Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2011 6:01 PM
Business Highlights

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Economy grows at 3.1 percent rate at end of 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. economy grew a little faster at the end of 2010 than the government had previously estimated, boosted by more inventory building and business investment in plants and equipment.

But rising oil prices will likely limit growth this year.

The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the October-December quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That represents an upward revision from last month's 2.8 percent estimate for the same period.

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US experiencing uneven job growth across states

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. companies have added jobs for 12 straight months, but the gains across the country have been uneven and a little surprising.

California and Michigan, which each suffered some of the worst job losses during the recession, are adding jobs again. California last month had its single best month for job creation in more than two decades. Still, six states lost jobs from February 2010 through last month, including Kansas and New Jersey, state that weren't considered troubled spots.

Overall, 44 states added jobs in that stretch, one of the best year over-year showings since the recession ended. And the unemployment rate has fallen in 41 states, the Labor Department said Friday. Last month the unemployment rate dropped in 27 states, compared to the previous month. It rose in seven states and stayed the same in 16. That's the most states to report a drop since last June, when many states were still benefiting from census hiring.

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Portugal seeks new govt amid debt crisis

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Portugal's president sought to broker a deal between rival parties Friday to give the debt-stressed country a new government as it is engulfed by a financial crisis and edges toward an unwanted bailout.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva, largely a figurehead, was asking parties during a series of meetings whether they would voluntarily form a coalition government _ which would remove the need for an early election _ or if they preferred a ballot.

Portugal is rudderless and at the mercy of financial markets after the Socialist government quit Wednesday when the opposition refused to back its new austerity measures. The former government had been strenuously resisting market pressures for a bailout but June is likely to bring a financing crunch that could force Portugal to ask for a rescue package.

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GM plant shuttered by Japan quake to reopen in La

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ General Motors Co. will resume production at its assembly plant in Shreveport, La., one week after a massive earthquake and tsunami led to supply-chain problems that reached across the Pacific Ocean.

Doug Ebey, head of the United Auto Workers local, said Friday that the 800 employees at the plant will resume their normal four-day work week on Monday. The plant operates one 10-hour shift per production day.

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FDA clears first melanoma drug to extend life

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Food and Drug Administration has approved a breakthrough cancer medication from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. that researchers have heralded as the first drug to prolong the lives of patients with melanoma.

The federal health agency approved the injectable drug, called Yervoy, for late-stage or metastatic melanoma. The agency has only approved two other drugs for advanced melanoma, the last of which was cleared more than 13 years ago. Neither drug has been shown to significantly extend patient lives.

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Hoenig announces October retirement from Fed

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Thomas M. Hoenig, the longest serving of the Federal Reserve's 12 regional bank presidents, announced on Friday that he will retire on Oct. 1.

Hoenig, who had headed the Fed's Kansas City regional bank since 1991, has opposed the Fed's efforts to boost the economy through an extended period of low interest rates and the purchase of billions of dollars in Treasury securities.

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Sallie Mae brings back deferred payment option

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sallie Mae says it's bringing back an option that lets students wait until after graduation to start repaying loans.

The private student lender, formally known as SLM Corp., had done away with its signature deferred payment option loan during the credit crisis in 2009.

At the time, Sallie Mae began requiring borrowers to make interest payments right away while in school. The company said the in-school payments helped defray long-term costs for students by reducing the amount of interest that accumulated on the loan.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow industrial average rose 50.03 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 12,220.59.

The S&P 500 rose 4.14, or 0.3 percent, to 1,313.80. The Nasdaq rose 6.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,743.06.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery settled Friday at $105.40 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was down 20 cents for the day, but oil still gained more than 4 percent this week. On Wednesday it hit $105.75 per barrel, the highest level since September 2008.

In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil and gasoline futures both lost less than a penny to settle at $3.0715 and $3.0495 per gallon, respectively. Natural gas added 15.9 cents to settle at $4.403 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 18 cents to settle at $115.42 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.