- - Thursday, July 28, 2011

UNEMPLOYMENT

Applications for jobless aid drop

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign the job market may be healing after a recent slump.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications fell 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 398,000. That’s the first time applications have fallen below 400,000 in 16 weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 413,750, the lowest since the week of April 23.

REAL ESTATE

Contracts to buy homes rose in June

The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose for a second month in June. But the gain was not enough to signal a rebound in the weak housing market.

The National Association of Realtors says its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 2.4 percent in June to a reading of 90.9. A reading of 100 is considered healthy by economists. The last time it was that high was in April 2010.

The report is typically a good indicator of where the housing market is headed. There’s usually a one- to two-month lag between sales contract and completed deals. But the Realtors group says a growing number of contracts have been canceled ahead of closings because of low appraisals.

LAYOFFS

Credit Suisse to cut 2,000 jobs as profits drop

GENEVACredit Suisse Group announced Thursday that it will cut more than 2,000 jobs after its second-quarter profits dropped by half, more than expected, due to a strong Swiss franc and a plunge in trading and investment banking earnings.

Credit Suisse follows cross-town rival UBS and U.S. giant Goldman Sachs in trimming its payroll costs in reaction to unexpectedly weak profits.

The company said it would eliminate the jobs globally, including about 500 in Switzerland, as its net profit slumped in the second quarter to $957 million, down 52 percent from the same period last year.The result was below analysts’ predictions for a profit of 1 billion Swiss francs.

Chief Executive Brady Dougan said that the second-quarter performance was “disappointing” but defended the company’s overall business model.

AUTO SALES

Parts problem hurts Ford Focus sales

DETROIT — Ford can’t make enough Focus cars to keep up with rising demand because of equipment problems that have caused a shortage of dashboards, two people familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.

Machinery that makes the skin that covers dashboards at a Ford parts factory outside Detroit works intermittently. That is forcing the company to take the unusual and costly step of flying in parts from Europe to keep its assembly lines moving, the people said. Despite those efforts, the Focus plant near Detroit can’t run at full speed, they said.

The problem comes at a time when high gas prices and shortages of Japanese small cars have driven up demand for the Focus. Dealers say they’re having trouble getting the newly redesigned compacts, and they’ve been forced to put customers on waiting lists.

HEALTH

Maximum Tylenol dose cut to prevent overdoses

TRENTON, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that it’s reducing the maximum daily dose of its Extra Strength Tylenol pain reliever to lower risk of accidental overdose from acetaminophen, its active ingredient and the top cause of liver failure.

The company’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division said the change affects Extra Strength Tylenol sold in the U.S., one of many products in short supply in stores due to a string of recalls.

Starting sometime this fall, labels on Extra Strength Tylenol packages will now list the maximum daily dose as six pills, or a total of 3,000 milligrams, down from eight pills a day, or 4,000 milligrams. McNeil will also reduce the maximum daily dose for its Regular Strength Tylenol and other adult pain relievers containing acetaminophen, beginning next year.

ITALY

4-continent corporate structure announced by Fiat

MILAN| Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced a new management team and corporate structure to drive deeper integration between the two automakers.

Mr. Marchionne said Thursday that the new corporate structure would be comprised of four regional operations in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. He will be chief operational officer for North America, including Chrysler.

Fiat became the majority shareholder in Chrysler last week when it completed the purchase of U.S. and Canadian government shares, giving it a free hand to restructure management and drive deeper integration of the company.

Fiat has a 53.5 percent stake in Chrysler, and expects to raise that by another 5 percent by the end of the year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports