Stocks gain…Unemployment benefit seekers decline…Buyback record
NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks moved broadly higher Thursday on Wall Street in early trading, led by media and internet companies. Facebook rose 2% and Walt Disney rose 1%. Tesla sank 9% as vehicle deliveries fell sharply in the first quarter. Office Depot shed 15% after issuing a weak forecast. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 122 points, or 0.5%, to 26,326 as of 10:05 a.m. The S&P 500 index rose 0.2% and the Nasdaq rose 0.3%. The S&P 500 has risen for the past five days in a row.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since late 1969, a sign that employers are holding onto their workers despite signs of a slowing economy. The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000. That is the lowest since the week of December 6, 1969. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the drop to such a low level indicates that companies are cutting very few workers.
UNDATED (AP) – U.S. corporations spent a record amount buying back their own shares last year, using 2017’s tax-cut windfall to reward shareholders rather than to invest or expand their businesses. Companies in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion on stock buybacks in 2018, blowing away the previous record of nearly $590 billion set in 2007. The information technology and financial service sectors were the biggest spenders, with Apple leading the pack. When share prices plunged in the fourth quarter it only encouraged companies to spend more, setting a fourth consecutive quarterly record for buybacks.
NEW YORK (AP) – The video game industry is evolving. Rather than buy consoles and physical copies, gamers will have the choice of subscribing, playing for free or possibly just streaming games over the internet. Google has announced a game streaming service and Apple is offering a subscription service for games. It’s a new world of experimentation in an industry that hasn’t changed much since Nintendo launched its home gaming console in the U.S. in 1986 or when mobile gaming surged in popularity a decade ago.
NEW YORK (AP) – Target is raising the minimum hourly wage for its workers for the third time in less than two years. The discounter said Thursday it plans to raise the hourly starting wage to $13 from $12 in June. The Minneapolis-based retailer announced in 2017 a plan to raise its starting hourly wages for workers to $15 by the end of 2020 and raised its starting hourly wage to $11. In March 2018, it boosted hourly wages to $12 after seeing a bigger and better pool of candidates. With unemployment near rock bottom, retailers are under pressure to find qualified workers.