By The Associated Press___ US home building is surging, but job growth isn't The resurgent U.S. housing market has sent builders calling again for Richard Vap, who owns a drywall installation company. Vap would love to help â¿¿ if he could hire enough qualified people. "There is a shortage of manpower," says Vap, owner of South Valley Drywall in Littleton, Colo. "We're probably only hiring about 75 or 80 percent of what we actually need." U.S. builders and the subcontractors they depend on are struggling to hire fast enough to meet rising demand for new homes. Builders would be starting work on more homes â¿¿ and contributing more to the economy â¿¿ if they could fill more job openings. In the meantime, workers in the right locations with the right skills are commanding higher pay. ___ Record profit signals healthier Fannie Mae WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Fannie Mae said something Thursday that would have been unthinkable a few years ago: It earned a record $58.7 billion profit in the January-March quarter. And it made clear it's on the cusp of repaying taxpayers for one of the most expensive bailouts of a single company in the financial crisis. For Fannie, the future hasn't looked this bright since 2006. More Americans are buying homes. Prices are rising at their fastest rate since the housing bubble burst. Banks are lending only to the most qualified buyers. And many fewer homes are falling into foreclosure. All of that is a boon to Fannie and its smaller sibling Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee half of all U.S. mortgages and back nearly 90 percent of new ones. When people buy homes and nearly all pay their mortgage bills, Fannie and Freddie can't help but make piles of money. ___ YouTube launches pay channels with campy flicks
LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Roger Corman's campy B movies, children's shows like "Sesame Street" and "Inspector Gadget," and inspirational monologues by celebrities â¿¿ these are among the offerings on 30 channels that will soon require a paid monthly subscription on YouTube.Although the world's largest video site has rented and sold movies and TV shows from major studios since late 2008, most people watch videos on YouTube for free. It's the first time YouTube is introducing all-you-can-watch channels that require a monthly fee. The least expensive of the channels at will cost 99 cents a month but the average price is around $2.99. ___ Drugmakers, health groups bring poor girls vaccine TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Two multinational drugmakers are teaming up with top global health groups to protect millions of girls in the world's poorest countries from deadly cervical cancer. Starting with pilot programs in eight Asian and African nations, the ambitious project ultimately is intended to inoculate more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries by 2020. Given that most women killed by cervical cancer live in developing countries, the project could have a huge impact. The endeavor was announced Thursday by the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that's worked with drugmakers to deliver affordable vaccines to poor countries to treat childhood illnesses that are big killers. ___ IMS: US medicine spending shows rare dip in 2012 TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Spending on prescription medicines in the U.S. fell for the first time in decades last year, slipping as cash-strapped consumers continued to cut back on use of health care services. Patients also benefited from a surge of new, inexpensive generic versions of widely used drugs for chronic conditions like high cholesterol, according to a new report. Total spending on medications dipped 1 percent, to $325.8 billion last year from $329.2 billion in 2011. Likewise, average spending per person on medicines fell by $33, to $898 last year, according to the report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
___US jobless aid applications fall to 5-year low WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, a five-year low. Layoffs have returned to pre-recession levels, a trend that could lead to more hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 6,250 to 336,750. That the fewest since November 2007, one month before the Great Recession began. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Weekly applications have fallen about 9 percent since November and are now at a level consistent with a healthy economy. The last time weekly applications were lower was in January 2008, when they were 321,000. ___ US wholesale stockpiles up 0.4 percent in March WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Wholesale businesses stepped up their restocking of supplies in March, but their sales fell sharply. The Commerce Department said Thursday that stockpiles held by wholesalers rose 0.4 percent in March compared with February, when they had fallen 0.3 percent. Sales in March dropped 1.6 percent, the biggest setback since March 2009, when the country was in recession. Sales had risen 1.5 percent in February. ___ Average on 30-year US mortgage rises to 3.42 percent WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. mortgage rates rose this week but remained near historic lows. Cheaper mortgages have encouraged more home buying and refinancing. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage edged up to 3.42 percent from 3.35 percent last week. That's still near the average of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed-rate loan rose to 2.61 percent from 2.56 percent last week, which was the lowest on records going back to 1991. ___ Retailers report modest gains for April
NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Americans spent briskly during the early spring months in the latest sign that they're encouraged by the economic recovery.Falling gas prices, a rallying stock market and gains in the job market all fueled Americans' shopping habits even as cold weather tempered their desire to buy spring fashions. Revenue at stores open at least a year â¿¿ an industry measure of a store's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened and closed â¿¿ rose 4.7 percent in April compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 12 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group. ___ China's April inflation rises to 2.4 percent BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ China's inflation rose slightly in April amid concern about the strength of its economic recovery. Consumer prices rose 2.4 percent over a year earlier, up from March's 2.1 percent gain, data showed Thursday. That still is well below the government's target of 3.5 percent for the year. Inflation is forecast to rise gradually as a shaky economic recovery boosts consumer demand. But mixed signals about factory activity, which slowed in April, and doubts about the strength of trade have raised questions about whether the recovery is gaining traction. ___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 22.5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,082.62. The S&P 500 index dropped 6.02 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,626.67. The Nasdaq composite index, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, fell 4.10 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,409.17. Benchmark oil for June delivery lost 23 cents to finish at $96.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 13 cents to end at $104.47 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to finish at $2.89 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to end at $2.94 a gallon. Natural gas was flat at $3.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.