Japan equates nuclear crisis severity to Chernobyl
TOKYO _ Japan ranked its nuclear crisis at the highest possible severity on an international scale _ the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster _ even as it insisted Tuesday that radiation leaks are declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.
The higher rating is an open acknowledgment of what was widely understood already: The nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is the second-worst in history. It does not signal a worsening of the plant's status in recent days or any new health dangers.
Spending cuts not expected to dent $1.5T deficit
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The $38 billion in spending cuts agreed to last week won't prevent this year's budget deficit from setting another record high, estimated at $1.5 trillion.
Most of the agreed-to spending cuts either affect future budgets or amount to accounting gimmicks that won't reduce actual spending.
The Treasury Department reported Tuesday that the deficit already totals $829.4 billion through the first six months of the budget year _ a figure that until 2009 would have been the biggest ever for an entire year. For March alone, the government ran a deficit of $188 billion.
February trade deficit narrows to $45.8 billion
WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. companies sold fewer products overseas in February but the trade deficit narrowed because of a big decline in oil imports.
The trade deficit fell 2.6 percent to $45.8 billion in February, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
Exports, which had hit an all-time high in January, edged down 1.4 percent to $165.1 billion. Sales of U.S. autos, industrial machinery and food products all dropped.
Imports fell 1.7 percent to $210.9 billion. A big reason for the decline was that demand for crude oil fell to a 12-year low, which offset higher prices. The United States also imported fewer cars and computers.
Cisco plans to shut its Flip camcorder business
NEW YORK (AP) _ Cisco Systems Inc., one of the titans of the technology industry, on Tuesday said it is killing the Flip Video, the most popular video camera in the U.S., just two years after it bought the startup that created it.
It appears to be a case of a big company proving a poor custodian of a small one, even one that makes a hit product. Cisco never meaningfully integrated the Flip Video into its main business of making computer networking gear.
Farmers, airlines exempt from derivatives rules
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Companies that trade derivatives solely to guard against volatile price swings won't have to meet new federal collateral requirements.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission advanced the exemption Tuesday as part of new regulations for derivatives, investments whose value depends on the future price of some other investment.
The rules, which were included in last year's financial regulatory law, require banks and businesses that trade derivatives to put up millions of dollars to cover their losses. The aim is to cut down on the kind of risky trades that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
Fiat boosts its stake in Chrysler to 30 percent
DETROIT (AP) _ Fiat boosted its ownership stake in Chrysler Group LLC Tuesday as the Italian automaker met several benchmarks set by the U.S. government.
Fiat's stake in Chrysler rose to 30 percent from 25 percent, and it can rise to 35 percent when Chrysler begins making a 40 mpg car in the U.S.
Business travel spending to grow 7 percent
NEW YORK (AP) _ Business travelers are forecast to spend $245.8 billion this year, up nearly 7 percent from 2010, thanks to improving economic conditions and increasing corporate confidence, an industry trade group said Tuesday.
That prediction is $6.5 billion better than an outlook released in January, and growth is expected to continue at least through 2012.
California sets nation's highest renewable power goals
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation requiring California utilities to get one-third of their power from renewable sources, giving the state the most aggressive alternative energy mandate in the U.S.
California utilities and other electricity providers have until the end of 2020 to draw 33 percent of their power from solar panels, windmills and other renewable sources.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 117.53 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 12,263.58. That's the largest drop since March 16, when the Dow lost 242 points on fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10.30, or 0.8 percent, to 1,314.16. The Nasdaq composite index fell 26.72, or 1 percent, to 2,744.79.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery gave up $3.67, or 3 percent, to settle at $106.25 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil dropped as low as $105.47 earlier in the day.
In other Nymex trading for May contracts, heating oil lost 7.99 cents to settle at $3.1726 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up 3.64 cents to settle at $3.1641 per gallon. Natural gas fell a penny to settle at $4.098 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude lost $2.99, or 2.4 percent, to settle at $120.43 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.