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Friday, 30 May 2014 14:24

U.S. rig count up 9 to 1,866

HOUSTON (AP) - Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by nine this week to 1,866. The Houston firm said in its weekly report Friday that 1,536 rigs were exploring for oil and 326 for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,771 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Oklahoma gained eight rigs, Texas gained five Wyoming gained two and Alaska and California each increased by one apiece. North Dakota lost five rigs while Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio each decreased by one. Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia were all unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Google's Motorola Mobility smartphone unit will shutter its Texas factory by the end of 2014, barely a year after it opened with much fanfare as the first smartphone factory in the U.S. Motorola Mobility spokesman Will Moss says sales of its flagship handset the Moto X were too weak and the costs of running the plant too high to keep operations going. Gov. Rick Perry and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt were in attendance opening day. Also there was Mike McNamara, CEO of Flextronics Ltd., the Singapore-based international contract electronics manufacturer that runs the plant. Moss says the factory employs about 700 workers who assemble the Moto X smartphones for the U.S. market. He declined to comment on whether Motorola would retain the workers.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week for a fifth straight week. The spring home-buying season has started slowly, but it may be aided by the low rates. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year loan edged down to 4.12 percent from 4.14 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage declined to 3.21 percent from 3.25 percent. Warmer weather has yet to boost home-buying as it normally does. Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in mid-2013 have made homes less affordable for would-be buyers. At the same time, a limited supply of homes is available to buy. Mortgage rates still are nearly a full percentage point above record lows reached about a year ago.  

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tanning beds and sun lamps will carry new warnings that they should not be used by anyone under age 18 as the federal government works to reduce rising rates of skin cancer linked to the radiation-emitting devices. The Food and Drug Administration has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but for the first time the agency is requiring manufacturers to warn consumers about the machines' cancer risks. Along with the bolded age restriction on the machines, manufacturers must provide additional warnings about cancer risks in pamphlets, catalogues and websites that promote indoor tanning. Additionally, the FDA is requiring manufacturers to meet certain safety and design requirements, including timers and limits on radiation emitted. Previously, tanning devices were not subject to any preliminary review by health regulators.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A House panel is supporting legislation to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour after the Senate passed a $9.20 per hour plan. The revised House measure passed out of committee Tuesday and would raise the minimum wage from $7.40 by 2017. It also eliminates a provision in the original bill tying the minimum wage to inflation. The bill now goes to the House for consideration, where it's likely to face opposition from Democrats who support inflation indexing and a higher minimum wage. The bill would raise the tipped employee wage to $3.23 an hour from $2.65, instead of the Senate's $3.50 target. Government Operations Chairman Rep. Pete Lund of Shelby Township says the bill "will help people who are at the minimum wage level but not cost jobs."

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is helping provide lower interest rates to first-time homebuyers in eight cities. About 300 individual or families in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor and Jackson can take advantage of a program announced Friday. First-time homebuyers who meet eligibility requirements can get a 3.125 percent mortgage interest rate without down payment assistance. If they need help with their down payment, the interest rate is 3.625 percent. Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants to increase home sales in five cities hit hard by blight and three other cities needing a boost. Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley says most of Michigan's real estate market has bounced back, but some areas are still experiencing significant sales declines.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sales of U.S. new homes recovered in April after slumping in the previous two months. But Americans are still buying new homes at a slower pace than they did a year ago. The Commerce Department says sales of new homes rose 6.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000. That compares with a revised annual pace of 407,000 in March, when purchases fell 6.9 percent. Buying had dropped 4.4 percent in February, in part because of snowstorms. April sales surged in the Midwest and edged up in the South. Home-buying was flat in the West and fell in the Northeast. New-home sales have declined 4.2 percent over the past 12 months. The median sales price fell a slight 2.1 percent during the past month to $275,800.

GENEVA (AP) - The world's main trade body has ruled that China's anti-dumping duties on imports of American-made cars and sport-utility vehicles violate international trade rules, in what the United States calls a major victory for its manufacturers and workers. A World Trade Organization dispute panel said Friday it agrees with the United States that China acted "inconsistently" with the anti-dumping requirements, in violation of its WTO commitments. WTO rules allow countries to raise import duties to offset improper subsidies and dumping, but complaints filed by Washington in 2012 accused Beijing of improperly imposing anti-dumping duties on American-made autos worth $3 billion. China had defended the duties on U.S.-made vehicles as legal under international rules. The duties affect cars and SUVs with engine capacity of 2.5 liters or larger.

DETROIT (AP) - Federal food safety officials say ground beef recalled by a Detroit business may have been sent to stores in 10 states. According to an announcement Thursday, the U.S. agriculture department's Food Safety and Inspection Service says it has reason to believe recalled beef was sent to retail outlets in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Wolverine Packing Co. announced Monday it was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli. FSIS said Friday that 11 people have been sickened. Consumers can see a list of recalled products and potentially affected stores on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website. 

DENVER (AP) - A federal appeals court is rejecting challenges to the FCC's plan to expand broadband Internet service to rural areas. The expansion is funded partly by fees paid by telecommunications companies. Many of those companies contended the FCC did not have the authority to use the money for Internet service. In a 297-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed the challenges as either unpersuasive or not issues the court could address. The FCC in 2011 estimated the expansion would provide high-speed Internet service to about 7 million people.

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