Update on the latest business

June 28, 2013, 1:33 pm


WALL STREET

Stocks drift after 3-day rally

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street's three-day rally is running out of steam. Stocks have been flipping from small gains to losses on the last trading day of June.

Less than three hours before the close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was off about 50, the Nasdaq was up about seven and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was flat.

The S&P 500 is heading for its first monthly loss since October. It's still on track for its best first half of a year performance since 1998.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

US consumer sentiment stays near 6-year high

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of U.S. consumer confidence remained near a six-year high in June as higher home and stock prices boosted household wealth.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment dipped to 84.1 in June from 84.5 the previous month. May's reading was the highest since July 2007.

Rising household wealth was the main reason consumers stayed optimistic. Households with income above $75,000, those more likely to own homes and stocks, reported the biggest gain.

More Americans said they planned to buy a home, despite rising mortgage rates. The number of consumers who said it was a bad time to buy a home fell to the fewest in 10 years.

Consumers' confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic growth.

EARNS-RESEARCH IN MOTION

RIM shares plunge in premarket after posting loss

TORONTO (AP) — Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion have been down nearly 30 percent after the company posted a loss in the first quarter and failed to break out how many of its new BlackBerrys were sold.

Analysts were hoping to see how BlackBerry's new touchscreen Z10 phone sold for a full quarter in the U.S. market. RIM only said it 6.8 million phones overall versus 7.8 million last year. That includes older models.

RIM's new Blackberry 10 operating system is widely seen as critical to the company's comeback.

The Canadian company said Friday that it lost $84 million, or 16 cents a share, in the three months ended June 1 on revenue of $3.1 billion. It lost $518 million, or 99 cents per share, on revenue of $2.8 billion a year ago.

Analysts expected RIM to earn 5 cents a share on revenue of $3.37 billion.

IRS-POLITICAL GROUPS

House panel votes on pressing IRS figure to talk

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican-led House committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service treatment of tea party and other conservative groups says a central figure in that probe had no right to invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions when she appeared before the panel last month.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee pushed through a resolution saying that Lois Lerner, an IRS official in charge of overseeing nonprofits, forfeited her right to silence when she opened the May 22 hearing by reading a statement avowing that she had done nothing wrong.

The committee is seeking to question Lerner, now on administrative leave, on who was involved in decisions to single out tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status for special scrutiny.

BIRTH CONTROL-RELIGIOUS GROUPS

Final gov't birth control rule for faith groups

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is making its final offer on a compromise for faith-based nonprofits that object to covering birth control in their employee health plans.

The final regulation issued Friday sets up a system for insurers to provide the coverage separately, but that seems unlikely to resolve lawsuits over the issue, some of which may go to the Supreme Court.

The health care law requires most job-based health plans to provide birth control to women workers as preventive care, free of charge. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt, but religious charities, universities and hospitals are not.

Under the compromise, religious nonprofits must notify their insurance company that they object to birth control coverage. The insurer then notifies affected employees separately that it will provide coverage at no cost.

HOBBY LOBBY-BIRTH CONTROL

Hobby Lobby seeks formal ruling to avoid fines

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Hobby Lobby and a sister company that sells Christian books and supplies want an Oklahoma federal judge to ensure they won't be fined while fighting part of the nation's new health care law.

Two questions were left unresolved Thursday when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the companies could fight the government on religious grounds.

A lower court must still weigh in on whether granting an injunction is in the public interest. There also is a question of whether the companies or the government would suffer the greater loss.

The Christian owners of the arts-and-crafts retailer and the Mardel bookstore chain approve of most forms of artificial birth control, but not those that prevent a fertilized egg's implantation such as an IUD or the morning-after pill.

CHICK-FIL-A PRESIDENT-GAY MARRIAGE

Chick-fil-a president deletes gay marriage remark

ATLANTA (AP) — The president of the fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has once again injected himself into the gay marriage debate, this time criticizing Supreme Court rulings.

Dan Cathy posted a comment Wednesday on Twitter criticizing a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Those decisions will extend federal recognition to same-sex marriages in the states where they are legal, and will add California — the most populous state — to the 12 others in that category.

