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Thursday, 13 March 2014 11:35

Tanker crash delays trains in New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Amtrak crews are making repairs following damage caused by a fiery tanker truck crash near the railroad tracks in New Jersey's largest city. The tanker, which was carrying about 8,500 gallons of gasoline, burst into flames after colliding with a car on McCarter Highway in Newark at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Fire officials say no one was injured. The highway is adjacent to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor rail line. Amtrak trains are running with minor delays while crews repair damaged signals and overhead wires. New Jersey Transit spokesman John Durso Jr. says the commuter railroad's Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line trains are operating with delays of up to 60 minutes. Raritan Valley Line service has resumed. Westbound trains are not stopping at Newark Airport. Police are investigating the crash.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state's tree fruit producers have voted to tax themselves to create the Michigan Tree Fruit Research & Development Program. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Jamie Clover Adams announced the voting results Wednesday. The state says the program will support research and technical support for growers to make them more competitive. The department says it got 253 valid ballots, with 181 producers voting yes and 72 voting no. The vote took place Feb. 17-28. The program will tax apples, cherries, peaches, and plums starting April 1. Department spokeswoman says the producers petitioned the state to create the program. She says there's no estimate on how much the levies will bring in annually and says re venue will vary widely with crop yields.

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. employers advertised slightly more jobs in January than in December, a sign that hiring should remain steady in coming months. The Labor Department says employers posted 3.9 million job openings, up 1.5 percent from December. That is still below November's nearly six-year high of 4.1 million, the first month that openings topped 4 million since March 2008. The job market may be emerging from a winter slump. Employers added 175,000 jobs in February, the government said last week. That was much higher than in December and January, when cold weather lowered job growth. Total hiring slipped 0.9 percent to 4.5 million in January. That hiring total might sound like a lot, but in a healthy job market, roughly 5 million people are hired each month.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - California's Department of Motor Vehicles is wading into the complex question of how to regulate the use of cars that rely on computers - not people - to drive them. Once the stuff of science fiction, "Driverless cars" could be commercially available by decade's end. On Tuesday, the DMV is hearing ideas on how to integrate the cars onto public roads. Questions range from data privacy and security - to whether a person will have to be in the driver's seat at all. The DMV already has drafted rules governing how companies can test the technology. Google had been testing on highways and in neighborhoods well before the Legislature decided to regulate.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An innovative hepatitis C drug that was only recently hailed as a breakthrough treatment is facing skepticism from some health care experts, as they consider whether it is worth the $1,000-a-pill price set by manufacturer Gilead Sciences. A panel of California medical experts voted Monday that Gilead's Sovaldi represents a "low value" treatment when compared with older drugs for the blood borne virus. The vote was part of a broader review of new hepatitis C drugs by the California Technology Assessment Forum. The insurer-affiliated group assesses the costs and effectiveness of new medical treatments. The group estimates that replacing currently used hepatitis C drugs with Gilead's Sovaldi would raise California drug costs between $18 billion and $29 billion per year. The drug costs $84,000 for one 12-week course of treatment.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Researchers say Michigan's tourism industry will grow as the state begins advertising more in Canada, Germany, China and the United Kingdom. Researchers at Michigan State University found that the state's tourism industry experienced a 4 percent increase in overall spending in 2013. Hotel occupancy rates rose 2 percent. The only exception to growth was a predicted dip in national park visits because of the federal government shutdown. Tourism spending is expected to increase 4.5 percent in 2014. Michigan State University tourism expert Dan McCole says factors such as the stock markets and consumer confidence suggest that "Michigan tourism will experience another strong year." Monday is the second day of the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism near Traverse City. The state's Pure Michigan tourism campaign has worked to attract visitors.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - L.L. Bean says it had a record year for profits and saw revenue growth of 3 percent. CEO Chris McCormick told workers on Friday that after four consecutive years of growth, the Maine-based retailer is ready to accelerate expansion plans. He says the privately held company plans its largest single-year capital investment and will spend an additional $100 million on website changes, retail expansion and business systems. The company's performance beat the industry average. L.L. Bean's board was happy enough with the revenue gain to authorize an 8 percent bonus for full-time workers. That's the biggest bonus since 2005. In a memo to Bean's 5,100 full- and part-time workers, McCormick said the company has been conservative for the past few years and is now ready to "grab market share."

NEW YORK (AP) - Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent's pay fell 16 percent last year because his performance-based bonus took a hit. Muhtar Kent's pay package was worth $18.2 million for 2013, according to a regulatory filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. That's down from the $21.6 million he earned the previous year. The decline was primarily the result of a lower performance-based bonus, which fell to $2.2 million, from $6 million the previous year. That was the result of lower sales volume growth of just 2 percent for the year, compared with 4 percent the previous year. A new cap was also put into place for the bonus, based on feedback from shareholders. The AP's calculation counts salary, bonuses, perks, stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Analysts are welcoming Friday's unemployment report. The Labor Department reports that employers added 175,000 jobs last month -- even though February's harsh weather shut down factories, reduced auto sales and slowed home sales. Paul Dales of Capital Economics says if the economy could generate 175,000 jobs in a month of severe weather, employment growth should "accelerate further" once the weather improves. Michelle Meyer, with BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, says the numbers indicate there should be "solid gains in job growth in coming months." And Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital notes that two-thirds of the job growth in the last two months was in higher-paying industries. That's a reversal from all of last year, when about two-thirds were in lower-paying fields. A category called professional and business services added 79,000 jobs. Construction companies, which usually stop work in bad weather, picked up 15,000 jobs in February. Governments added 13,000 jobs, the most in six months.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumers increased their borrowing in January on autos and student loans but cut back on their credit card use. The Federal Reserve says consumer borrowing rose $13.7 billion in January following an even larger $15.9 billion rise in December. The category that includes auto and student loans increased $13.9 billion while the category that covers credit cards fell $226 million, marking the third time in the past five months that credit card loans have declined. The big overall increase pushed total borrowing to a record $3.11 trillion. Gains in borrowing are seen as an encouraging sign that people are more confident and willing to take on debt to finance consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

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