Monetary fund issues warning
WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund warned Thursday that wide income inequality can slow economic growth and is proposing ways to reduce it. Its recommendations include raising property taxes, taxing the rich more than others and raising the eligibility age for government retirement programs. The proposals are the latest sign of the IMF’s growing concern about income inequality and are an unusual focus for a global lending organization best-known for providing loans paired with strict budget cuts. IMF officials say it is up to individual countries to decide whether and how to try to reduce income disparities.
Retail sales climb in February
WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales bounced back in February after suffering a steep decline during a bitterly cold January. The Commerce Department said Thursday that seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February. Spending had fallen 0.6 percent in January, revised down from the 0.4 percent decline initially reported. Retail spending also fell 0.3 percent in December. The increase suggests that consumer spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country.
Government lifts BP suspension
WASHINGTON — The oil company behind the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history can once again perform work for the federal government. Under an agreement announced Thursday, more than two dozen BP entities and its Houston-based oil production and exploration arm can secure new government contracts. The company had been suspended from performing any new government work since November 2012. That’s when BP agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges involving the death of 11 workers and lying to Congress about how much oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. For five years, BP will have to abide by a series of ethics, safety and other requirements.
Jobless numbers continue to fall
WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, its lowest level in three months. It was the second straight decline, and it added to evidence that the job market is picking up after a winter slump. The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile figure, fell 6,250 to 330,500, the lowest point since early December. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The declines indicate that most companies are confident enough about consumer demand to avoid layoffs.
GE looks to spinoff lending unit
FAIRFIELD, Conn. — General Electric is moving ahead with plans to spin off its North American consumer lending unit, and it aims to complete an initial public offering for the business later this year. The company, to be called Synchrony Financial, estimates proceeds of up to $100 million from the offering, a figure it devised primarily to calculate a filing fee, according to a document filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
From Wire Reports