Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2011 5:58 PM
Business Highlights

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Fewer people sought unemployment aid last week

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, resuming a downward trend that signals stronger job growth ahead.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 403,000 in the week ending April 16, the Labor Department said Thursday. The decline partially reversed a jump in applications from the previous week, which economists said was largely the result of a seasonal quirk.

The four-week average rose for the second straight week to 399,000. Still, the broader trend in unemployment applications suggests employers are stepping up hiring.

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Leading indicators point to strengthening economy

NEW YORK (AP) _ A private research group said U.S. economic growth should strengthen by summer, but cautioned that consumer concerns over rising gas and food prices could drag on the expansion.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent in March. The index, which is a measure of future economic activity, has increased for nine straight months.

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GE net income rises 77 percent in 1Q

NEW YORK (AP) _ Earnings at General Electric Co. rose 77 percent in the first quarter as its financial services business continued to rebound. But Wall Street was expecting stronger revenue from GE's industrial side and shares fell.

GE, which makes everything from light bulbs to wind turbines and health care equipment, reported net income of $3.43 billion, or 31 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31. That compares with $1.95 billion, or 17 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Revenue increased 6 percent to $38.45 billion.

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Worries about rising costs cast pall on McDonald's

NEW YORK (AP) _ McDonald's Corp. said Thursday that it expects more price increases for beef and other key ingredients, sending its shares down even as it reported its first-quarter profit and revenue rose.

The company spent the day emphasizing how sales have increased, beating analysts' expectations, and showcasing strong demand in Europe and Asia.

Analysts were more concerned about rising food prices, a global trend that is rippling to customers, franchisees and investors.

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Morgan Stanley's income falls on weak bond trading

NEW YORK (AP) _ A sharp drop in bond trading revenues and deep losses at a Japanese investment led to a 48 percent decline in Morgan Stanley's first-quarter income.

The New York investment bank booked $655 million in losses from its 40 percent stake in a Japanese joint venture, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. The venture lost more than $1 billion from bets in the fixed income markets, while operating expenses soared.

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AMD nearly doubles profit, but still seeking CEO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Thursday reported that its net income nearly doubled in the first quarter as the computer industry benefits from strong corporate demand. The company is still without a permanent CEO after forcing out Dirk Meyer in a surprise move in January.

AMD is the No. 2 maker of PC processors, with about 20 percent of the worldwide market. Its results help underscore a broader trend in technology spending: Companies' spending on PCs is perking up, and their interest in other kinds of computers _ from tablets to mainframes _ is also on the rise.

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Amazon failure takes down sites across Internet

NEW YORK (AP) _ Scores of websites and Internet services like Foursquare and Reddit crashed or had limited availability Thursday because of problems at a data center run by Amazon.com.

The problems revealed widespread reliance on Amazon Web Services, which rents out computers and data storage on a self-service basis over the Internet.

AWS is generally considered reliable because it uses vast numbers of computers, spread out in different data centers, making Thursday's failure unusual.

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Jury rejects Mattel's Bratz doll copyright claim

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A federal court jury on Thursday rejected Mattel Inc.'s claims that it owns the copyright to the blockbuster, billion-dollar Bratz dolls and instead awarded upstart rival MGA Entertainment Inc. more than $88 million in damages for misappropriation of trade secrets.

The verdict came as a blow to the toy giant, which has long claimed the smaller company stole the idea for the provocative, pouty-lipped toys.

The jury, which deliberated for nearly two weeks after a three-month trial, also found that Mattel acted willfully and maliciously in misappropriating MGA's trade secrets. MGA lawyers said that raised the possibility the judge could increase the damages by up to three times the jury's award.

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Rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 4.80 pct.

NEW YORK (AP) _ The rate on the 30-year mortgage fell last week, staying below 5 percent. But low rates have done little to lift the struggling housing market.

Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.80 percent from 4.91 percent the previous week. It hit a 40-year low of 4.17 percent in November.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.02 percent from 4.13 percent. It reached 3.57 percent in November, the lowest level on records dating back to 1991.

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JPMorgan deal will return $800M to Lehman estate

JPMorgan Chase & Co. will return assets worth $800 million to lawyers who represent former customers of the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The cash and securities are from investment accounts that JPMorgan controlled because it was the clearing bank for Lehman Brothers Inc., the bank's broker-dealer arm.

JPMorgan held onto the money after Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2008. It cooperated with Lehman's lawyers but would not return the assets until the parties could come to a formal agreement.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at another 2011 high. The 30-company index rose 52.45 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,505.99.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 7.02, or 0.5 percent, to 1,337.38. The Nasdaq composite index rose 17.65 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,820.16.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude added 84 cents to settle at $112.29 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude rose 14 cents to settle at $123.99 per barrel. Natural gas rose 10.2 cents, or 2.4 percent, to settle at $4.412 per 1,000 cubic feet on the Nymex.

Heating oil lost 2.22 cents to settle at $3.1992 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 3.13 cents to settle at $3.3086 per gallon.