Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2011 6:11 PM
Business Highlights

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Obama sets ambitious goal to reduce US oil imports

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for a one-third reduction in U.S. oil imports by 2025, reviving a long-elusive goal of reducing America's dependence on foreign supplies as political unrest rocks the Middle East and gasoline prices rise at home.

Tackling an issue that has vexed nearly every U.S. president since Richard Nixon, Obama said the country can't solve the problem with quick fixes and political gimmicks. But he offered little in the way of new initiatives, relying instead on a litany of energy proposals he's already called for, including boosting domestic oil production, increasing the use of biofuels and natural gas, and making vehicles more energy efficient.

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AP-GfK Poll: Americans souring more on economy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ For all the talk of recovery, Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the economy as soaring gas costs strain already-tight budgets. But so far, people aren't taking it out on President Barack Obama, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Even so, the survey highlights a central challenge Obama will face in his campaign for re-election. The president will have to convince a lot of voters who are still feeling financial hardship that things are getting better.

Obama's approval ratings have held steady at around 50 percent over the past month. But the disconnect between negative perceptions of the economy and signs that a rebound are under way could provide an opening for Republicans at the outset of the 2012 campaign.

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Tainted seafood fears spread as Japan plant leaks

TOKYO (AP) _ Fears about contaminated seafood spread Wednesday despite reassurances that radiation in the waters off Japan's troubled atomic plant pose no health risk, as the country's respected emperor consoled evacuees from the tsunami and nuclear emergency zone.

While experts say radioactive particles are unlikely to build up significantly in fish, the seafood concerns in the country that gave the world sushi are yet another blemish for Brand Japan. It has already been hit by contamination of milk, vegetables and water, plus shortages of auto and tech parts after a massive quake and tsunami disabled a coastal nuclear power plant.

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Irish bank stress tests to drive up bailout costs

DUBLIN (AP) _ Ireland is publishing stress tests on its four surviving banks Thursday _ and analysts expect the results to force all of them to come under majority state control and perhaps even shove the country into an eventual default.

Regulators are revealing numbers on two banks that are already majority state-owned _ Allied Irish Banks and the Educational Building Society _ and two others expected to join that club soon: the Bank of Ireland and Irish Life & Permanent.

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Debt-laden Portugal's borrowing rates hit new high

LONDON (AP) _ Debt-heavy Portugal's hopes of avoiding a financial bailout were fading fast Wednesday as the country's borrowing rates continued their upward spiral to hit new euro-era highs.

The yield on the ten-year government bonds rose another 0.03 percentage point to 8.02 percent, the highest level since the country joined in the founding of the 17-nation euro currency in 1999.

Portugal accounts for less than 2 percent of the bloc's gross domestic product, but its troubles could weaken market confidence in the eurozone's efforts to beat a sovereign debt crisis that has plagued it for more than a year. Europe has already had to come up with multibillion bailouts for Greece and Ireland.

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Buffett surprised as top Berkshire exec departs

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A top executive of Berkshire Hathaway who was believed to have had the inside track to one day succeed billionaire Warren Buffett as CEO has suddenly resigned.

Buffett said Wednesday that David Sokol's resignation letter, delivered by his assistant late Monday, came as a surprise. Buffett said Sokol, who had been serving as chairman of Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy, NetJets and Johns Manville units, indicated that he wants to spend more time on philanthropy.

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Marchionne says Chrysler IPO could be delayed

TURIN, Italy (AP) _ Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested Wednesday that Chrysler may delay its initial public offering depending on the cash needs of the U.S. automaker and the auto workers union trust fund.

Marchionne has previously hinted that an IPO could happen by the end of the year.

He said a decision on whether and when to take Chrysler public would depend on how much the automaker itself and the United Auto Workers health care trust, which pays health benefits for retirees and holds a 63.5 percent share in Chrysler, need liquidity.

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Nissan: To restart normal operations in mid-April

TOKYO (AP) _ Nissan Motor Co. said Wednesday that it will resume normal operations in mid-April at nearly all of its Japanese plants.

After the March 11 tsunami, Nissan shut down its entire auto production in Japan from March 14 to 16. All auto plants have been running at limited capacity due to parts shortages, but the company expects to start receiving supplies again.

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Hershey to raise candy prices nearly 10 percent

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) _ The Hershey Co. is raising wholesale prices by 9.7 percent, because its own costs have risen.

The candy maker says the price increase takes effect immediately.

Consumers may not see the impact on store shelves right away, because many retailers will be able to buy products at the old prices for about eight weeks. The announcement comes just before a popular candy consumption holiday. Americans spend about $2 billion on Easter candy annually.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 71.60 points, or 0.6 percent, to 12,350.61. The S&P index rose 8.82, or 0.7 percent, to 1,328.26. The Nasdaq composite rose 19.90, or 0.7 percent, to 2,776.79.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery fell 52 cents to settle at $104.27 per barrel on the Nymex. In London, Brent crude lost 1 cent to settle at $114.95 on the ICE Futures exchange.

In its weekly report on petroleum supplies, the Energy Department said U.S. crude supplies rose by 2.9 million barrels last week. Gasoline supplies fell by 2.7 million barrels.

In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil was flat to settle at $3.0534 per gallon and gasoline added 1.4 cents to settle at $3.0573 per gallon.