Stocks gain…Job openings soar…Housing starts fall…Factory output jumps

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are edging higher in morning trading on Wall Street as technology companies and banks make gains. While retailers are mostly higher, jewelry chain Tiffany and Hibbett Sports are both falling after investors were disappointed with their quarterly reports and forecasts. The S&P 500 has slipped for four days in a row and is down 1 percent this week.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says employers sharply ramped up their demand for workers in January, advertising 6.3 million jobs at the end of the month. That’s the most on records dating back 17 years. The number of job opening soared 645,000 in January, the largest one-month increase in 2½ years. The number of people hired ticked up and fewer Americans quit in January compared with the previous month. The report shows that overall hiring increased by a much smaller amount than job openings, suggesting that employers are having difficulty finding the workers they need.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department says builders broke ground on fewer apartment complexes in February, causing overall housing starts to fall 7 percent. The decline to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.24 million was expected after construction surged in January to 1.33 million. February’s slowdown came from a 28 percent plunge in starts for multi-family buildings. Groundbreakings for single-family houses rose 2.9 percent. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, tumbled 5.7 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output jumped last month, led by big gains in the production of cars, computers and furniture. The Federal Reserve says manufacturing output rebounded 1.2 percent in February following three months of weak or negative readings. Overall industrial production, which includes mines and utilities, rose 1.1 percent in February.

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T is squaring off against the federal government in a landmark antitrust trial that could shape how you get streaming TV and movies — and how much you pay. AT&T says it needs to gobble up Time Warner to have a chance against the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Google in the rapidly evolving world of video entertainment. The government says that if AT&T and Time Warner are allowed to join forces, consumers will end up paying more to watch their favorite shows. The trial starts Monday in Washington.

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