Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Apr 27, 2011 6:14 PM
Business Highlights


Bernanke sees risks in further steps to spur jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that the Fed can't take additional steps to try to ease high unemployment without escalating inflation.

If inflation were to accelerate, the Fed would have to raise rates to slow borrowing and spending and blunt price increases. Hiring might then slow.

Speaking at a news conference with reporters, Bernanke sketched a picture of an economy growing steadily but still weighed down by a prolonged period of unemployment, now at 8.8 percent. He acknowledged the pain that is causing, noting that around 45 percent of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer.


J&J to buy medical device maker Synthes for $21.3B

GENEVA (AP) _ Health giant Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it will buy U.S.-Swiss medical device maker Synthes Inc. for 21.3 billion, greatly increasing its share of the market for surgical trauma equipment and orthopedic implants.

J&J said it will pay 159 Swiss francs for each Synthes share, comprised of $2 billion in cash and the rest in stock.

The price represents a premium of 8.5 percent on Synthes' closing share price Tuesday.


CEO: J&J learned lessons, improved after recalls

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Johnson & Johnson's CEO says he hopes the company's many product recalls are behind it, but he can't promise that.

William Weldon, who has run the health care giant since 2002, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that J&J has learned some lessons, invested heavily in improving quality and will work to regain consumer confidence.

Since September 2009, the company has had about two dozen recalls of prescription and nonprescription medicines, replacement hips, contact lenses and diabetes test strips. Among the recalls were tens of millions of bottles of children's and adult Tylenol and Motrin, plus Benadryl, Zyrtec, Rolaids and Simply Sleep pills.


Businesses boosted durable-goods orders in March

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses increased their orders for heavy machinery, computers, autos and steel in March, boosting demand for long-lasting manufactured goods for a third straight month.

Orders for durable goods rose 2.5 percent in March, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That's up from a revised 0.7 percent increase the previous month.

A key category considered a proxy for business investment rose 3.7 percent in March, rebounding after a slight gain in February and a big decline in January.


Unemployment falls in 80 pct. of large cities

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The unemployment rate fell last month in more than 80 percent of the nation's largest metro areas, adding to evidence that the recent pickup in hiring is widespread.

The unemployment rate fell in 303 of the nation's 372 largest cities in March, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That's up from the more than the 287 cities that reported a drop the previous month and the best showing since September. The rate rose in 43 cities and was unchanged in 26.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate dipped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and has dropped a full percentage point since November. Businesses added a net total of more than 200,000 jobs in March and February, the fastest two-month hiring spree in five years.


Allstate reports surge in 1Q net income

NEW YORK (AP) _ Home and auto insurer Allstate Corp. said Wednesday that its profit more than quadrupled in the first quarter as it paid out less money for damage claims.

The performance handily beat Wall Street expectations. In the three months ended March 31, the Northbrook, Ill.-based company said net income climbed to $519 million, or 97 cents per share. That's up from $120 million, or 22 cents per share, in the year-ago period.


Starbucks profit up 20 percent in 2Q on sales

SEATTLE (AP) _ Starbucks Corp.'s said Wednesday that its second-quarter net income jumped 20 percent as more customers visited its stores, and it bumped up its earnings forecast for the year.

The coffee giant said it earned $261.6 million, or 34 cents per share, for the quarter that ended April 3 _ meeting analysts' average expectations. That's up from the $217.3 million, or 28 cents per share, earned in the same quarter last year.


EBay first-quarter profit rises 20 percent

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ EBay Inc. on Wednesday said its first-quarter profit rose 20 percent on reinvigorated auctions activity and continued swift growth at its PayPal payment service.

Revenue from the company's marketplace business, which is its largest and includes, climbed 12 percent to $1.55 billion _ well ahead of the single-digit growth eBay reported in the second half of 2010.

The company has been working to improve the buying and selling experience on by cutting upfront listing fees it charges sellers, improving its search engine and revamping its home page.


ConocoPhillips 1Q earnings jump 43 percent

NEW YORK (AP) _ ConocoPhillips said Wednesday that first-quarter earnings rose 43 percent as higher oil and gasoline prices made up for a sharp decline in production.

The results weren't as strong as Wall Street had expected, however, and shares fell almost 2 percent.

Conoco, the third-largest U.S. oil company, earned $3 billion in the first three months of the year. Production dropped, however, as the Houston company shed assets to focus on developing oil fields in North America.


Apple denies iPhones store user location

NEW YORK (AP) _ Apple Inc. denied Wednesday that iPhones store a record of their users' movements for up to a year and blamed privacy concerns partly on a misunderstanding.

A data file publicized by security researchers last week doesn't store users' locations, but a list of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in their general area, the company said. It promised software fixes to address concerns over that file.

The data, downloaded from Apple, help the phone figure out its location without having to listen for faint signals from GPS satellites. That means navigation applications can present the phone's location faster and more accurately, Apple said.


Buffett releases details of former exec's actions

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Berkshire Hathaway said Wednesday that a former top executive who many believed might one day succeed Warren Buffett as CEO violated the company's insider trading and ethics policies by buying stock in a chemical company Berkshire is acquiring and failing to disclose key details.

Buffett released a report that Berkshire's audit committee produced after examining David Sokol's $10 million investment in Lubrizol.

Sokol resigned from Berkshire shortly after Buffett's Omaha, Neb., company announced plans to acquire Lubrizol for $9 billion. When his resignation was announced, Sokol said he was leaving to start his own firm.

Berkshire's board said Sokol offered "misleadingly incomplete disclosures" about his Lubrizol trades, which were made while he was scouting acquisition candidates for Berkshire.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 95.59 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 12,690.96. The Dow was already up before Bernanke's appearance and rose another 50 points after the Fed chairman spoke. The last time the Dow was this high was in May 2008.

The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 8.42, or 0.6 percent, to 1,355.66. That was its highest price since June 2008.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 22.34, or 0.8 percent, to 2,869.88.

The Russell 2000 index, a benchmark for small stocks, surpassed its record high of 855.77 reached in July 2007. It closed up 5.27, or 0.6 percent, to 858.31.

Benchmark crude for June delivery rose 55 cents to settle at $112.76 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude rose 99 cents to settle at $125.13 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading for May contracts, heating oil rose 2.08 cents to settle at $3.2481 per gallon, gasoline gained 5.10 cents to settle at $3.3582 per gallon and natural gas lost a penny to settle at $4.377 per 1,000 cubic feet.