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WICS Newschannel 20 :: News - Business News

Business News

Last Update on April 15, 2014 17:50 GMT

BUILDER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market is a bit better right now but remains relatively low for the third straight month, reflecting the impact of tight credit for home buyers and a shortage of workers and land.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April has edged up to 47 from 46 in March.

Readings below 50 mean builders view sales conditions as poor. The index had been above 50 from June through January. But builders recently have complained that they can't find enough workers or lots.

Builders expect sales to improve over the spring and summer. The index measuring their confidence in home sales over the next six months rose to 57, highest since January.

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping offset higher costs for food and clothing.

The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases the previous two months. Prices have risen just 1.5 percent year over year. That remains well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 0.2 percent in March and 1.7 percent in the past year.

Prices at the gas pump tumbled 1.7 percent in March, lowering costs for the entire energy category.

But food prices jumped 0.4 percent, led by increases in eggs, milk, butter, oranges, pork chops, ground beef and poultry. Prices for clothing, used cars and cable television also rose.

EARNINGS

J&J profit up 8 percent on sales jump; Coca-Cola profit dips, but more drinks sold

UNDATED (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson says its first-quarter profit rose 8 percent.

The world's biggest maker of health care products easily beat Wall Street expectations and raised its earnings outlook. J&J's report credits restrained costs and a big jump in prescription drug sales for its gains. Its stock is up more than 1 percent.

Coca-Cola says its first-quarter profit fell nearly 8 percent despite selling more drinks worldwide.

Soda sales actually fell for the first time in a decade, but the drop was offset by stronger sales of non-carbonated drinks, such as juice. Still, a stronger dollar hurt profits.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola's net income totaled 44 cents per share, matching Wall Street expectations. Coca-Cola shares are up more than 3 percent.

EPA-EMISSIONS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The new regulations are designed to clean the air of toxins such as mercury, lead and arsenic, which contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

In its ruling, the court rejected state and industry challenges to the rules. Industry groups argue it would cost billions of dollars annually to comply with the new rules and the EPA overstates their benefits.

When the rules were brought forward three years ago, there were no limits on how much mercury or other toxic pollutants could be released from a power plant's smokestacks.

The EPA calls the decision "a victory for public health and the environment," adding that the new standards will "prevent heart and asthma attacks" and slash emissions that can impair children's ability to learn.

PAP SMEAR DEBATE-FDA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: the Pap smear.

The new test comes from Roche and uses DNA to detect the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which that causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. While such technology has been available for years, Roche now wants the FDA to approve its test as a first-choice option for cervical cancer screening, bypassing the decades-old Pap smear.

But a number of women's groups warn that moving to a DNA-only testing model would be a "radical shift" in medical practice that could lead to confusion, higher costs and overtreatment in some women.

YELLEN-BANKS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says recent initiatives by the Fed and other regulators to help banks make it through periods of financial stress are important, but they may still need to be strengthened.

Yellen believes current rules governing how much capital banks must hold in case of losses do not address all threats. She said that the Federal Reserve staff is actively considering what additional measures may be needed.

Bank regulators need to focus on this area, Yellen says, since bank runs generated at shaky firms were the primary engine that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

Yellen's comments Tuesday came in an address delivered by video to a financial markets conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve's regional bank in Atlanta.

EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union Parliament has completed the biggest overhaul of the bloc's financial system since the introduction of the euro currency.

Lawmakers in Strasbourg today passed laws aimed at minimizing the risk and cost posed by failing banks. They signed off on the establishment of a European authority to unwind or restructure failing banks as well as new rules designed to prevent any further bailouts with taxpayer money.

The EU Parliament also passed legislation that protects all deposits of up to 100,000 euros ($138,000) in case of bank failures across the 28-nation bloc.

The EU Commissioner in charge of financial market reform says the new rules "put an end to the era of massive bailouts and ensure taxpayers will no longer foot the bill when banks face difficulties."

During the global financial crisis, European governments pumped more than $800 billion into ailing banks.

IRS-PRIVATE COLLECTORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A public employees union is fighting a bipartisan effort in Congress to force the Internal Revenue Service to hire private contractors to collect some delinquent taxes.

The IRS stopped using private tax collectors in 2009 after determining that agency employees could do a better job.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill two weeks ago that included an amendment requiring the IRS to revive the program. The amendment was offered by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. It was accepted without opposition.

The amendment was attached to a bill that extends several dozen tax breaks that expired at the start of the year.

The National Treasury Employees Union said the program failed in the past and should not be forced on the IRS.

Business Stories

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Business News

US homebuilder confidence edges up in April

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market is a bit better right now but remains relatively low for the third straight month, reflecting the impact of tight credit for home buyers and a shortage of workers and land.

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