Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2011 6:20 PM
Business Highlights

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Rising oil prices beginning to hurt US economy

Just when companies have finally stepped up hiring, rising oil prices are threatening to halt the U.S. economy's gains.

Some economists are scaling back their estimates for growth this year, in part because flat wages have left households struggling to pay higher gasoline prices.

Oil has topped $108 a barrel, the highest price since 2008. Regular unleaded gasoline now goes for an average $3.69 a gallon, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge survey, up 86 cents from a year ago.

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Unemployment falls in three-quarters of US cities

Unemployment rates are falling in most metro areas across the country, suggesting that recent nationwide gains in hiring are widespread and not limited to a few healthy regions.

More than three-quarters of the nation's 372 largest metro areas reported lower unemployment rates in February than the previous month, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That's the most to report a decline since September.

More than 300 areas added jobs in February compared with the previous month. That's a much better showing than January, when most metro areas lost jobs.

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Portugal PM says his country will ask for bailout

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Portugal became the third debt-stressed European country to need a bailout as the prime minister announced Wednesday his country will request international assistance to ease its rapidly worsening financial crisis.

Portugal has followed Greece and Ireland, other financially troubled eurozone countries, in asking for aid from Europe's bailout reserve and the International Monetary Fund.

Analysts expect Portugal will need up to 80 billion euros ($114.4 billion) _ an amount bearable for Europe's finances.

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Dish Network acquiring Blockbuster for $228M

NEW YORK (AP) _ Dish Network Corp. said Wednesday that it won the auction for Blockbuster Inc. with a bid valued at $228 million in cash.

As of Tuesday, the satellite TV company, billionaire investor Carl Icahn and a group of debt holders were the three remaining bidders for the Dallas movie-rental chain, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September.

Dish's bid was for $320 million, but the value decreases to $228 million after adjusting for available cash and inventory.

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US, Colombia reach deal on key free trade pact

After weeks of intense negotiations, the United States and Colombia have reached a deal on a free trade pact that the White House says is a vital part of President Barack Obama's economic agenda.

The administration said the agreement came together after the Colombians agreed to offer greater protections for workers and union leaders, an area of key concern for the U.S. It estimates the final pact will boost U.S. exports to Colombia by more than $1 billion per year and could support thousands of American jobs.

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Monsanto posts 2Q profit but forecast disappoints

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Rising corn seed sales helped boost Monsanto Co.'s second-quarter profit by 15 percent compared with last year, but the company warned that seed discounts and continued losses on its popular Roundup Herbicide would trim profits for 2011.

Second-quarter results are critical for Monsanto, because they cover a period when the company books its seed sales to farmers. As the world's biggest seed company, Monsanto is tying its future profitability to genetically altered seeds and moving away from its historical strategy of selling pesticides and herbicides.

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Moody's may cut Toyota rating amid production halt

TOKYO (AP) _ Moody's Investors Service warned Wednesday it may downgrade its credit rating for Toyota Motor Corp. due to the financial fallout from suspended car production following the March 11 quake and tsunami.

The warning came as Toyota, the world's No. 1 carmaker, is struggling to resume output in Japan after the twin disasters disrupted supply chains and caused shortages of parts.

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Toyota sells 1 millionth Prius hybrid in US

DETROIT (AP) _ The Toyota Prius hybrid, once viewed as a science experiment for environmentalists, has become a mainstream vehicle in the United States, with the company selling more than a million of the cars nationwide.

Toyota announced Wednesday that it had passed the million sales milestone, helped by brisk sales recently as U.S. gasoline prices continued to rise toward $4 per gallon.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 32.85, or 0.3 percent, to 12,426.75.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 2.91 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,335.54. The Nasdaq composite index rose 8.63 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,799.82.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate gained 49 cents to settle at $108.83 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It climbed as high as $109.15 earlier in the day _ the highest since September 2008.

In other Nymex trading for May contracts, heating oil added less than a penny to settle at $3.1912 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 0.84 cent to settle at $3.1929 per gallon. Natural gas fell 8.5 cents to settle at $4.146 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose 4 cents to settle at $121.93 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.