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Business/Economy

  • Oil price plunge continues ahead of US jobs data

    Oil prices continued to plunge on Friday, slipping to near $97 a barrel as investors worried that a weakening U.S. jobs market may undermine demand for crude in the world's largest economy.

    By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for June delivery was down $2.60 at $97.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, it fell as low as $94.63.

    On Thursday, the contract plunged $9.44 to settle at $99.80 — the biggest one-day percentage decline since April 2009 — because of signs U.S. economic growth is slowing. The Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 474,000 last week, the highest level in eight months.

  • Businesses sought for curb appeal grants

    Los Alamos MainStreet is looking for Los Alamos businesses in the downtown MainStreet District to apply for curb appeal grants.

    These are matching grant funds designed to assist business owners interested in sprucing up their store fronts with new signage, landscaping and other enhancements.

    The grants are worth up to $500 and available by application.

    “We will be contacting many of the eligible businesses in the near future,” said Administrator Bryan Farmer of the Curb Appeal Grant program. “We want this coming year to be the best so far.”

  • Stocks fall sharply after weak data on jobs

    NEW YORK (AP) — Serious doubts about the health of the job market and the pace of the economic recovery have investors on edge.

    Stocks fell sharply midday Wednesday after private payroll processor ADP said that 179,000 new private sector jobs were added in April, far less than economists were expecting. That raised worries about what the government's monthly jobs report for April will reveal. The report is due out Friday.

  • Stocks fall in early trading on weak earnings

    NEW YORK (AP) — The earnings rally of the last two weeks has finally lost some luster. The parade of stronger-than-expected reports slowed Tuesday after several companies reported weak earnings.

    Pfizer Inc., Clorox Co., Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Beazer Homes USA Inc. all fell after releasing results. Pfizer's shares slid 2 percent after the company reduced its revenue forecast for 2011. It fell the most out of all 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones industrial average.

  • Dow rises after strong corporate earnings

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average rose in early trading Friday after more strong earnings reports from major U.S. companies. Broader indexes were mixed.

    Merck & Co., Chevron Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. beat earnings forecasts for the first quarter. All three are among the 30 companies that make up the Dow average.

    Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. rose 12 percent, the most of any company in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, after it set a company sales record and reversed its loss from the first quarter of last year.

  • Economy slowed by high gas prices, bad weather

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year as high gas prices cut into consumer spending, bad weather delayed construction projects and the federal government slashed defense spending by the most in six years.

    The Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter. That was weaker than the 3.1 percent growth rate for the October-December quarter. And it was the worst showing since last spring when the European debt crisis slowed growth to a 1.7 percent pace.

  • Bernanke sees risks in further steps to spur jobs

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that the Fed can't take additional steps to try to ease high unemployment without escalating inflation.

    If inflation were to accelerate, the Fed would have to raise rates to slow borrowing and spending and blunt price increases. Hiring might then slow.

    Speaking to reporters, Bernanke became the first chairman in the Fed's 98-year history to begin holding regular news conferences. The session, the first of three scheduled news conferences this year, is part of Bernanke's long-standing campaign to make the Fed more transparent and to cast himself as open and accessible.

  • Local leaders mingle with governor--video extra

    Community leaders turned out in force to discuss issues close to their hearts with Gov. Susana Martinez during a 90-minute gathering Wednesday afternoon at Los Alamos National Bank.

    The governor tackled questions pertaining to education, taxes, pay to play corruption, drugs, New Mexico's First Born Program, economic development, film industry incentives, immigrant drivers licenses and more.

    Seizing the opportunity to discuss local education issues with the governor, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean and Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe attended the event and expressed their concerns.

  • Amazon.com's profit tumbles more than expected

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Amazon.com said Tuesday that its net income fell 33 percent in the latest quarter, a steeper drop than Wall Street expected as the online retailer battles stronger competition from Wal-Mart and other rivals.

    The numbers reflect the competitive challenges for the world's biggest online retailer and the impact of higher costs of expansion. Amazon's expenses increased by nearly half in the first three months of 2011, including investments in order-fulfillment centers and new technologies.

    Thomas Szkutak, the company's chief financial officer, attributed the higher expenses to higher demand.

  • Consumer Confidence Index rises in April

    NEW YORK (AP) — Americans' concerns about jobs and inflation eased somewhat in April, pushing the Consumer Confidence Index higher.

    The increase comes after an unexpected drop in March. But the measure had risen for five consecutive months before that and hit a three-year high in February.

    "Consumer's short-term outlook improved slightly, suggesting that the uncertainty expressed last month is easing," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "Inflation expectations, which had spiked, retreated somewhat in April."