Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2011 6:08 PM
Business Highlights

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Post-9/11 changes to industries outlive bin Laden

NEW YORK (AP) _ Security screening at airports will still be a hassle and raise the cost of travel. Laws that turned banks into financial cops will stay in place. And most companies will still spend more to ship goods and secure their computer systems.

Osama bin Laden's death won't reverse the transformation of business that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

The attacks fueled higher corporate spending on security and intelligence _ costs that have been passed on to consumers. Those surging gas prices that motorists are cursing are higher, in part, because the bin Laden-driven attacks raised fears that terrorists might disrupt the flow of Middle East oil.

No matter what happens next, bin Laden's legacy has meant costs and fees that business and consumers had never faced before and that aren't about to go away.

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Manufacturing grew for 21st month in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Manufacturing activity grew for the 21st straight month in April, fueled by a weak dollar that has made U.S. goods cheaper overseas. But the cost of raw materials rose for the fifth consecutive month, a growing concern for many companies.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Monday that its index of manufacturing activity dipped to 60.4 in April. That's down slightly from March and February, the fastest month for expansion in nearly seven years. A reading above 50 signals growth.

Since the beginning of the year, manufacturing has grown at the fastest pace in 27 years, said David Resler, an economist at Nomura Securities. The index has topped 60 for four straight months, evidence that manufacturing remains one of the strongest components of the economy. The index bottomed out during the recession at 33.3 in December 2008, the lowest point since June 1980.

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March construction spending rose 1.4 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Builders began work on more office buildings, hotels and factories in March, lifting construction spending after three straight monthly declines.

Construction spending rose 1.4 percent in March, the Commerce Department said Monday. It was the biggest advance since last April and was helped by a rise in spending on home-improvement projects.

The overall increase, however, came after building activity had fallen in February to the lowest level in in more than a decade. Even with the advance, activity in March stood at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $768.9 billion, just half the $1.5 trillion pace considered healthy by economists. It could take four years for the construction industry to fully recover from the housing bust and deep recession, economists say.

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Chrysler turns first profit since bankruptcy

DETROIT (AP) _ For the first time in nearly seven years, Detroit's car companies are all making money.

Chrysler, the last of the three to return to profitability, said Monday it made a $116 million net profit in the first quarter on revenue of $13.1 billion. The company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection a little less than two years ago, hadn't reported a net profit since 2006.

General Motors Co., which also went into bankruptcy in 2009 and took billions in government aid, has four profitable quarters under its belt and held an initial public offering in November to help repay its loans. Ford Motor Co., which didn't take bailout money but nearly filed for bankruptcy five years ago, reported its eighth consecutive quarterly profit last week. Ford's 2010 profit of $6.6 billion was the highest in a decade.

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Humana posts 22 percent 1Q earnings increase

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Humana Inc. said Monday its first-quarter profit rose 22 percent as the health insurer benefited from enrollment gains in its Medicare offerings and slower growth in health care use in its employer-based insurance plans.

In a sign of its growing diversity, the Louisville-based managed care company also doubled pretax income in its health and well-being services segment in the period.

Humana said its first-quarter earnings benefited by 31 cents per share because claims leftover from previous quarters came in lower than expected. That was down slightly from its benefit a year ago from slower health care use.

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Southwest closes $1B purchase of AirTran

DALLAS (AP) _ Southwest Airlines Co. has closed its purchase of AirTran.

For travelers, nothing much changes right away. Travelers will continue to deal with whichever airline sold them their ticket. And policies such as checked bag fees will stay the same for now. AirTran charges for checked baggage, while Southwest allows two bags for free.

Integrating the two airlines will take many months. Southwest plans to begin painting AirTran airplanes in Southwest colors next year.

Buying AirTran Holdings Inc. gives Southwest a presence in Atlanta for the first time, as well as Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington.

Southwest says the deal that closed on Monday values AirTran at $1 billion.

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Sony takes down game site amid security concerns

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sony says it has taken down its online PC gaming service due to a problem it found while investigating the security breach at its PlayStation service last month.

Sony Corp. said Monday on the Sony Online Entertainment website that it has temporarily suspended service because of an undisclosed issue. A spokesman says it's not due to a second attack.

The site matches up players for PC games such as "Free Realms" and "DC Universe online."

The company says it found the issue while investigating the recent security breach.

Sony executives apologized Sunday for the PlayStation Network security breach. The breach compromised the personal data of some 77 million player accounts.

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FDA OKs new diabetes pill from Boehringer, Lilly

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new diabetes pill from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly for patients who can't control their blood sugar with older medicines.

The agency said Monday it approved Tradjenta tablets for adults with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, affecting up to 95 percent of the 24 million people in the U.S. with diabetes.

People with the disease have trouble breaking down carbohydrates, because their bodies have become resistant to the protein insulin. They are at higher risk for heart attacks, kidney problems, blindness and other serious complications.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.18 points to close at 12,807.36. The S&P 500 index fell 2.39 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,361.22. It had been up 7 points Monday morning. The Nasdaq composite fell 9.46 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,864.08.

Benchmark crude for June delivery fell 41 cents to settle at $113.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude lost 77 cents to settle at $125.12 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other trading on the Nymex, heating oil fell 2.37 cents to settle at $3.2521, gasoline futures lost 5.05 cents to settle at $3.3479 and natural gas settled a fraction of a cent higher at $4.763 per 1,000 cubic feet.