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Business News

Last Update on May 04, 2015 17:03 GMT

FACTORY ORDERS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories rose in March for the first time since last July, breaking a long stretch of weakness in manufacturing.

The Commerce Department says orders increased 2.1 percent following seven monthly declines. And in further good news, orders in a key category that tracks business investment plans eked out a 0.1 percent rise. It was the first advance in this category since last August.

Economists are hoping that U.S. manufacturing is beginning to emerge from a long soft patch, bolstered by stronger domestic demand that will offset ongoing weakness in exports.

Orders for durable goods, which are items expected to last at least three years, rose 4.4 percent in March. Demand for nondurable goods such as chemicals and paper dropped 0.3 percent.

U.S. factories have been struggling with export sales, which have taken a hit from the rise in the value of the dollar in recent months. A stronger dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive and less competitive on overseas markets. It also lowers the cost of imported goods, making them more attractive to U.S. consumers.

MCDONALD'S-TURNAROUND

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook says he's stripping away layers of bureaucracy so the company can move faster to keep up with changing tastes.

During a 23-minute video message posted online today, Easterbrook said the company's structure is too cumbersome.

Easterbrook took charge of the world's biggest hamburger chain on March 1.

McDonald's is restructuring its units into four groups: the flagship U.S. market, international lead markets such as Australia and the United Kingdom, high-growth markets such as China and Russia, and the rest of the world.

Easterbrook also repeatedly stressed that the company will focus more on listening to customers, simplifying restaurant operations and improving perceptions of its food.

The company will also accelerate plans to sell company-owned restaurants to franchisees.

SUPREME COURT-BANKRUPTCY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A unanimous Supreme Court says debtors in bankruptcy cannot immediately appeal a court's order rejecting a plan to repay creditors.

The justices ruled today that parties in a bankruptcy case must wait until a repayment plan is confirmed before appealing to a higher court.

The case involves Louis Bullard, a Massachusetts man who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2010. One of his biggest debts was $346,000 he owed to Blue Hills Bank. But a bankruptcy court denied his plan to pay the bank only a tiny percentage of what he owed.

A federal appeals court said the order was not final because Bullard could still propose another plan.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that only an order confirming a payment plan is immediately appealable.

DELTA AIR LINES-TRAFFIC

ATLANTA (AP) -- Delta Air Lines says a key revenue figure fell in April compared with a year ago as fuel surcharges declined and the strong dollar reduced the value of tickets sold overseas.

Delta says demand for travel within the U.S. remains stable, with rising passenger traffic.

The airline says revenue for every seat flown one mile fell 3.5 percent in April. That's a closely watched statistic in the business, and it falls if an airline fills fewer seats or it levies lower average fares and charges. Delta has predicted that the figure would decline by between 2 percent and 4 percent for the entire second quarter, while American and United forecast even slightly larger declines.

Traffic increased by 1.8 percent, as passengers flew 16.88 billion miles last month. Domestic travel increased 2.6 percent while international flying rose just 0.6 percent.

DOW CHEMICAL-JOB CUTS

UNDATED (AP) -- Dow Chemical will cut about 3 percent of its global workforce as it prepares to break off a significant part of its chlorine operations in a deal it announced earlier this year with Olin Corp.

The company says the cuts will reduce its workforce by 1,500 to 1,750 positions. Dow Chemical employed about 53,000 people worldwide at the end of last year.

The Midland, Michigan, company said in March that it will receive about $2 billion in cash and cash equivalents and an estimated $2.2 billion in Olin common stock as part of the chlorine business deal.

The Dow Chemical Co. will take charges totaling about $330 million to $380 million in the second quarter for asset impairments, severance and other costs tied the cuts announced Monday.

BUFFETT-INTEREST RATES

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Investor Warren Buffett says he thinks the Federal Reserve will have a hard time raising interest rates significantly while Europe continues to struggle.

Buffett discussed the outlook for rates during an interview on CNBC Monday after answering questions in front of more than 40,000 people at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting Saturday.

Buffett says he expected interest rates and inflation to be much higher by now as a result of the steps taken to revive the economy after the Great Recession.

Buffett says he was wrong about rates so far, but he doesn't think U.S. rates will increase much while Europe's interest rates remain so low.

Raising U.S. rates now, Buffett says, would make the dollar even stronger and hurt U.S. exports.

EARNS-TYSON FOODS

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) -- Tyson Foods got strong performances from its chicken and prepared foods divisions, topping Wall Street expectations for the second quarter today.

The Springdale, Arkansas, company earned $334 million, or 75 cents per share, for the three months ended March 28. That's up from $213 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

The meat producer posted revenue of $9.98 billion.

Sales volume for the prepared foods unit climbed, thanks in part to the acquisition of Hillshire Brands in August. Chicken sales volume was basically unchanged, while pork and beef sales volumes declined.

EARNS-CABLEVISION

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (AP) -- Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) reports first-quarter net income of $44.6 million.

On a per-share basis, the Bethpage, New York-based company says it had net income of 16 cents. Earnings, adjusted to account for discontinued operations, were 20 cents per share.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 17 cents per share.

The cable company posted revenue of $1.61 billion in the period, which met Street forecasts.

Cablevision shares have declined 1 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen slightly more than 2 percent. The stock has increased 22 percent in the last 12 months.

CISCO SYSTEMS-CEO

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- John Chambers plans to step down after more than 20 years as the CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.

The computer networking company has named Chuck Robbins as Chambers' successor. He'll take over the post on July 26.

Chambers, who has served as CEO since January 1995, will continue to serve as board chairman. Cisco says he has grown the business from $1.2 billion in annual revenue when he took on the CEO role to $48 billion in revenue in 2014.

GENERAL MOTORS-IGNITION SWITCH DEATHS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Families of at least 97 people killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors ignition switches will get compensated by the automaker.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total today. It stood at 90 deaths last week.

An additional 179 people who were injured will also receive compensation.

The fund received 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline, and about 15 percent of the claims are still under review. More than two-thirds were found ineligible or deficient.

GM knew about problem switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade but recalled them only last year. They can slip out of the "on" position, causing the cars to stall.

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Factory orders rise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories rose in March for the first time since last July, breaking a long stretch of weakness in manufacturing.

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