Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 17, 2009 5:57 PM

Economic reports point to gradual recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A report on unemployment claims and a forecast of U.S. economic activity pointed Thursday to an economy mending slowly, without the job growth needed to fuel a vigorous recovery.

The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week. But the four-week average for jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations, fell. That was an encouraging sign that the pace of layoffs continues to decline. The four-week average is now at its lowest point since late September 2008, when the financial crisis hit with full force.

Separately, a forecast of economic activity rose for the eighth straight month in November, a private research group said, signaling the economic rebound will continue into next year.

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Stocks fall as dollar gains, FedEx disappoints

NEW YORK (AP) _ A stronger dollar and disappointing corporate news muscled stocks lower Thursday over concerns that the economy will struggle to recover.

Major stock indexes slid 1 percent Thursday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 133 points for its third straight loss. Treasury prices jumped.

The dollar climbed to a three-month high against the euro, a sign investors were seeking safety. Investor confidence was further sapped as Citigroup Inc. sold stock at a steep discount as part of a plan to repay government loans and a forecast from FedEx Corp. fell short of expectations.

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Citigroup stock sale shows investors still nervous

NEW YORK (AP) _ Citigroup's surprisingly low pricing of a stock offer this week provides a clear sign that investors are still nervous about the banking giant's ability to regain its financial health.

On Wednesday, Citigroup Inc. said it would sell 5.4 billion shares of stock at a price of $3.15 per share to help repay $20 billion in government bailout loans. That price was 9 percent below where shares were trading before the announcement.

The U.S. government balked at the deal, stepping away from selling a portion of its nearly 34 percent stake in Citigroup.

Analysts say Citi, which managed the underwriting of the offer itself, didn't have much of a choice but to take the hit of selling at such a low price because of uncertainty surrounding the bank.

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FedEx sees stumbling blocks before recovery

NEW YORK (AP) _ FedEx, the world's second-largest package delivery company issued a tepid outlook for the quarter that ends in February, saying it's not sure if strong holiday season shipping volume will hold up. But in the long run, it sees strong demand in Asia and Latin America leading the way to global economic recovery.

Both FedEx and rival UPS are key indicators of the nation's economic strength because they carry a wide range of business and consumer goods _ everything from auto parts and real estate documents to toys and tools.

FedEx said Thursday its earnings for the quarter that ended in November fell 30 percent from a year ago, and its forecast for the fiscal third quarter fell well below what Wall Street was expecting. FedEx predicts earnings of 50 to 70 cents per share this quarter, well under analysts' estimates of 84 cents per share.

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Senate panel clears Bernanke nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate panel on Thursday approved the nomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to run the nation's central bank for another four years.

The Senate Banking Committee voted 16-7 to send Bernanke's nomination to the full Senate for consideration. Approval came after a two-hour debate that heaped both praise and criticism on the Fed chief.

Although Bernanke, 56, appears to have enough votes in the Senate to win a second term, six Republicans and one Democrat on the committee did line up against him. They blame him for not spotting problems that led to the financial crisis, failing to protect consumers and supporting Wall Street bailouts.

Bernanke's nomination comes at the height of public anger toward the Fed.

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Nike Inc. profit dips but beats expectations

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Nike Inc. may have its mind on Tiger Woods, but the economy is what's making its earnings and sales fall.

The world's largest athletic and apparel reported Thursday that its second-quarter profit fell 1 percent to $375.4 million, or 76 cents per share, as sales for its products remained sluggish around the globe. That's down from $391 million, or 80 cents per share, earned in the same quarter last year.

Revenue fell 8 percent to $4.4 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn 71 cents per share for the quarter on revenue of $4.4 billion.

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Research In Motion 3Q profit up 59 pct

TORONTO (AP) _ BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. said Thursday its net income for the third quarter rose by 59 percent, as the company attracted new subscribers and sold a record 10 million phones.

Shares surged more than 12 percent in after-hours trading as the company beat analyst expectations.

The Canadian smart phone manufacturer said Thursday that it earned $628.4 million, or $1.10 per share, in the quarter that ended Nov. 28. That compares with $396.3 million, or 69 cents per share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

Revenue was up 41 percent to $3.92 billion from $2.78 billion last year.

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Oracle expects EU to approve Sun deal next month

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Oracle Corp. said Thursday that its profit jumped 12.5 percent in the latest quarter and that it expects the European Union will finally approve its $7.4 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems Inc. next month.

Oracle's results for its fiscal second quarter show that corporations are becoming less reluctant to spend on technology projects. Oracle is the world's No. 1 maker of database software, which helps companies manage information about everything from payroll to sales figures.

Oracle reported after the market closed that its revenue from new software licenses rose 2 percent in the three months ended Nov. 30. That was better than the company's earlier prediction and comes after four straight quarters of declines.

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Judge sets January 2011 trial in Stanford case

HOUSTON (AP) _ A federal judge has scheduled a January 2011 trial date for Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, who is accused of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme.

The date chosen Thursday by U.S. District Judge David Hittner is earlier than the summer of 2011, which was requested by attorneys for Stanford and three other executives of now-defunct Stanford Financial Group.

Prosecutors wanted to go to trial next September.

The executives are accused of advising clients to invest in certificates of deposit from the Stanford International Bank in the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Authorities say the executives told clients the investments were safe and regulated when they weren't.

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Pepsi not advertising in Super Bowl next year

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Pepsi will not advertise its drinks in next year's Super Bowl on CBS, ending a 23-year run so the company can focus on a new marketing effort that will appear mostly online.

Pepsi beverages have been advertised in the Super Bowl since 1987. Frito-Lay, a unit of parent company PepsiCo Inc., will still advertise.

The company, which is based in Purchase, N.Y., spent $33 million advertising products like Pepsi, Gatorade, and Cheetos last year during the Super Bowl, according to TNS Media Intelligence, $15 million of it on Pepsi alone. Ad time last year for the NFL championship game cost about $3 million for 30 seconds, on average.

By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 132.86, or 1.3 percent, to 10,308.26.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13.10, or 1.2 percent, to 1,096.08, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 26.89, or 1.2 percent, to 2,180.05.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 6.96, or 1.1 percent, to 604.25.

Benchmark crude for January delivery dropped a penny to settle at $72.65 a barrel. In London, Brent crude for February delivery fell 92 cents to settle at $73.37 on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil fell less than a penny to settle at $1.9574 a gallon while gasoline fell 2.19 cents to settle at $1.852 a gallon.