Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2009 8:12 PM

Tech stocks pull market out of 3-day slide

NEW YORK (AP) _ The stock market broke a three-day slide as two big technology companies signaled that business was improving, raising hopes about business spending.

Tech stocks led the market higher in choppy trading Friday. Software company Oracle Corp. and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. each posted earnings that topped expectations.

After a volatile morning, the market settled out in the afternoon trading as more investors looked to close their books for the year. Trading will be shortened next week because of the Christmas holiday on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.63, or 0.2 percent, to 10,328.89, after dropping 133 points Thursday.


GM to end Saab brand after talks with buyer fail

NEW YORK (AP) _ General Motors is killing off another well-known brand _ Saab, a quirky line of cars known for angular roof lines and ignition keyholes between the front seats _ after talks with a Dutch would-be buyer collapsed.

GM, Dutch automaker Spyker Cars and the government of Sweden, where Saabs are made, were in discussions as late as Friday morning. Spyker said the sale was too complicated to complete quickly. GM declined to elaborate on why the deal failed.

The announcement almost certainly means the death of a brand with a small but devoted following. Enthusiasts appreciated touches like placing the ignition lock between the front seats rather than on the steering column. Saabs were also known for unusual design, with flatter front windshields and sloping rear windshields that gave the cars an almost backward silhouette.


Fewer states add jobs as recovery sputters along

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a reversal of earlier gains, more states lost jobs than added them in November, signaling that hiring is occurring only sporadically around the country.

Unemployment rates dropped in 36 states and the District of Columbia, but that trend appeared to reflect more people leaving the work force. Unemployed people who stop looking for jobs out of frustration aren't counted in the labor force.

Friday's Labor Department report underscored that employers have yet to ramp up hiring, and many Americans can't find work. The number of people jobless for at least six months rose last month to 5.9 million, according to a separate report released earlier this month. And the average length of unemployment exceeds 28 weeks, the longest on records dating to 1948.


Admin. plans $30B in bailout aid for small firms

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration is setting aside $30 billion from the financial bailout fund for a program designed to encourage lending to small businesses to aid the economic recovery.

An internal document obtained by The Associated Press spell out how the Treasury Department plans to spend money from the fund before it expires in October 2010. The document show $40 billion would go to consumer and business lending programs.

Of that amount, $30 billion would support lending to small companies, according to a Treasury official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because no final decisions on the program have been made.


Mullaly says Ford plans to speed up debt repayment

WAYNE, Mich. (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally says the automaker plans to speed up debt repayment as its financial condition continues to improve.

Mulally also told reporters at a briefing Friday on its new vehicles that Ford will keep its advantage over Chrysler and General Motors next year. Ford has gained sales and market share while its Detroit competitors were forced to take government aid and go through bankruptcy protection.

Ford has about $27 billion in debt. Mulally says the company repaid $10 billion this year and has sold $1.6 billion worth of stock. He says the automaker will accelerate payments as it continues to move toward profitability in 2011.


Google fined $14,300 a day in France over books

PARIS (AP) _ A Paris court ruled Friday that Google Inc.'s expansion into digital books breaks France's copyright laws, and a judge slapped the Internet search leader with a euro10,000-a-day fine until it stops showing literary snippets.

Besides being fined the equivalent of $14,300 for each day in violation, Google was ordered to pay euro300,000 ($430,000) in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French publishers.

Google attorney Alexandra Neri said the company would appeal.

The decision erects another legal barrier that may prevent Google from realizing its 5-year-old goal of scanning all the world's books into a digital library accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.


CarMax posts 3Q profit on stronger sales

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ CarMax Inc. posted a profit Friday for its fiscal third quarter and the car dealership chain said it will open three previously built stores in the next fiscal year, but doesn't plan any further store growth until the automotive market improves.

The company, which predominantly sells used vehicles, said its results benefited from stronger sales, cost-cutting efforts and gains from its financing division.

CarMax operates 100 stores and said sales rose about 19 percent to $1.73 billion in the quarter, while sales at stores open at least a year rose 8 percent.


Carnival 4Q profit on weak pricing

CHICAGO (AP) _ Ongoing deep discounts on cruises and slower bookings by cash-strapped travelers combined to drag down Carnival Corp.'s fourth-quarter profit by 48 percent, the cruise line said Friday.

A weak forecast from the company for its first quarter combined with the news to cut into Carnival's shares Friday.

As the economy tanked, cruise lines slashed ticket prices hoping to keep berths full aboard their massive ships. Those deals are sharply cutting into revenue and profit. But travelers have so far been reticent, as carriers try to backtrack and raise prices as the recession wanes.

The Miami-based company owns Carnival and Princess cruises, the Holland America Line and other cruise lines around the globe.


Broker paying $25M to settle SEC charges

WASHINGTON (AP) _ ICAP Securities USA, the U.S. division of a big British brokerage, agreed Friday to pay $25 million to settle federal regulators' charges that it deceived customers by displaying thousands of phony trades in U.S. Treasury securities on its screens.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement of civil fraud charges with ICAP Securities USA, which it described as the U.S. subsidiary of the world's largest broker of trades between banks, ICAP PLC of Britain. Inter-dealer brokers, as they are called, match buyers and sellers in over-the-counter markets for securities such as U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds.


Ryanair says it will not buy 200 Boeing aircraft

LONDON (AP) _ Budget carrier Ryanair Holdings PLC announced Friday it has broken off negotiations with Boeing Co. to buy 200 more 737-800 short-haul aircraft after being unable to extract concessions from the manufacturer.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said Ryanair had reached a pricing agreement for the aircraft _ to be delivered from 2013 to 2016 _ but Boeing was "unwilling to incorporate some other terms and conditions from our existing agreement into this new aircraft order."

O'Leary declined to specify what the points of disagreement were. He said Ryanair was willing to reopen negotiations next year, but stressed that Ryanair _ Europe's fastest-growing and most profitable airline _ would do a deal only if Boeing conceded to its demands.

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.63, or 0.2 percent, to 10,328.89.

The broader S&P 500 index rose 6.39, or 0.6 percent, to 1,102.47, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 31.64, or 1.5 percent, to 2,211.69.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.4 percent, the S&P 500 index fell 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1 percent.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added 34 cents to settle at $74.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil fell less than a penny to settle at $1.9567 while gasoline rose 4.28 cents to settle at $1.8948 a gallon. Natural gas increased 1.4 cents to settle at $5.782 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery added 38 cents to settle at $73.75 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.