Business Briefs – February 18, 2016

Yahoo CEO Tries to Reassure Mobile Partners Amid Turmoil

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer found herself in an awkward situation Thursday at the struggling internet company’s annual conference for the makers of mobile apps.

She had to persuade an auditorium full of programmers and advertising partners that Yahoo will grow into an increasingly important player in the mobile market. This while the company is dramatically shrinking to appease restless shareholders threatening to overthrow management unless things get better.

Yahoo is exploring “strategic alternatives” that could include a sale while the Sunnyvale, California, company sheds 15 percent of its workforce and closes unprofitable services.

Air Travel Booms in India, Strains Creaky Infrastructure

NEW DELHI (AP) – A fast-growing economy and an expanding middle class have made India the world’s fastest-growing air travel market. The number of passengers grew 20 percent last year and airlines are announcing flights to new destinations almost every week.

And yet, Indian airlines are in distress. Experts say the explosion in air travel has happened despite major hurdles such as lack of aircraft maintenance infrastructure, choked airports and fierce fare wars.

Although the problems appear huge, the size and potential of the Indian market continue to draw new players and several foreign airlines have also entered the market.

World Bank Sees Modest Economic Drag From Zika

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The spread of Zika will have a modest drag on economies in Latin America, with tourism-dependent Caribbean nations most at risk, the World Bank said Thursday.

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency in response to the Zika outbreak. But it says the epidemic’s economic impact is limited.

It estimates that lost revenue will total only $3.6 billion, or about 0.6 percent of the region’s gross domestic product. That would come from reduced travel to the region and sick employees missing work, while anti-mosquito efforts will strain already tight national budgets.

Applications for U.S. Jobless Benefits Fall to 3-Month Low

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of people seeking unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest level since November, evidence that stock market turmoil and slow growth overseas haven’t caused U.S. businesses to cut jobs.

Weekly applications for jobless benefits fell 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 262,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 8,000 to 273,250. The overall number of people receiving aid increased, to 2.26 million, from 2.25 million the previous week.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low reading suggests that employers are confident enough in future growth to hold onto their workers, and possibly hire more.

Oregon Lawmakers Weigh Landmark Minimum Wage Proposal

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Oregon is trailblazing a national debate with a proposal that would not only make the state’s minimum wage the highest in the U.S., but would do so through a unique tiered system based on geography.

As the federal minimum wage has sat unchanged since the start of the Great Recession, a number of states have raised their rates or are considering doing so.

Oregon lawmakers will soon vote on a unique system that would introduce increases over six years. Oregon’s current $9.25 an hour minimum would jump to $14.75 in metro Portland, $13.50 in smaller cities and $12.50 in rural communities by 2022.

IBM to Spend $2.6B on Truven Health, Boost Watson System

ARMONK, N.Y. (AP) – IBM is paying $2.6 billion to buy Truven Health Analytics and bolster the health care capabilities of its Watson cognitive computing system.

IBM has been promoting Watson and related technology as a powerful tool that also can be used in retailing and other industries.

The company says the deal will bring in more than 8,500 clients and allow it to house health-related data representing an aggregate of about 300 million patient lives.

The deal for privately-held Truven Health will be IBM’s fourth health-related acquisition since launching its Watson Health cloud computing platform last April.