Business Briefs – July 28, 2016

Alphabet’s 2q Earnings Soar Despite Losses on Risky Bets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Business is booming at Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., even as it loses billions of dollars on kooky-sounding projects that may never produce any revenue.

Powered by Google’s dominant search engine, Alphabet earned $4.9 billion during the April-June period, a 24 percent increase from the same time last year. After subtracting ad commissions, Alphabet’s revenue climbed 22 percent from last year to $17.5 billion.

Both the profit and net revenue topped analyst estimates. Alphabet’s stock surged 4 percent to $797.85 in extended trading after the numbers came out.

Alphabet would have made even more money if not for its commitment to exploring far-out ideas in its “X’’ lab and other risky ventures known as “Other Bets.” That segment suffered an $859 million loss in the second quarter.

Amazon’s Already Large Distribution Empire Keeps Expanding

NEW YORK (AP) – Online shoppers want their packages — now. And Amazon is spending heavily to make sure that happens.

Amazon’s Prime service has, at heart, always been about free two-day shipping. The $99 annual subscription includes a variety of other goodies, but the near-instant gratification of fast, no-extra-cost delivery was the program’s original draw, and remains central to its appeal for its estimated 60 million subscribers.

But fast delivery — everything from Prime’s two-day service to one-day or one-hour options, grocery delivery and delivery for third party sellers — doesn’t come cheap. In the April-June quarter, for instance, Amazon spent $3.88 billion on its distribution network, or what it calls “fulfillment,” up 35 percent from the prior year. The company spent $13.41 billion on fulfillment in all of 2015, up 25 percent from the prior year — and fully 13 percent of its $104.8 billion in total operating expenses.

U.S. Homeownership Rate of 62.9 Percent Matches a 51-Year Low

WASHINGTON (AP) – The proportion of U.S. households that own homes has matched its lowest level in 51 years — evidence that rising property prices, high rents and stagnant pay have made it hard for many to buy.

Just 62.9 percent of households owned a home in the April-June quarter this year, a decrease from 63.4 percent 12 months ago, the Census Bureau said Thursday. The share of homeowners now equals the rate in 1965, when the census began tracking the data.

The trend appears most pronounced among millennial households, ages 18 to 34, many of whom are straining under the weight of rising apartment rents and heavy student debt. Their homeownership rate fell 0.7 percentage point over the past year to 34.1 percent. That decline may reflect, in part, more young adults leaving their parents’ homes for rental apartments.

Applications for U.S. Jobless Aid Rise to Still-Low 266,000

WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, but the number of applications was still at a low level that suggested hiring is healthy.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 266,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, slipped 1,000 to 256,500.

The number of Americans receiving benefits ticked up 7,000 to 2.14 million. Still, that’s down nearly 6 percent from a year ago.