Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2010 6:05 PM
Business Highlights

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Jobs crisis extends to unemployed, lawmakers

WASHINGTON (AP) _ There's no relief from the jobs crisis _ for everyday Americans or lawmakers facing the midterm elections.

The most rampant layoffs of teachers and other local government workers in nearly three decades more than offset weak hiring in the private sector in September, resulting in a net loss of 95,000 jobs. Unemployment remained stuck at 9.6 percent.

The jobless rate has now been at or above 9.5 percent for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the Great Depression.

The glum economic picture came Friday in the Labor Department's last monthly jobs report before the November election. Voter frustration over jobs threatens to cost Democrats control of the House and perhaps the Senate.

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Bank of America stops US foreclosures for review

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bank of America on Friday halted foreclosures on homes across the country so it could review paperwork in tens of thousands of cases for flaws, expanding a crisis at a perilous time for the housing market.

The move came as PNC Financial Services became the fourth major bank to announce that it would stop foreclosures in at least some states. It added to growing concerns that mortgage lenders have been evicting homeowners despite flawed court papers.

Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank, had said a week earlier it would stop foreclosures in the 23 states where the process must be approved by a judge. Ally Financial and JPMorgan Chase had announced similar plans.

Bank of America's nationwide halt will apply to homes that the bank is taking back itself and those for which it has transferred the papers to mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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Sanofi-Aventis to lay off 1,700 US employees

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Sanofi-Aventis SA, the world's fourth-biggest drugmaker, said Friday it is eliminating 1,700 jobs in its U.S. pharmaceutical business in a restructuring triggered by growing generic competition and other factors.

The news comes as Sanofi's struggle to buy U.S. biotech firm Genzyme Corp. drags on.

The layoffs amount to about 25 percent of the workers in the company's U.S. pharmaceutical business, and will primarily hit sales representatives around the country and administrative staff at Sanofi's American headquarters in Bridgewater, N.J.

About 1,400 sales staff will be laid off, as well as about 300 staff in various administrative jobs, Sanofi-Aventis spokesman Jack Cox said.

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Wholesale inventories and sales up in August

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses have been restocking store shelves since the recession ended, a sign that they expect the economic recovery to continue.

Inventories at the wholesale level rose by 0.8 percent in August, following a 1.5 percent increase the month before, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales rose by 0.5 percent, a slightly smaller gain than the 0.8 percent rise in July.

Businesses helped drive the early stage of the recovery last year by rebuilding inventories that grew thin during the recession. The economic crisis led wholesalers to cut their inventories for 13 consecutive months starting in September 2008. When they started restocking last year, that boosted orders to U.S. factories and helped spur overall economic growth.

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Dow closes above 11,000 for first time since May

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 11,000 for the first time in five months Friday as hopes built that the Federal Reserve will take more action to get the economy going again.

A weaker jobs report added to a series of tepid economic indicators in recent weeks that have built expectations that the Fed will announce new steps to encourage borrowing when it meets in early November.

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IMF warns countries against currency wars

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the International Monetary Fund on Friday urged global finance ministers to stop trying to manipulate their currencies for economic advantage and instead to join to save a fragile recovery.

The global economy is struggling to emerge from the worst recession since the end of World War II, said IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Unless the pace of job growth quickens, he said, "we really face the risk of a lost generation" of young people unable to get work.

Strauss-Kahn's remarks came as finance ministers from around the world gathered for the annual meetings of the 187-nation IMF and its sister lending organization, the World Bank.

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German company drops female sex pill

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH says it has stopped the development of a pill designed to boost sex drive in women following a skeptical response from U.S. regulators.

The company said Friday it made the decision because of the "complexity and extent of further questions that would need to be addressed to potentially obtain registration."

In a review in June, the Food and Drug Administration said two Boehringer studies failed to show a significant increase in sexual desire in women who took the drug as recorded by them in a daily journal.

The company said that despite its decision it "continues to believe in the value" that its drug, called flibanserin, could have.

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Stewart Title clamps down on foreclosure sales

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stewart Title Guaranty Co. is clamping down on sales of foreclosed homes that may be linked to flawed documentation.

In an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press, Houston-based Stewart is issuing guidelines to its agents that make it difficult to write policies on property foreclosed upon by four banks whose process is in question. Those banks are JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, OneWest Bank or Ally Financial's GMAC Mortgage unit.

A week ago, title insurer Old Republic National ordered its agents to stop offering policies on foreclosed properties owned by GMAC or JPMorgan Chase.

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UAE, BlackBerry resolve dispute, averting ban

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ The United Arab Emirates on Friday backed off a threat to cut key BlackBerry services, just days before a planned ban that could have harmed the country's business-friendly reputation.

The last-minute decision ended more than two months of brinksmanship with the Canadian company that makes the smart phones, a tool popular both with businesspeople and gadget-loving consumers in this Gulf federation.

The ban on e-mail, messaging and Web services _ which the government threatened to impose over security concerns _ was due to take effect Monday.

Half a million local users and thousands of BlackBerry-toting business travelers would have been affected. Dubai's airport, the region's busiest, handles about 100,000 passengers daily.

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Abbott withdraws diet pill in US, Canada

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Abbott Laboratories said Friday it will withdraw its diet pill Meridia in the U.S. and Canada, almost a year after studies showed the drug increases the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with a history of heart disease.

Companies have struggled for decades to develop drugs that help people lose weight without dangerous side effects. The withdrawal of Meridia leaves just two prescription weight loss drugs on the market _ orlistat and phentermine_ neither of which are considered very effective.

Food and Drug Administration scientists said they requested the withdrawal because Meridia's risks were not justified compared with "the very modest weight loss that people achieve on this drug." On average, patients lost about five pounds with the drug.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 57.90, or 0.5 percent, at 11,006.48. The Dow first crossed 11,000 in May of 1999, and reached its highest close of all time on Oct. 9, 2007, when it finished at 14,164.53.

Benchmark crude rose 99 cents to settle at $82.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading gasoline gained 3.32 cents to settle at $2.1512 a gallon, heating oil rose 3.01 cents to settle at $2.2819 a gallon and natural gas picked up 3.4 cents to settle at $3.651 per 1,000 cubic feet after dropping to a 52-week low of $3.583 earlier in the session.

In London, Brent crude rose 60 cents to settle at $84.03 per barrel on the ICE futures exchange.