in the previous month.

The increase brought total borrowing to a seasonally adjusted $2.8 trillion. That's up from $2.78 trillion in January and a new record.


US trade deficit narrows to $43 billion in February

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in February as exports climbed close to an all-time high and the volume of imported crude oil fell to the lowest level in 17 years.

The gap between exports and imports shrank to $43 billion in February, down 3.4 percent from January's revised $44.5 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the smallest trade imbalance since December when the gap had declined to $38.1 billion, the lowest point in nearly three years.

Exports rose 0.8 percent to $186 billion, close to the record high set in December. Stronger exports of U.S. energy products and autos offset declines in sales of airplanes and farm equipment.


Fisker to cut three-fourths of its work force

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Troubled electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. has laid off about three-fourths of the workers at its California headquarters as it struggles with financial and production problems.

The Anaheim, Calif.-based company confirmed the layoffs in a statement on Friday, saying it is pursuing "strategic alternatives" to get through financial challenges, but it reached a point where the layoffs are necessary.

Fisker, which makes the $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, hasn't produced any cars since last year after its battery supplier filed for bankruptcy protection. The company has struggled to attract investment and was shopping around for a buyer or company to join it in an alliance. Last month, its co-founder resigned and Fisker furloughed its staff of about 220 for one week. The company at one time had about 600 workers.


Southwest Airlines CEO made $4 million in 2012

DALLAS (AP) â¿¿ The CEO of Southwest Airlines received $4 million in compensation for 2012, up 15 percent from the prior year, largely because of bigger stock awards.

The airline said in a regulatory filing on Friday that Kelly, who is also the company's chairman, was paid a salary of $675,000 and a $961,000 bonus last year, both 4 percent increases from 2011.

The bulk of Kelly's compensation was in stock awards, which Southwest valued at $2.25 million on the day they were granted. He also received $129,802 in other compensation including contributions to retirement plans and security around his home.


Tyson agrees to $4 million penalty to resolve EPA case

ST. LOUIS (AP) â¿¿ Tyson Foods Inc. will pay roughly $4 million in civil penalties to settle allegations related to eight accidental anhydrous ammonia releases that caused multiple injuries and one death over four years, the U.S. government and the company said Friday.

The deal, which resolved a federal lawsuit filed in St. Louis by the Environmental Protection Agency, involves alleged Clean Air Act violations at Tyson sites in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. It still faces a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by a federal judge.

The government scrutiny followed incidents â¿¿ at least one of them deadly â¿¿ involving anhydrous ammonia releases at Tyson sites between 2006 and 2010. Exposure to the vapors of the ammonia, commonly used as a fertilizer but in Tyson's case as a refrigerant, can burn eye and throat tissues and cause breathing difficulty, with high concentrations possibly causing lung damage and in extreme cases proving fatal.


FAA delays closing of airport control towers

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The closings of control towers at 149 small airports, due to begin this weekend because of government-wide spending cuts, are being delayed until mid-June, federal regulators announced Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it needs more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures.

Also, about 50 airport authorities and other "stakeholders" have indicated they want to fund the operations of the towers themselves rather than see them shut down, and more time will be needed to work out those plans, the agency said in a statement.


Samsung's operating profit up 53 percent in 1Q

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) â¿¿ Samsung Electronics Co. said its operating profit last quarter rose 53 percent over a year earlier, outpacing expectations for what's normally a slow time for consumer electronics sales.

The South Korean firm on Friday estimated its first quarter operating income at 8.7 trillion won ($7.7 billion). The preliminary result is a 2 percent decline from the previous quarter when the operating income stood at a record high.

Samsung said its first quarter revenue grew 15 percent from a year earlier to 52 trillion won.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average ended 40.86 points lower at 14,565.25, a loss of 0.3 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,553.28. The Nasdaq composite, which includes many technology companies, fell 21.12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,203.86.

U.S. benchmark oil fell 56 cents to close at $92.70 in New York. Brent Crude, which sets the price of oil used by many U.S. refineries to make gasoline, fell $2.19 to close at $104.15.

Natural gas rose 4.6 percent Friday to close at $4.13 per thousand cubic feet. Heating oil fell 5 cents to close at $2.91 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to close at $2.86 per gallon.

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