General Motors CEO apologizes for deaths

WASHINGTON — The top executive of General Motors apologized for deaths linked to the delayed recall of 1.6 million small cars, saying the company took too long to tell owners to bring the cars in for repairs.

Faced with a crisis just months into the job, CEO Mary Barra has put herself front and center in the company’s efforts to take responsibility for mishandling a defect with ignition switches in small cars, and to ward off a threat to its sales and reputation.

“I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,” she said.

Markets encouraged by Ukraine developments

NEW YORK — Encouraging news on the economy gave the stock market a boost on Tuesday.

Stocks also rose on expectations that the conflict between Russia and the West wouldn’t escalate further. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is preparing to complete the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, but he said Tuesday that he won’t take over other areas of Ukraine.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 13.42 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,872.25. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 88.97 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,336.19. The Nasdaq composite climbed 53.36 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,333.31.

Home construction falls but permit applications rise

WASHINGTON — U.S. home construction fell for a third month in February, but in a hopeful sign, applications for building permits rose to their highest level in four months.

Builders started work on 907,000 homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in February, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was down a slight 0.2 percent from January, when construction had fallen 11.2 percent.

Food costs jump up but consumer costs stay low

WASHINGTON — Despite a sharp jump in food costs, consumer prices increased just 0.1 percent last month in an indication inflation remains in check, the Labor Department said Tuesday. In the previous year, the consumer price index had risen 1.1 percent. The figure is well below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent annual target as central bank policymakers gather for a two-day meeting this week.

Driven by the drought in California and elsewhere, food prices surged 0.4 percent last month, the biggest increase since September 2011. Groceries were up 0.5 percent in February. But the increase was offset by a 0.5 percent decline in energy prices. A big part of that was a 1.7 percent drop in gasoline prices.