Wal-Mart's 1Q profit, sales disappoint
NEW YORK (AP) — The first few months of the year were tough for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The world's largest retailer reported Thursday that its first-quarter profit edged up just slightly, and the company struggled with a sales slump in its namesake business during the three-month period. The discounter also offered a quarterly profit outlook that came below Wall Street's projections. Its stock fell on the news.
Wal-Mart blamed a litany of factors affecting its budget-conscious customers, including a payroll tax increase, delayed tax refunds, job worries and bad weather. It is the latest in a string of big-name, consumer companies from McDonald's to Macy's, to cite such hurdles in the first quarter of the year.
INFLUENCE GAME: Tech, labor spar on immigration
WASHINGTON (AP) — To the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it's more sinister: The push by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.
The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system's ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners — fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million — has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders hoping to make inroads in Washington.
The Senate immigration bill — the result of months of quiet negotiations among eight influential senators — is on track to nearly double the number of highly skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. under what's called an H-1B visa, from 65,000 to 110,000. The number of visas could climb as high as 180,000 depending on the number of applications received and the unemployment rate.
American will favor passengers without roller bags
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — In a quest to speed up the boarding process, American Airlines is letting passengers board sooner if they travel lightly.
The airline said Thursday that people carrying just a personal item that fits under the seat — no rolling suitcases — will be allowed to board before most other passengers.
American said that the change will allow flights to take off sooner, helping the airline improve its on-time performance.
Venezuelans scrambling to find scarce toilet paper
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelans scrambled to stock up on toilet paper Thursday as fears of a bathroom emergency spread despite the socialist government's promise to import 50 million rolls.
After years of economic dysfunction, the country has gotten used to shortages of medicines and basic food items like milk and sugar but the scarcity of bathroom tissue has caused unusual alarm.
Thousands of rolls flew off the store's shelves as consumers streamed in and loaded up shopping carts Thursday morning.
Economists say Venezuela's shortages of some consumer products stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government's controls on foreign currency.
US jobless claims jump to highest level in 6 weeks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March. The jump came a week after applications had reached a five-year low.
The less volatile four-week average rose just 1,250 to 339,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's a level consistent with modest job gains.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. The big increase might mean companies are cutting more jobs, possibly because of steep government spending cuts that kicked in March 1.
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