Unemployment benefit applications decline

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a 49½ -year low last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength that could temper expectations of a sharp slowdown in economic growth.

Other data on Thursday showed producer prices increased by the most in five months in March amid a surge in the cost of gasoline. But underlying producer prices remained soft, the latest indication of tame inflation pressures that strengthen the Federal Reserve’s decision to suspend further interest rate increases this year despite tight labor market conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 196,000 for the week ended April 6, the lowest level since early October 1969, the Labor Department said. Claims have declined for four straight weeks.

The labor market is the main pillar of support for the economy, which appears to have lost momentum in the first quarter as the stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax-cut package fades and a trade war between China and the United States and softening global demand hurt exports.

— Reuters

P&G blasts digital media platforms

Procter & Gamble, one of the most important advertisers for Google and Facebook, ramped up criticism of Internet platforms, saying the problems plaguing the industry aren’t getting fixed fast enough.

In a speech at an industry conference Thursday, P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard blasted the digital media industry for lack of transparency, fraud, privacy breaches and a proliferation of violent and harmful content placed next to ads.

He said his company, which spends billions of dollars on marketing products from paper towels to shampoo every year, will move its money to services that can guarantee effectiveness, are completely free of offensive content and are more willing to share consumer data with advertisers.

“We’ve been tolerant for too long,” Pritchard said in prepared remarks.

Pritchard didn’t mention any companies by name, but this isn’t the first time P&G has criticized Internet platforms. The company boycotted YouTube for more than a year in 2017 and 2018 after its ads showed up next to terrorist content.

But the boycotts haven’t hit Google or Facebook’s revenue in a serious way. Spokesmen for Facebook and Google did not imreturn requests for comment.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

Tesla and Panasonic are tempering expansion plans for the battery gigafactory they have plugged billions into over the past few years, deepening concerns about demand for the carmaker's electric vehicles. The maker of the Model 3 sedan said Thursday that although it's going to continue making new investment as needed in its plant outside Reno, Nev., existing equipment may be able to produce far more output than previously estimated.

Marriott International, the world's biggest hotel company, with luxury brands such as St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton, says it is committed to all of its brands that give it the breadth to take advantage of fast-growing markets such as China. The company was criticized recently by activist investor Jonathan Litt, who, according to media reports, has urged Marriott to consider culling its 30 brands to better align itself with competitors such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings.

Coming today

Earnings: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo.

— From news services