Business Roundup for Friday, March 28.

Blackberry cell phone (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street, after two days of declines. Investors are encouraged by news that U.S. consumer spending rose in February. And tech stocks are recovering from a week of losses with help from Microsoft, which announced yesterday that it's bringing Microsoft Office to the iPad and shifting its focus away from Windows.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission says the mobile apps of movie ticket seller Fandango and credit report provider Credit Karma may have exposed millions of users' sensitive personal information, including credit card data and Social Security numbers. The FTC says the companies failed to properly secure their apps for several years. The companies fixed the security issue last year and agreed to settle the FTC's charges. They say they're not aware of any information being stolen.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says unemployment rates fell in most states last month, and two-thirds of the states reported job gains. Unemployment rates dropped in 29 states, rose in 10 and were unchanged in the remaining 11. Hiring rose in 33 states and fell in 17. Rhode Island reported the highest unemployment rate, at 9 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rate, 2.6 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey finds U.S. consumer sentiment slipped in March from the previous month, as Americans said they were less likely to buy cars and homes because of slightly higher interest rates. The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index dipped to 80 in March from 81.6 in February. But one out of three respondents said they expect their finances to improve in the year ahead, the highest proportion since the recession ended in June 2009.

GREER, S.C. (AP) — BMW is marking its 20th anniversary of building cars in the United States by investing $1 billion in its South Carolina plant over the next two years. The German automaker announced today that it will build two of its new X-series vehicles at the facility in Greer, near Spartanburg, which began the wave of foreign automakers building Southern plants. Almost 300,000 BMWs were made in South Carolina last year.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bad weather is blamed for holding back consumer spending last month. The Commerce Department says spending rose 0.3 percent in February following a 0.2 percent rise in January. The increases would have been even weaker except for a surge in spending on utility bills. Spending on durable goods such as autos actually dropped in February as consumers stayed away from auto dealerships.

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has told dealers to stop selling some 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars, but the company won't say why. Dealers say stop-sale orders are routine and almost always made to fix a safety problem. The move comes as GM deals with fallout from a delayed recall of 1.6 million older small cars to fix an ignition switch problem that has been linked to 31 crashes and at least a dozen deaths.

DETROIT (AP) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed an investigation into Tesla electric car battery fires after the company agreed to install more shields beneath the cars. Tesla says the shields will prevent roadway debris from damaging batteries and possibly causing fires. The company will retrofit Model S cars sold in the U.S. with the new shields. Tesla says the action is not a recall.

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's is offering free coffee for a limited time as competition for the breakfast crowd intensifies. The world's biggest hamburger chain says participating U.S. locations will offer small cups of McCafe coffee at no charge during breakfast hours from March 31 through April 13. Today's announcement comes as Taco Bell rolls out ads to promote its new breakfast menu, which includes a waffle taco.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Star-Ledger and its sister newspapers in New Jersey have announced plans to form a new media company as part of a major reorganization. Executives from Advance Publications say some functions will be consolidated and some jobs lost but that individual papers will continue operating as independent companies with their own newsrooms.

NEW YORK (AP) BlackBerry reported a dive in profit and revenue as the company transitions itself from a smartphone company to a software business. The Canadian company said it lost $423 million, or 80 cents per share, on revenue of $976 million — down from $2.7 billion in revenue the fourth quarter last year. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a loss of 56 cents per share on revenue of $1.1 billion. Adjusted for one-time items, however, losses were only 8 cents, and shares spiked 7 percent. It is the second quarterly results under John Chen, its chief executive, who is deemphasizing the hardware business after last year's launch of the BlackBerry 10 phones failed to spark a turnaround. The BlackBerry has been hammered by competition from the iPhone as well as Android-based rivals.

TOKYO (AP) — Shares gained today as investors took heart on expectations China will move to counter its economic slowdown. Asian shares mostly gained and early European trading was upbeat. The dollar gained against the yen and was steady against the euro. Benchmark crude oil rose above $101.50.

WASHINGTON — Investors will not be getting much news from the government today. There is one report, however, that could be of interest. The Commerce Department will release personal income and spending for February. Also today, BlackBerry reports its quarterly results.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese household spending fell 1.5 percent in February from a year earlier, suggesting consumers are tightening belts ahead of an April 1 hike in the country's sales tax. The government also reports today that core consumer prices rose 1.3 percent in February, though a large share of the increase was due to rising energy costs. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is striving to spur inflation to pull Japan out of a two-decade economic slump.

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban authorities are on the verge of enacting a new foreign investment law considered one of the most vital building blocks of President Raul Castro's effort to reform the country's struggling economy. It's currently difficult for foreign investors to gain inroads in Cuba. One report says the law will allow foreign participation in "all sectors" except health and education and won't be limited to joint partnerships with the government.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)