Cover songs: Homage or irksome marketing ploy?
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- There are about 600 versions of Adele's Oscar-winning song "Skyfall" on the Spotify subscription music service. Not one of them features Adele.
Adele's label, XL Recordings, keeps her music off of all-you-can-listen subscription plans until download sales peter out. In the meantime, copycat artists fill the void, racking up royalty revenue, often before customers realize they've been listening to someone else.
Thousands of cover songs crowd digital music services such as Spotify and Rhapsody and listeners are getting annoyed. The phenomenon threatens the growth of these services ?which have millions of paying subscribers? and could hold back the tepid recovery of a music industry still reeling from the decline of the CD.
US economy grew at modest 2.4 percent rate in Q1
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a modest 2.4 percent annual rate from January through March, slightly slower than initially estimated. Consumer spending was stronger than first thought, but businesses restocked more slowly and state and local government spending cuts were deeper.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that economic growth in the first quarter was only marginally below the 2.5 percent annual rate the government had estimated last month. That's still much faster than the 0.4 percent growth during the October-December quarter.
Most economists think growth is slowing to around a 2 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter as the economy adjusts to federal spending cuts, higher taxes and further global weakness. Still, many say the decline may not be as severe as once thought. That's because solid hiring, surging home prices and record stock gains should keep consumers spending.
Microsoft aims to simplify with Windows 8.1
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Microsoft is trying to fix what it got wrong with its radical makeover of Windows. It's making the operating system easier to navigate and enabling users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar format designed for personal computers.
The revisions to Windows 8 will be released later this year. The free update, called Windows 8.1, represents Microsoft's concessions to long-time customers taken aback by the dramatic changes to an operating system that had become a staple in households and offices around the world during the past 20 years. Research group IDC has blamed Windows 8 for accelerating a decline in PC sales.
With the release of Windows 8 seven months ago, Microsoft introduced a startup screen displaying applications in a mosaic of interactive tiles instead of static icons. The shift agitated many users who wanted the option to launch the operating system in a mode that resembled the old setup. That choice will be provided in Windows 8.1.
Presence of explosive chemicals often kept secret
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fears of terrorism have made it harder than ever for citizens to find out what dangerous chemicals lurk in their backyards, The Associated Press has found. Secrecy and shoddy record-keeping have kept the public and emergency workers in the dark about stockpiles of explosive material.
A monthlong reporting effort by the AP, drawing upon public records in 28 states, found more than 120 facilities within a potentially devastating blast zone of schoolchildren, the elderly and the sick. But how many others exist nationwide is a mystery, as other states refused to provide data.
People living near these facilities who want to know what hazardous materials they store would also have to request the information from state environmental agencies or emergency management offices. County emergency management officials would also have it. The federal government does not have a central database, and while the Homeland Security Department has a list of ammonium nitrate facilities, it does not share it because of security concerns.
Cheap leases offered to spur electric car sales
DETROIT (AP) -- Auto companies are hoping lower lease prices can put a charge into sluggish electric car sales.
Honda announced Thursday that it's slashing the monthly lease cost of its tiny Fit EV by one third, following similar moves by other automakers. Honda also is throwing in other goodies, such as a free home charging station and unlimited mileage.
Electric vehicles once were billed as the answer to high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil. But U.S. oil production is rising and gasoline supplies are abundant. Pump prices have remained relatively stable the past three years, while gas-powered cars have gotten more efficient, making consumers reluctant to give them up.
There's also the worry that an electric car could run out of juice on longer trips.
Average US household far from regaining its wealth
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average U.S. household has a long way to go to recover the wealth it lost to the Great Recession, a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concluded Thursday.
The typical household has regained less than half its wealth, the analysis found. A separate Federal Reserve report in March calculated that Americans as a whole had regained 91 percent of their losses.
Household wealth plunged $16 trillion from the third quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2009. By the final three months of 2012, American households as a group had regained $14.7 billion.
Applications for US unemployment aid rise to 354,000
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000. Still, the level of applications is consistent with steady hiring and remains near a five-year low.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased from a revised 344,000 the previous week, slightly higher than the 340,000 initially reported.
The gains pushed the less volatile four-week average up 6,750 to 347,250, the third straight increase.
Signed contracts to buy US homes at 3-year high
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes ticked up in April to the highest level in three years. The increase points to growth in home sales in the coming months.
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 0.3 percent to 106. That's the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer tax credit inflated sales.
Signed contracts have jumped 10.3 percent in the past 12 months. There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.
US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.81 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages jumped this week to their highest levels in a year, signaling slightly higher costs for homebuyers. But rates still remain low by historical standards.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan rose to 3.81 percent, up from 3.59 percent last week. That's still not far from the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year loan rose to 2.98 percent, up from 2.77 percent last week. The record low of 2.56 percent was reached in early May.
Petraeus gets job with investment firm KKR
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus will take a new job with investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. as he attempts to rebuild his reputation after an extramarital affair with a biographer triggered his resignation as CIA director last fall.
Petraeus, 60, will serve as chairman of the New York firm's newly created KKR Global Institute. He was CIA director from September 2011 until last November. Before that, Petraeus served more than 37 years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of four-star general.
Petraeus served as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and also commanded forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when violence in that country dropped following a surge in military forces.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 21.73 points, or 0.1 percent, at 15,324.53 points. The Nasdaq composite index rose 23.78 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,491.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index 500 rose 6.05 points, or 0.4 percent, at 1,654.41.
Benchmark oil for July delivery rose 48 cents to $93.61 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, fell 24 cents to $102.19 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cents to $2.81 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to $2.84 per gallon. Natural gas shed 16 cents to $4.02 per 1,000 cubic feet.