Business Roundup for Thurssday, March 20.

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)



NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market is closing higher as encouraging news about the U.S. economy outweighs concerns that interest rates could start climbing sooner than many people had expected. Major U.S. indexes erased nearly all of their losses from the day before, when Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested that rates could rise next year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 1,872 Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 108 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,331. The Nasdaq composite climbed 11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,319. An index of economic indicators rose in February by the largest amount in three months, suggesting growth will accelerate following a severe winter. The Philadelphia branch of the Fed said manufacturing rebounded in that region in March.

LONDON (AP) — Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has lowered its outlook for Russia to negative, citing the risk of U.S. and European economic sanctions. S&P says Russia's move to annex Crimea could also reduce investment, cause investors to pull money out of the country, and reduce overall economic performance. The negative outlook means S&P could cut Russia's credit rating within the next 24 months.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Princeton University economists have documented the bleak outlook for Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. Their study finds just 11 percent of the long-term jobless will ever regain steady full-time work. The long-term jobless number 3.8 million, or 37 percent of all unemployed Americans.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has overturned a $1.2 billion judgment against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit challenging the drugmaker's marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The court ruled that the state improperly sued under a law that applies to health care facilities, not pharmaceutical companies. Arkansas sued the drugmaker and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals saying they didn't properly communicate the drug's risks.

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks plans to turn more of its cafes into a destination for beer and wine in the evenings. The coffee company says it is looking to expand alcohol sales to "thousands of select stores" over the next several years. The chain first offered beer and wine at one of its Seattle cafes in 2010. It's now in about 26 cafes, with plans to reach 40 by the end of the year.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of existing homes slipped 0.4 percent in February. The National Association of Realtors says severe winter weather, rising prices and a tight supply of homes discouraged buyers. That led to the sixth decline in home sales in seven months.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage rates have edged back down. Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 4.32 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage eased to 3.32 percent. Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago.

TOKYO (AP) — International stock markets fell today after comments from the new head of the Federal Reserve suggested U.S. interest rates could rise sooner than financial markets were anticipating. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to just above $100 a barrel. The dollar inched up against the euro and slipped against the yen.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's weekly jobless claims report comes out today. Also, the National Association of Realtors will report on existing home sales for February and the Conference Board will release last month's leading economic indicators. Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates as well. Nike will report its quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — International criminal enterprises follow the money, and a new report says they are increasingly focusing on California. The report being released today by California Attorney General Kamala Harris says criminals are turning to cybercrime to target businesses and financial institutions. It calls California the top target in the nation for organizations that often operate from safe havens in Eastern Europe, Africa and China. It also estimates that more than $30 billion is laundered through California businesses each year.

BEIJING (AP) — China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone company by subscribers, says its profit last year fell 5.9 percent due to higher spending and intense competition. The Beijing-based company says Thursday it earned 121.7 billion yuan ($20.3 billion). Revenue rose 5.4 percent to 590.8 billion yuan ($98.5 billion) and the number of customer accounts rose 8 percent to 767 million. China Mobile is spending heavily to roll out fourth-generation service.


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