Bird flu strikes South Dakota chicken farm
An eastern South Dakota farm with 1.3 million egg-laying chickens is the first in the chicken-production business in the state to be infected with a deadly flu virus despite efforts to prevent it, state and farm officials said. Flandreau-based Dakota Layers, which accounts for nearly half of the state's almost 2.7 million egg-laying chickens, reached out to the state veterinarian Wednesday after it noticed an unusual number of dead birds in one of its nine barns. A South Dakota State University lab confirmed the presence of the highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza virus. Officials hadn't confirmed yet Thursday whether it was the H5N2 strain.
Wholesale prices down 0.4% last month
A sharp drop in the cost of gasoline and food pushed down overall U.S. producer prices in April. The Labor Department said its producer price index fell 0.4 percent last month after rising 0.2 percent in March. But even excluding volatile food and energy categories, the core index slipped 0.2 percent last month, brought down in part by lower shipping costs. The index measures prices of goods and services before they reach consumers. Over the past year, wholesale prices have dropped 1.3 percent, the most since Labor revamped the index in late 2010. Wholesale energy prices dropped 2.9 percent from March, pulled lower by a 4.7 percent drop in gasoline prices. Food prices slid 0.9 percent last month; wholesale egg prices plunged 25.3 percent, most since June 2007.
Initial jobless claims stay near 15-year low
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits ticked lower last week, pushing down the four-week average of applications to its lowest level since April 2000. Weekly applications fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000 last week, the Labor Department said. That is just above a 15-year low reached three weeks ago. The average, a less volatile figure, dropped 7,750 to 271,750, the lowest in 15 years. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so their very low level is evidence that Americans are enjoying solid job security. It is also a sign employers are confident enough in the economy to keep their staffs, despite signs of sluggish growth.
Honda adds to Takata air-bag recalls
A massive new recall from Honda of vehicles with Takata air bags has brought the total recalls for the potentially deadly devices to more than 33 million. Honda Motor Co. recalled an additional 4.89 million vehicles around the world for a new type of problem in Takata Corp. air bag inflators, a day after Japanese rivals Toyota and Nissan announced similar recalls. The new wave of recalls adds to what was already one of the largest recalls ever for a defective part. Honda has been the automaker hardest hit by the recalls. With Thursday's announcement, the air-bag recalls have hit 19.6 million Honda vehicles. On Wednesday, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. expanded their Takata-related recalls by 6.5 million vehicles, to take care of the new problem.
Reddit takes steps to curb harassment
Reddit, the online discussion forum known for its free-wheeling ethos, is enacting an anti-harassment policy while still trying to keep its roots as a place for free expression. Reddit said in a blog post that it is "unhappy with harassing behavior" on the site and its survey data shows that users are too. It has been reviewing its community guidelines for the past six months. "We've seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals," the San Francisco company wrote in a blog post, adding that it is also seeing more and different types of harassment than in the past. For example, some users are harassing people across platforms and posting links on Reddit to private information on other sites, it said.
Ohio ice cream maker restarts production
Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams says it has restarted production after a massive recall triggered by the discovery of listeria in some pints. The company traced the source to a machine in its Columbus kitchen. It decided to destroy $2.5 million worth of ice cream, then cleaned and reworked production to prevent future contamination. A statement from Jeni's says it plans to reopen its scoop shops by Memorial Day weekend, though some flavors will be missing as the company rebuilds its supply.
Blue Bell agrees to work with state officials
Blue Bell Creameries signed agreements with health officials in Texas and Oklahoma requiring the company to inform the states whenever there is a positive test result for listeria in its products or ingredients. The requirement comes after the Brenham, Texas-based company failed to tell federal or state health officials of repeated findings of listeria at its Oklahoma plant that date back to 2013. The agreements call for Blue Bell to report within 24 hours "any presumptive positive test result" for listeria found in ingredients or finished product samples from the company's facilities in Brenham and Broken Arrow, Okla. Such reporting will be required for two years once ice cream products return to the market and could be extended.
El Pollo Loco sales weaker than expected
Restaurant chain operator El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. reported weaker-than-expected quarterly comparable sales and forecast a full-year profit largely below estimates, as customer traffic at its restaurants grew at its slowest pace since the company went public in July last year. The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company's shares were down 11 percent in after-market trading. Systemwide comparable restaurant sales rose 5.1 percent in the first quarter ended April 1, below the 5.7 percent rise analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix were expecting. Same-restaurant sales at company-owned restaurant grew 3.5 percent in the quarter, a much slower pace than the 5.2 percent growth rate expected by analysts.