Jobless rate rises to 12.1%, a record high

The euro zone’s unemployment rate hit a record high of 12.1 percent in March as the region continued to struggle with recession, government officials said Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for the 17-nation group topped the previous 12 percent record reached in January and February, according to Eurostat, the region’s statistical office.

Also, inflation fell to an annualized rate of 1.2 percent in April from 1.7 percent the previous month, Eurostat said. The combination of rising unemployment and low inflation could lead the European Central Bank to cut interest rates further this week.

The March unemployment rate was the highest recorded since the European Union began tracking the rate in 2000 after the creation of the region’s single currency.

The rate was up sharply from a year earlier, when unemployment stood at 11 percent, as debt struggles have pulled the euro zone back into recession.

Spain had the highest unemployment rate in March, at 26.7 percent. Greece’s rate was 27.2 percent in January, according to the latest figures available.

The euro zone’s lowest unemployment rates were in Austria (4.7 percent), Germany (5.4 percent) and Luxembourg (5.7 percent).

— Los Angeles Times

Hulu grows to
4 million subscribers

Hulu, the online TV service owned by three of the four major TV networks, said the number of paying subscribers grew by about a third during the first quarter to exceed 4 million.

“Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly,” Andy ­Forssell, the company’s acting chief executive, said Tuesday in a blog post. “We set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter.”

Hulu announced the subscriber increase, from 3 million paying customers at the end of 2012, as it begins talks with advertisers, who are devoting more of their budgets to online programs. Its larger rival Netflix, which ended March with 29.2 million U.S. subscribers, doesn’t take advertising.

Los Angeles-based Hulu offers free reruns of television shows and movies, with newer programming and earlier access available on its $8-a-month Hulu Plus. Forssell became acting chief executive with the departure last month of Jason Kilar.

The company’s controlling owners, Walt Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., are weighing whether to sell Hulu or buy each other out. Comcast, the third major investor, is barred from an active role in the company as part of an agreement with U.S. regulators.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

l  BP’s sale of its Russian joint venture helped it more than triple its first-quarter profit, the oil company said Tuesday. BP said its replacement cost profits rose to $16.5 billion from $4.7 billion for the corresponding period last year, largely reflecting a one-time gain from the sale of its stake in TNK-BP. The replacement cost figure omits gains or losses in inventories, making it similar to net profit figures used by U.S. oil companies. BP’s non-replacement-cost net profit was $16.6 billion, up from $5.7 billion this time last year.

l  Pfizer’s first-quarter net income rose 53 percent, to $2.75 billion, despite falling sales, mainly because the world’s second-largest drugmaker took big charges a year ago. Pfizer’s results fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, and the company lowered its profit and sales forecasts for the year, blaming sudden worsening of currency exchange rates. Pfizer shares fell 4.5 percent Tuesday to $29.07. Pfizer is struggling because generic competition is reducing revenue for two-thirds of its drugs, more than a dozen of which are former blockbusters, such as cholesterol fighter Lipitor, that had brought in $1 billion or more annually.

l  Cyprus’s lawmakers approved a multibillion-dollar bailout agreement with international creditors aimed at preventing the crisis-hit country from going bankrupt. The agreement was passed in the 56-seat parliament as expected Tuesday with 29 votes in favor and 27 against. Cyprus struck the $30 billion deal with its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund in March.

l  Slovenia delayed a bond sale as its credit rating was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited banking-industry “turmoil” and said the government of the small euro-zone member would have to offer lenders more financial support.

l  Consumer confidence rebounded in April as Americans felt better about the economy’s short-term prospects and their own incomes, the Conference Board said Tuesday. The group’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 68.1 this month after dropping to 61.9 in March. But while the reading showed an improvement, it was too soon to tell “if confidence is actually on the mend,” said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators.

— From news services


l  10 a.m.: ISM manufacturing survey for April.

l  2 p.m.: Federal Open Market Committee meeting announcement.

l  Earnings: CBS, Comcast, CVS Caremark, Facebook, Marriott International, MasterCard, Visa