Business briefs: Stocks gain from tech firms, banks


Tech, banks take US stocks higher

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose Monday as big technology companies like Apple continued to rally. Investors bought stocks and sold bonds and gold after Congress agreed to a deal that will keep the government operating for the rest of the fiscal year.

Tech companies have set the pace all year and are up more than twice as much as the rest of the market. Apple and Facebook, which will report their first-quarter results in the next few days, helped lead the way.

Investors were relieved that the threat of a government shutdown appears to have been averted, so they bought riskier stocks and sold government bonds, gold, and high-dividend stocks.

The S&P 500 index picked up 4.13 to close at 2,388.33. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 27.05 to 20,913.46 as Boeing and IBM lagged.

Thanks to the tech gains, the Nasdaq composite rose 44 to 6,091.60, and set another record high. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gained 6.93  to 1,407.36.

Court won’t revisit net neutrality ruling

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court says it won’t reconsider its ruling to uphold the government’s “net neutrality” rules that require internet providers to treat all online traffic equally.

The decision Monday means the rules favored by consumer groups but despised by telecom companies will remain in place. But the Trump administration has signaled that it intends to scrap the Obama-era policy.

A divided three-judge panel ruled 2-1 last year to preserve regulations that ban service providers from favoring some content over others. 

Cable and telecom industry companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T say the rules threaten innovation and undermine investment in broadband infrastructure.

Consumer spending flat for 2nd month

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers cut back sharply on buying durable goods such as automobiles in March, leaving overall spending unchanged for a second straight month. A slowdown by consumers was a major reason overall economic growth slowed so sharply over the winter.

Consumer spending was unchanged in March after also being flat in February and posting only a modest rise of 0.2 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported Monday. For the January-March quarter, the sharp slowdown in consumer spending was a key reason growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, slowed to an annual rate of just 0.7 percent, the poorest performance in three years.

Economists believe growth will bounce back in the current April-June period, helped by continued strong job gains, rising wages and increased consumer confidence. Many analysts are looking for a second quarter surge to growth of 3 percent or better and they are forecasting growth for the entire year of around 2.3 percent, up from 1.6 percent GDP growth in 2016, the poorest showing in five years.

Reports: Fox New pursues Tribune

NEW YORK — Fox News owner 21st Century Fox and a New York investment firm are in talks to buy TV station operator Tribune Media, according to several reports.

A successful bid would keep Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., another TV station operator that is also reportedly pursuing the company, from snatching up Tribune. Blackstone, a private equity firm, is said to be putting cash toward creating a joint venture, while 21st Century Fox would contribute some TV stations, according to the reports.

21st Century Fox owns and operates the Fox network, FX cable channel and 28 TV stations. Adding Tribune would give 21st Century Fox control over more local TV stations, most of them in major cities. Tribune owns or operates 42 stations across the nation, including WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago. It also has stakes in the Food Network and job-search website CareerBuilder.

Several of the stations that Tribune owns are affiliated with Fox and air the network’s primetime shows such as “Empire” and “The Simpsons.”

Tribune, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and Blackstone declined to comment Monday. The possible deal was first reported by the Financial Times.

Factories grow at slower pace in April

WASHINGTON — American factories grew for the eighth straight month in April but at a slower pace than in March.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its manufacturing index slipped to 54.8 from 57.2 in March and 57.7 in February. The April reading was weaker than economists expected and was the lowest since December’s 54.5. But it was still solid: Anything above 50 signals that manufacturing is growing.

Bradley Holcomb, chair of the ISM’s manufacturing survey committee, noted that every monthly reading in 2017 has been higher than any reading in 2016. “We’re still in very, very good shape,” he said.

New orders and hiring grew more slowly in April, but production and export orders sped up.

Construction spending slips in March

WASHINGTON — U.S. builders trimmed construction spending slightly in March, one month after building activity hit an all-time high.

The Commerce Department says construction spending slipped 0.2 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted $1.218 trillion.

In February, it rose 1.8 percent to a record high of $1.22 trillion. The small decline in March reflected drops in nonresidential construction and in the government sector, which offset a strong increase in residential activity.

Residential construction was up 1.2 percent to the highest level since June 2007, a period dating back to the housing boom of the past decade. Nonresidential building fell 1.3 percent in March as spending on office buildings and the category that covers shopping centers both fell. Government activity dropped 0.9 percent with weakness in the state and local level.

Airbnb strikes deal with San Fran

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco and Airbnb have reached a deal to end a lawsuit over a law that fines the company for booking rentals not registered with the city.

Under the settlement announced Monday, residents looking to list a rental can apply for a city registration number through Airbnb’s website.

The company will provide a monthly list of all San Francisco listings to the city, so officials can verify that units are registered. Airbnb will deactivate listings after the city notifies it of an invalid registration.

Critics complain Airbnb’s business model encourages landlords to take already scarce rentals off the market. Supporters say they couldn’t live in San Francisco without the extra money made in rentals.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera calls the deal a “game changer” in protecting the housing supply.

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