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Happiest Place on Earth
Walt Disney Co. shareholders got good news Wednesday when the company announced it is raising its dividend 15 percent on an annualized basis and will begin paying dividends twice a year. The company’s new annual dividend amount is $1.32 a share, up from $1.15. The first payment, of 66 cents per share covering the first six months of the year, will be made July 29. Chief Executive Robert Iger said in a statement that the company’s strong performance in the first half of the year prompted the moves. Disney, which now owns the Star Wars franchise, will begin putting Star Wars merchandise on shelves in September in advance of the Dec. 18 release of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” film.
Jobless Claims Total 271,000
The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 3,000 last week to 271,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. This was the 16th consecutive week that claims held below 300,000, the benchmark associated with a stronger labor market. The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure of labor market trends, fell 3,250 to 273,750.
Trade Bill Clears Last Hurdle
President Barack Obama Wednesday was given the “fast track” authority needed to negotiate trade deals when the Senate passed the bill making it possible. The bill passed the Senate 60-38, and was sent to the President’s desk Wednesday afternoon. The bill has been contentious between Republicans and most congressional Democrats, who agree with unions that the free-trade deals will cost U.S. jobs and reward countries that mistreat its workers and continue to pollute the air. Obama and most Republicans believe the U.S. needs the trade deal to reach foreign markets with U.S. goods. The Republican-led House passed the bill last week.
Google Invades Alabama
Google will build a new data center in Alabama, using the existing infrastructure of a former coal-fired power plant. Google will reportedly spend $600 million to refurbish the site in northern Alabama so that it runs on renewable energy. About 100 jobs will be created in the project. This will be Google's 14th data center. The company has recently placed data centers in Iowa, Georgia, Singapore and Belgium to assist Internet users and alleviate stress on servers. The site is in Stevenson, Alabama, 60 miles northeast of Huntsville.
Wish-Bone Issues Recall
Approximately 9,000 cases of the 24-ounce bottles of Wish-Bone Ranch Salad Dressing was recalled Wednesday after a consumer told the company that it was actually Blue Cheese Dressing, which contains eggs. People will a severe egg allergy could suffer a reaction if they consume the product, according to the Food and Drug Administration, although no illnesses have been reported due to the mislabeling. The product is safe to anyone who regularly uses blue cheese salad dressing. No other Wish-Bone products were included in the recall.
HBO, Facebook Team Up
The first two episodes of two new HBO comedies are now streamlining on Facebook as the two companies combine to make use of Facebook’s video capabilities. HBO’s “Ballers’’ starring Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson and “The Brink” starring Oscar-winner Tim Robbins will be hosted on Facebook for a limited time. Viewers can watch “Ballers’’ on Johnson’s Facebook page, while “The Brink” will have its own page. Facebook is attempting to get in on the market so far dominated by Google’s YouTube site. Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active users. After the first two episodes, the remainder of the programs’ episodes will be seen on HBO NOW or on the company’s own Internet TV streaming service HBO GO.
IAC Spins Match.com
InterActiveCorp (IAC) announced Thursday it will spin off The Match Group, which includes popular websites Match.com, Tinder and OurTime.com. The Match Group also owns the Princeton Review. IAC, owned by Barry Diller, also announced that Joey Levin, the former CEO of its search and applications business, has been named CEO of IAC and has joined the board of directors. Greg Blatt will remain chairman and Sam Yagan will remain CEO of The Match Group. IAC expects The Match Group to issue less than 20 percent of its common stock in its initial public offering, which is expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2015.