Business Briefs – May 8, 2016

Hiring Slowdown in April May Signal Caution About U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) – American employers signaled their caution about a sluggish economy by slowing their pace of hiring in April after months of robust job growth.

At the same time, companies raised pay, and their employees worked more hours — a combination that lifted income and, if sustained, could quicken the U.S. expansion.

As a whole, the government’s report Friday pointed to an American job market that continues to generate steady hiring, though at a rate that may be starting to slow. Employers added 160,000 jobs in April, well below the average gain of 243,000 in the prior six months. But the unemployment rate remained a low 5 percent, roughly where it’s been since last fall.

U.S. Consumer Borrowing Jumps 10 Percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. consumers sharply increased use of their credit cards in March, pushing up total borrowing at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that total consumer borrowing rose $29.7 billion in March, a 10 percent jump from the previous month. It was the largest percentage gain since a surge of 18.4 percent in November 2001, when consumer borrowing surged in response to government officials urging Americans to boost spending to support the economy following the September terrorist attacks.

Total borrowing rose to a fresh record of $3.59 trillion. Borrowing in the category that includes credit cards jumped $11.1 billion, or 14.2 percent, the biggest one-month gain in this category since July 2000. Borrowing for auto and student loans rose $18.6 billion, up 8.5 percent.

A Trump Proposal for National Debt Would Send Rates Soaring

WASHINGTON (AP) – In the event that the U.S. economy crashed, Donald Trump has floated a recovery plan based on his own experience with corporate bankruptcy: Pay America’s creditors less than full value on the U.S. Treasury’s they hold.

Experts see it as a reckless idea that would send interest rates soaring, derail economic growth and undermine confidence in the world’s most trusted financial asset.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee suggested in a phone interview Thursday with CNBC that he would stimulate growth through borrowing. If trouble arose, he added, he could get investors to accept reduced payments for their Treasury holdings.

Trump later clarified that comment to say he would offer to buy the bonds back at a discount from investors in hopes of refinancing them at lower rates.

Fire in Alberta Threatens Oil Production, Helps Boost Price

The massive wildfire in the heart of Canada’s oil country is helping send crude prices higher.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 34 cents to $44.66 a barrel Friday in New York after earlier dropping by nearly 2 percent. Oil prices often spike when there is concern that production could be curtailed.

Canada is the leading exporter of crude oil and natural gas to the United States, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration. Canada sends about 100 million barrels of crude and 240 billion cubic feet of natural gas per month to the U.S.

Tampa Bay Times’ Paper Buy Latest in Grim News Landscape

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – If a metro area with 2.7 million people can’t sustain two newspapers — especially with an aging population with the time and inclination to read a printed paper — can anywhere?

Some say maybe not.

The purchase of the 123-year-old Tampa Tribune in Florida this week by the paper’s rival, The Tampa Bay Times, stunned employees and area residents. But media watchers largely shrugged, calling it the latest in a long slide of obsolescence for America’s print media.

Herbalife in Advanced Settlement Talks With FTC, Shares Soar

NEW YORK (AP) – Shares of Herbalife surged Friday after disclosing that it’s in advanced talks to settle a federal investigation into claims that the company essentially operates as a pyramid scheme.

It’s a claim that has dogged the company for years and set off what has become an epic battle with activist investor Bill Ackman, who has been waging a campaign against Herbalife since late 2012.

Herbalife, which sells supplements and weight-loss products, said in a regulatory filing that the possible settlement with the Federal Trade Commission “would likely include a monetary payment and injunctive and other relief.”