Price of gas falls to 10-week low

Gasoline prices at the pump around Arizona are lower for the seventh consecutive week and now are at a 10-week low.

The average statewide price for regular is $3.49 a gallon, AAA Arizona said Thursday. That's a decrease of nearly 7 cents from last week.

Tucson has the lowest average gasoline price in Arizona at $3.26 a gallon, down 6 cents in a week.

This week's national average is $3.51 per gallon, unchanged from last week.

3 arrested in theft of Walmart electronics

CHANDLER - Three of six people suspected of stealing more than $230,000 in electronics from Phoenix-area stores over a nine-month span now are in custody.

Chandler police say 19-year-old Bobby Joe White, 19-year-old Manuel Sanchez Tafoya and 18-year-old Joseph Adam Keller allegedly participated in more than 40 thefts from Walmart stores from last July to this month.

Authorities say they're looking for another 19-year-old man and two unidentified women in connection with the thefts.

They say the thefts were caught on store-surveillance video as the electronics were taken.

Police suspect that the suspects broke into display cases, put items in a cart and left the stores through the garden department to an awaiting vehicle.

The getaway vehicle was traced to a hotel and that led to one of the arrests.

Gov't workers won't move into exchanges

PHOENIX - Arizona briefly looked at the possibility of moving state workers into health insurance exchanges when officials were examining whether to create a state exchange, said Don Hughes, Gov. Jan Brewer's health policy adviser.

They quickly jettisoned the idea, and later decided the federal government would be allowed to set up an exchange in Arizona.

The state provided health insurance for about 50,000 active employees in 2011. The state is self-insured, meaning it pays for all the care. The Arizona Department of Administration spent $549 million on health care for those workers and their dependents that year.


Banks cutting jobs

NEW YORK - Banks aren't the big jobs machines they used to be: Major financial firms are trimming their payrolls.

In first-quarter earnings announcements this month, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley revealed that they have slashed more than 31,000 jobs, or 3.5 percent of their combined workforce, in the past year.

For three of those banks, it was the second straight year of cutbacks.

And the pattern is being repeated at banks around the world, although many banks are reporting higher or even record earnings.

Cause of 787 fires remains a mystery

A Boeing engineer said Thursday that the cause of the battery problems that have grounded the company's 787 Dreamliners may never be known.

The engineering leader for the 787, Richard J. Horigan, said the root cause of smoldering batteries experienced by the two different 787s may never be known because the evidence was destroyed by heat.

Horigan also said that all potential causes of the battery fire have been eliminated with the new redesigned battery system.

Earnings reports

NEW YORK - In earnings reports Thursday:

• Exxon Mobil Corp. managed to increase earnings slightly in the first quarter thanks to surging profits from its chemical business and lower taxes.

But Exxon makes the bulk of its profit by producing oil and natural gas. And that business slumped - again - in the first three months of the year as production and revenue declined.

• Higher fares helped Southwest Airlines Co. make more money than Wall Street expected in the first quarter, but the company said automatic federal spending cuts could hurt revenue in April.

The average passenger fare on Southwest is now more than $150 one-way, 4 percent higher than a year ago.

• United Airlines says it's on the way to fixing the reliability problems that have driven away travelers. But the airline's parent company reported a $417 million first-quarter loss. Inc.'s net income declined in the first three months of the year even though revenue increased 22 percent, as the online retailer continued to spend heavily on order fulfillment and rights to digital content.

• Starbucks Corp. says its profit rose in its second fiscal quarter as the world's biggest coffee company saw sales increase in the U.S. and Asia. The company raised its outlook for the year. But total sales came in shy of Wall Street expectations.

Applications drop for unemployment aid

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the second-fewest in more than five years. The drop suggests that layoffs have declined and that job growth may pick up from last month's sluggish pace.

Applications for benefits dropped 16,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average declined 4,500 to 357,500.

15-year mortgage rate at record low 2.61%

The average U.S. rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell last week to its lowest level on record, 2.61 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The Associated Press