Business Roundup for Thursday, April 3.

A Barnes & Noble bookstore in New York (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing lower for the first time in five days as traders look ahead to a key report on the U.S. job market. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 1,888 Thursday. The index closed at an all-time high a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial edged down half a point to 16,572. The Nasdaq composite fell 38 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,237. Barnes & Noble plunged 14 percent after Liberty Media said it was selling most of its stake in the bookseller. The S&P's index of biotechnology stocks fell 1.6 percent, dragging down health care stocks. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.79 percent.

MIAMI (AP) — Federal authorities in South Florida say 25 people have been charged in the latest major identity theft and tax refund fraud sweep. The U.S. attorney in Miami says the suspects collectively tried to obtain $36 million in fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. One defendant is a school food service employee who is charged with stealing the identities of about 400 Miami-Dade County students. Other defendants include a mail carrier and tax preparers.

MERRIMACK, N.H. (AP) — Brookstone is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its $147 million sale to Spencer Spirit Holdings, announced last week. The gadget chain that's a staple in malls and airports says its 240 stores will remain open and business will continue as usual. Spencer Spirit owns Spencer stores and sells Halloween costumes at its Spirit pop-up stores.

NEW YORK (AP) — Liberty Media is cutting its stake in Barnes & Noble. The investment company controlled by billionaire investor John Malone gave Barnes & Noble a lifeline in 2011 when it bought 12 million shares at $17 apiece. But now Liberty says it's selling the majority of its shares to institutional buyers. It will keep 10 percent of its original investment and lose its two board seats.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Two of the world's leading financial decision-makers are not seeing eye to eye. The head of the European Central Bank is publicly rejecting advice from International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who yesterday urged the ECB to ease monetary policy. Instead, it decided today to leave its main interest rate at a record-low 0.25 percent and not provide any further stimulus. Its president, Mario Draghi says the IMF has become overzealous in providing monetary policy guidance and probably wouldn't have dared to lecture the U.S. Federal Reserve in the same way.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's largest newspaper says it is cutting about 170 jobs, including 25 percent of its newsroom positions, as it moves to consolidate operations and cut costs. The Star-Ledger reports on that the cuts will mean the loss of 40 of the 156 members of the newsroom staff. The announcement comes a week after Advance Publications announced it will consolidate news operations in New Jersey, including its online site, as it seeks to reduce costs in a rapidly changing industry. The company is creating a new media company, NJ Advance Media, to provide content, advertising and marketing services to all Advance papers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The owners of a chain of landmark pizza shops on the New Jersey shore have been arrested on federal tax evasion charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office says Charles and Mary Bangle will appear in federal court in Camden at 2 p.m. Thursday to face the charges on the 30-count indictment. Authorities say they skimmed money from the pizza shops when they worked there from 2007 until they bought them in 2011 and that they also concealed their income. They were arrested Thursday morning at their Somers Point home.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits has ticked up, but remains close to pre-recession levels. The Labor Department says unemployment applications rose by 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000. The less volatile four-week average inched up 250 to 319,500. The Labor Department releases its March employment report tomorrow.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey finds U.S. service firms expanded last month as new orders rose and hiring increased. The Institute for Supply Management says its service-sector index rose to 53.1 in March from 51.6 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. A measure of hiring jumped 6.1 points to 53.4, reversing most of a nine-point plunge that occurred in February that was mostly blamed on the weather. The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services firms.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average rates on fixed mortgages are up slightly this week but remain near historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan inched up to 4.41 percent from 4.40 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage increased to 3.47 percent from 3.42 percent. Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department reports the U.S. trade deficit climbed to the highest level in five months in February as demand for American exports fell while imports increased slightly. The deficit increased to $42.3 billion, 7.7 percent above the January imbalance of $39.3 billion. Gains in imports of autos and clothing offset a drop in crude oil, which fell to the lowest level in more than three years.

TOKYO (AP) — International stock markets were mostly higher today as investors took heart from new stimulus in China and evidence of stronger U.S. hiring. Gains in early European trading were more modest than Asian markets because of European Central Bank deliberations. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $99.50 a barrel.

WASHINGTON — Investors are hoping the government's weekly jobless claims report is positive and will help the market climb higher today. The Commerce Department will also release international trade data for February. Other reports due out today are the weekly mortgage rates report from Freddie Mac and the Institute for Supply Management's service sector index for March.

HONG KONG (AP) — China's leaders have unveiled a mini-stimulus aimed at shoring up sputtering growth in the world's No. 2 economy. Under the measures announced by Premier Li Keqiang (lee kuh-TYAHNG'), small businesses will get bigger tax breaks, social housing will be built to replace shantytowns and railway construction will be sped up. It comes as signs mount that China's economy continues to slow, raising fears it may expand less than the 7.5 percent that the country's leaders have targeted.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report says African-Americans and Latinos are losing economic ground when compared with whites in the areas of employment and income as the United States pulls itself out of the Great Recession. The latest State of Black America report from the National Urban League says that the underemployment rate for African-American workers is 20.5 percent, compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. The report also says African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.



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