In Brief: Russia temporarily closes three more McDonald’s
McDonald’s has temporarily closed three more restaurants in Russia following mass unscheduled inspections by Russia’s food safety watchdog, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The state agency previously closed three McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow, one in Stavropol and one in Yekaterinburg in the Urals region, and unveiled sweeping checks at its outlets across the country.
The watchdog said it ordered the closures for sanitary reasons, but they coincided with heightened tensions over the Ukraine crisis, in which the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, and Moscow has hit back by banning a wide range of Western food imports.
McDonald’s said a restaurant in Serpukhov in the Moscow region was now also temporarily closed, as well as two restaurants in Sochi.
Google building fleet of drones
SAN FRANCISCO – Google’s secretive research laboratory is trying to build a fleet of drones designed to bypass earthbound traffic so packages can be delivered to people more quickly.
The ambitious program announced Thursday escalates Google’s technological arms race with rival Amazon.com, which also is experimenting with self-flying vehicles to carry merchandise bought by customers of its online store.
Google Inc. has dubbed its effort “Project Wing.” Although Google expects it to take several more years before its fleet of drones is fully operational, the company says test flights in Australia recently delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats and water to two farmers.
Project Wing is the latest venture to emerge from Google’s “X” lab, which also been working on self-driving cars and several other innovations.
U.S. bank earnings up in 2Q
WASHINGTON – U.S. banks’ earnings rose 5.2 percent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and lending marked its fastest pace since 2007.
The data issued Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago. The improving economy has brought greater demand for loans and stepped-up lending.
The FDIC reported that U.S. banks earned $40.2 billion in the second quarter of this year, up from $38.2 billion in the same period in 2013.
Banks with assets exceeding $10 billion continued to drive the bulk of the earnings growth in the May-June period. While they make up just 1.6 percent of U.S. banks, they accounted for about 82 percent of industry earnings.
Those banks include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. Most of them have recovered with help from federal bailout money during the financial crisis and record-low borrowing rates.
Jobless aid applications drop
WASHINGTON – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, a low level that signals employers are cutting few jobs and hiring is likely to remain strong.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 299,750, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s just 6,000 higher than four weeks ago, when the average fell to the lowest level in more than eight years.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers hold on to their workers, it suggests they are more confident in the economy and could step up hiring. The applications data is the latest sign that the job market is steadily healing.