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Consumer confidence rises to highest level since 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A better hiring outlook and lower gas prices pushed U.S. consumer confidence to its highest level in four and a half years.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment jumped to 79.3 in May, up from 76.4 in April. That's the best reading since October 2007 -- two months before the recession began.

A high proportion of consumers say they are hearing about job gains rather than losses. The number of those who say they heard of job losses dropped to its lowest point since mid-2007.

Gas prices have also fallen steadily in recent weeks, freeing up more money for other purchases. The average gas price Friday was $3.67 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA. That's down 17 cents in the past month.


Wage hike draws support

ALBANY (AP) -- Advocates for the poor are getting help from some business operators in their quest to raise the minimum wage.

Costco and small business operators statewide called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate's Republican majority to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

The bill is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

But the Senate's Republican majority calls it a job killer.

A Costco executive said Thursday that the retailer pays a starting wage of $11 an hour and good wages are good business.

The business leaders say paying a better wage helps retain employees.

The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and the Working Families Party say a higher minimum wage will boost sales.


Congress summons Dimon

WASHINGTON (AP) -- JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is being asked to appear before Senate and House panels next month to answer questions about the bank's $2 billion-plus trading loss.

The Senate Banking Committee on Friday scheduled a June 7 hearing for Dimon to testify. The hearing is one day after federal regulators appear before the panel on the topic.

Dimon said through a spokeswoman that he will testify. He has yet to commit to the June 7 hearing, but he is discussing dates with the panel and the House Financial Services Committee. The House committee hasn't set a date for Dimon to appear.

Dimon has called the misstep "a black mark." The loss has revived Democrats' push for stricter oversight of Wall Street banks under the 2010 regulatory overhaul.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing what JPMorgan told investors about its finances and the risks it took weeks before suffering the loss.


Judge urges negotiations

NEW YORK -- As American Airlines made its final stand Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court, the judge finished the lengthy hearing on a surprising note by telling the courtroom that the airline and its unions need to work toward a deal.

In American Airlines' closing arguments after three weeks of testimony, the company said its labor contracts must be terminated for it to survive and dismissed its unions' calls for a merger with US Airways Group Inc. as "smoke and mirrors."

But U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Sean Lane said that though he was prepared to rule by the June 22 deadline, he would prefer not to.

"The only thing I have in front of me," he said of the so-called Section 1113 hearing, "is whether to reject a collective bargaining agreement. You're all still stuck with each other. You still have to negotiate new agreements."

-- McClatchy Newspapers


Apartment holdings sold

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Bank PLC are selling their stake in the apartment building owner Archstone to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s bankruptcy estate for $1.58 billion.

The transaction disclosed Friday for the banks' 26.5 percent interest will give Lehman's estate full ownership of Archstone, an Englewood, Colo.-based company that owned all or part of 434 apartment communities in the U.S. and Europe as of the end of March.