"Sad day for our nation," Cathy wrote. He added that the country's founders would be "ashamed" of the modern generation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the post was later deleted. Chick-fil-A officials issued a statement acknowledging the post, saying Cathy was offering a personal comment.

Cathy previously sparked controversy by speaking against gay marriage, prompting protests and condemnations by politicians.

GAY WEDDING FLOWERS

Wash. gay wedding flowers case goes to court

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — The dispute over a Washington state florist who declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding goes to court Friday.

Oral arguments are scheduled in Benton County Superior Court.

The Washington state attorney general's office sued the owner of Arlene's Flowers, Baronelle Stutzman, saying she violated consumer protection law by refusing service in March to customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.

Stutzman says she has no problem with homosexual customers but won't support gay weddings because of her religious beliefs.

In addition to the state, the ACLU sued Stutzman on behalf of the Kennewick, Wash. couple. A religious freedom group, Alliance Defending Freedom, countersued the state on behalf of Stutzman.

PAULA DEEN-SEARS

Sears Holdings severs ties with Paula Deen

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp. is announcing it is cutting ties with Paula Deen, adding to the list of companies cutting ties following revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.

The company, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., says Friday that it made the decision to phase out all products tied to the brand after "careful consideration of all available information."

Sears joins Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Home Depot as retailers that plan to stop selling cookware and other items with Deen's brand.

Last week, the Food Network said that it would not renew her contract. On Monday, pork producer Smithfield Foods dropped her as a spokeswoman.

US-HORSE SLAUGHTER

Fed officials approve horse slaughterhouse in NM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials have granted a southeastern New Mexico company's request to open a horse slaughterhouse. Officials also say Friday that they plan to grant similar permits to operations in Iowa and Missouri.

With the action, Valley Meat Co. of Roswell is set to become the first operation in the nation licensed to process horses into meat.

The company has been fighting for approval from the Department of Agriculture for more than a year with a request that ignited debate over whether horses are livestock or companions.

The decision comes months after Valley Meat Co. sued the USDA, accusing it of intentional delays because the Obama Administration opposes horse slaughter.

Valley Meat Co. wants to ship horse meat to countries where people cook with it or feed it to animals.

SOGGY CROP

USDA: Wet spring won't affect predicted corn crop

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers will come through with the predicted corn crop despite the Midwest's wet spring that delayed planting.

Some states — including Michigan, Nebraska and Texas — planted more corn than expected, which will make up for the loss in Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer.

Friday's annual acreage report is based on farmer surveys, and surprised farmers, analysts and commodities traders. Many expected the number of corn acres planted to fall by about 2 million acres.

The report says farmers planted 97.4 million acres and will harvest 89.1 million acres. Earlier predictions were 97.3 million acres planted and 89.5 million acres harvested.

Corn prices fell rapidly as the report was released, because it indicated more corn than expected would be available on the market.

FOOD AND FARM-DAIRY WOES

Farmers warn of high milk prices without farm bill

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Congress' failure to pass a farm bill last week has already resurrected talk of a "dairy cliff," in which milk prices could skyrocket to $6 a gallon.

The dairy cliff became a topic of conversation last year as the 2008 farm bill and its milk subsidies were about to expire.

The law would have reverted to one in place in 1949 that requires the federal government to buy up dairy products until milk prices hit a certain point.

An extension of the current law has delayed that effect but it expires on Sept. 30, and consumers could see milk prices start to rise Jan. 1.

Another extension is possible, but lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are already saying they won't go for that.

FORD-RECALL

Ford recalls Explorer, Taurus, MKS to fix locks

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling just over 13,000 Explorer, Taurus and Lincoln MKS cars and SUVs because the child safety locks might not work on the rear doors.

The recall affects 2013 model cars sold mainly in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Ford says the safety locks can be turned off when the doors are opened or closed. That could allow a door to be opened with the inside door handle and possibly hurt a child. The company says no injuries have been reported from the problem.

The recall covers cars and SUVs built from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12 of last year. Dealers will test the locks and replace door latches if needed at no cost to owners.

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