Business Roundup for Monday, March 17

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are sharply higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street. Investors appear to be brushing aside concerns about the international tensions over Ukraine, instead focusing on last month's rebound in industrial production. The Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are all about one percent higher.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose in just one state in January. Iowa saw its jobless rate increase just a tenth to 4.3 percent. But that's far below the national rate of 6.6 percent. Forty-three states saw their unemployment rates drop, and 23 of them reported more hiring in January. Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent, while North Dakota had the lowest rate, at 2.6 percent.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio auto dealers are sparring with California-based automaker Tesla over how its vehicles are sold. Tesla is selling its electric cars from its own stores in Cincinnati and Columbus. Lawmakers are considering a proposal to block future Tesla direct-sales stores on grounds they undercut traditional auto dealerships. But Tesla says direct-to-consumer sales are needed to jumpstart electric-car technology and keep prices affordable.

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is issuing more recalls. The latest involves nearly 1.2 million SUVs for defective side air bags. GM also announced smaller recalls of commercial vans and Cadillac sedans for separate problems. The new recalls come as GM faces multiple investigations over its handling of a recall of more than 1.6 million small cars for defective ignition switches.

NEW YORK (AP) — Sally Beauty is the latest company to report a data security breach. The seller of beauty supplies says it discovered a breach earlier this month that affected fewer than 25,000 credit and debit card accounts. Sally Beauty says it's working with a forensics firm and the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the matter. It says it will inform affected customers on the steps it will be taking. Other companies recently hit by data breaches include Target and Neiman Marcus.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says factory production surged 0.8 percent in February. That was nearly enough to offset a 0.9 percent January drop-off that was the result of this winter's storms. Production of autos, home electronics and chemicals all picked up last month.

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market is rising. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo says its builder sentiment index has risen to 47. Still, readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good. And, the outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months dimmed slightly as builders grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, ready-to-build land and rising building materials costs.

MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula is taking steps to integrate its financial system with Russia's — including adopting the ruble currency. The moves follow yesterday's referendum, in which voters overwhelmingly favored seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. Crimea declared itself independent today and is setting up its own central bank.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's finance minister says he is "close to" completing negotiations with the debt-mired country's bailout creditors. Talks between Greece and its creditors have dragged on for the past six months, with the main sticking points including public sector layoffs and new policies making it easier for private sector companies to layoff workers. Greece has been financially surviving on international bailouts since mid-2010, when it nearly went bankrupt.

HONG KONG (AP) — International stock markets drifted today as investors largely shrugged off a weekend vote in which Crimea opted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The U.S. and Europe have threatened Russia with sanctions. European shares crept up in early trading while Asian stocks were mixed. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen. Benchmark crude oil slipped below $99 a barrel.

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will release today details on foreign holdings of U.S. debt in January and the Federal Reserve will report on February's industrial production. Also today, the National Association of Home Builders will release its housing market index for March.

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Toyota says it has shut down production at its two auto-assembly plants in India, locking out 6,400 workers amid testy wage negotiations and allegations of threats against management. A statement from the Indian unit of the world's largest automaker said the company had no other option but to declare a lockout "to ensure the safety" of workers and management. The union could not immediately be reached for comment due to a public holiday in India.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Street racers couldn't catch a time-traveling dog and his boy. Though Disney's "Need for Speed" was expected to take the No. 1 position at the box office, DreamWorks' "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" took the lead, with the action film in third place. The animated movie, about the adventures of a genius dog and the human son he adopted, earned $21.2 million according to studio estimates. Warner Bros.' warrior drama "300: Rise of an Empire," dropped to second. "Non-Stop" was fourth while Tyler Perry's "The Single Moms Club," starring Nia Long and Amy Smart, opened at No. 5.

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