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Business news in brief

It looks like first quarter growth was pretty decent and the labor market held in. But fraying seems to be appearing around the edges.
It looks like first quarter growth was pretty decent and the labor market held in. But fraying seems to be appearing around the edges.Read more

In the Region

Cabot begins Pa. fracking with gas

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. became the latest exploration company - and the first in northeastern Pennsylvania - to use natural gas to fuel its hydraulic fracturing operations. The Texas drilling company, which is producing Marcellus Shale gas in Susquehanna County, announced that it has converted the compressors employed in fracking to use a combination of diesel and natural gas, displacing about 70 percent of the diesel typically used in the high-energy process. Oil and gas producers have been converting drilling rigs and fracking operations from diesel to natural gas to improve air emissions and lower costs. - Andrew Maykuth

Pa. unemployment falls to 7.6%

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent in April from 7.9 percent in March, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The U.S. unemployment rate in April was 7.5 percent. New Jersey said last week that its April jobless rate fell to 8.7 percent from 9 percent in March. The number of people employed in Pennsylvania grew by 13,000, to 6.01 million, the state said. But the number counted as unemployed decreased by 17,000 for the same period, indicating that some individuals stopped looking for work and were not identified as unemployed in April. - Reid Kanaley

Turness named NBC News head

NBC said Deborah Turness, 46, former editor of ITV News in Britain, would become president of the Comcast Corp.-owned network's news division. Turness replaces Steve Capus, who resigned this year, and will begin her new job in August. She'll take over a news division bruised by Today's losing its long-held dominant position to ABC's Good Morning America. Much of Turness' experience with the British company has been overseas, but she spent four years as a news producer in Washington during the 1990s. - AP

FDA releases review on Merck drug

Federal health regulators say an experimental insomnia drug from Merck & Co., which has major operations in the region, can help patients fall asleep but carries worrisome side effects, including daytime drowsiness and suicidal thinking. The Food and Drug Administration released its review of the company's sleep aid, suvorexant, ahead of a public meeting on Wednesday. - AP


United returns 787s to service

United Airlines put its 787 back in the air, with both the airline and Boeing Co. hoping to put the plane's four-month grounding behind them. The flight from Houston to Chicago was just the kind of 787 flight that airlines are hoping for: uneventful. Smoldering batteries on two 787s owned by other airlines prompted authorities to ground the planes in January. The failure of Boeing's newest, flashiest, and most important plane embarrassed the company and its customers. - AP

Panel: Apple ducks U.S. taxes

Apple Inc. employs a group of affiliate companies located outside the United States to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a Senate investigation has found. Apple is holding overseas about $102 billion of its $145 billion in cash, and an Irish subsidiary that earned $22 billion in 2011 paid only $10 million in taxes, according to the report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on investigations. The strategies Apple uses are legal, and many other multinational corporations use similar tax techniques to avoid paying U.S. income taxes on profits they reap overseas. But the company's tactics raise questions about loopholes in the U.S. tax code, lawmakers say. - AP

Pharmaceutical deal valued at $8.5B

Actavis Inc. is buying Warner Chilcott in an all-stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion that would create the third-biggest specialty pharmaceutical company in the U.S. market. The announcement comes after the companies said this month that they were in talks about a possible pairing. The combined company will be incorporated in Ireland, and analysts say that country's lower tax rate is a key to making the deal work. Actavis said it expects about $400 million in after-tax savings and cost cuts from the combination, counting the lower tax rate. - AP

Takeout rivals to combine

Rival online takeout services Seamless North America and GrubHub announced plans to combine and create a new company covering more than 20,000 restaurants in 500 cities across the U.S. Financial terms were not disclosed and it was unclear what the combined company will be called. GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney will become CEO, while Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky will serve as president, the companies said in a joint statement. Both New York-based Seamless and Chicago-based GrubHub will have significant representation on the new company's board. The combined company's name and marketing brands will be determined following regulatory approval, the companies said. - AP

T-bill rates mixed

The Treasury Department auctioned $30 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.045 percent. That's unchanged from last week. An additional $25 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.085 percent, up from 0.080 percent last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,998.86 while a six-month bill sold for $9,995.70. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.046 percent for the three-month bills and 0.086 percent for the six-month bills. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, edged up to 0.12 percent last week from 0.11 percent the previous week. - AP