Business update: Economic stress easing more slowly
Two-thirds of U.S. counties became economically healthier in May, thanks to more manufacturing jobs in the Midwest and fewer home foreclosures in the Sun Belt, according to a monthly analysis of conditions around the country. Yet the improvement appeared to slow in May compared with April, the AP’s Economic Stress Index shows. And concerns are arising that the nation’s recovery is losing momentum. Economic stress declined month to month in 33 states in May, aided by lower unemployment. In April, by contrast, stress had eased in every state except two — and in 90 percent of the nation’s 3,141 counties.
Service sector growth slows in June, institute says: The service sector grew more slowly in June, an industry trade group said today, offering the latest sign that the economic recovery is weakening as the second half of the year begins. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its index tracking service-oriented companies slid to 53.8 last month from 55.4 in May — the highest point since the recovery began. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. June’s reading is well above the 37.2 low in November 2008. But it’s far below the pre-recession high of 67.7 in 2004.
Netflix adds to online movies with Relativity deal: Netflix is adding to the group of movies that its subscribers can watch online or over Internet-connected devices at the same time as they would have appeared on premium pay TV channels such as HBO or Showtime. The deal announced today with film financier Relativity Media adds to a batch of newer movies from Disney and Sony that can be watched online through Netflix’ 2-year-old deal with Starz Entertainment on a service called Starz Play. With new movies from Relativity available early next year, about one-fifth of the rental movie chain’s 100,000 movie and TV show titles can now be streamed online.
Post office announces 2-cent rate increase: The post office wants to increase the price of a stamp by 2 cents to 46 cents starting in January. The agency has been battered by massive losses and declining mail volume and faces a financial crisis. Postal officials announced a wide-ranging series of proposed price increases Tuesday, averaging about 5 percent, and covering first class, advertising mail, periodicals, packages and other services. The request now goes to the independent Postal Rate Commission which has 90 days to respond. If approved, the increase would take effect Jan. 2.