Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: May 03, 2011 6:56 PM
Business Highlights

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Small cars lead US auto sales higher in April

DETROIT (AP) _ Small cars sold briskly in the U.S. last month, as gasoline prices approached $4 a gallon and some buyers worried about shortages of Japanese-made vehicles.

Analysts expected overall industry sales in the U.S. to increase 19 percent from April of last year.

Sales last month were led by highly fuel-efficient models such as Chevrolet's Cruze, Hyundai's Elantra and Ford's Focus

Don Johnson, GM's vice president of sales and marketing, said consumers shifted into smaller cars starting in March and the trend continued in April. Unlike 2008, when a rise in gas prices caught the industry off-guard, GM and other companies now have good small cars and can quickly boost production of them, he said.

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Businesses ordered more factory goods in March

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses increased their demand for industrial machinery, computers and autos in March, lifting factory orders for the fifth consecutive month.

Orders rose 3 percent in March after a 0.7 percent increase in February, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. A key category that signals business investment plans jumped 4.1 percent after a small increase in February and a big decline in January. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders rose 2.6 percent.

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Ringling heirs go to trial over bereavement fight

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The late multimillionaire owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, Irvin Feld, left a renowned business stunningly at odds with a bitter family legacy. He built an empire of wholesome entertainment meant to bring families together, yet his own two children are so estranged they couldn't even mourn with one another in peace.

The often sad family history behind "the greatest show on Earth" is being aired in court at a trial that starts May 9 before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. Karen Feld filed a $110 million suit against her younger brother, Kenneth, for assault when they came together in the Jewish rite of sitting shiva for their dead aunt.

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Feds sue Deutsche Bank, alleging mortgage fraud

NEW YORK (AP) _ The federal government sued Deutsche Bank Tuesday, saying the bank committed fraud and padded its pockets with undeserved income as it repeatedly lied so it could benefit from a government program that insured mortgages.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeks to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance claims that the government has had to pay when homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. The lawsuit also asked for punitive damages. The government said the bank made substantial profits between 2007 and 2009 from the resale of the risky mortgages, leaving the government to foot the bill for loans that defaulted. The mortgage insurance is issued by the Federal Housing Administration.

The lawsuit said the bank carried out the fraud through its subsidiary, MortgageIT, which employed more than 2,000 people at branches in all 50 states. Deutsche acquired MortgageIT in 2007.

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Pfizer 1Q net up 10 percent on lower costs, taxes

Pfizer Inc. reported flat first-quarter sales and shaved its revenue forecasts Tuesday as generic competition eats away at key drugs and pressure builds for the drugmaker to sell or spin off parts of the company.

Despite analysts grilling them on spinoff plans, Pfizer executives say they won't announce any bold moves for several months.

The world's biggest drugmaker by revenue said its net income was $2.22 billion, or 28 cents per share, up from $2.03 billion, or 25 cents per share, in 2010's first quarter. Excluding one-time items, income was $4.81 billion, or 60 cents a share.

The New York-based maker of cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor and impotence pill Viagra said revenue was $16.5 billion, down a half-percent from $16.58 billion a year ago.

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Comcast 1Q earnings up 9 percent, beat Street

NEW YORK (AP) _ Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable TV company, on Tuesday said earnings exceeded estimates for the first quarter, helped by healthy results both in its cable operations and the newly acquired NBC Universal business.

Comcast says it lost just 39,000 cable TV customers in the quarter, the lowest number in four years. Cable companies have been losing customers to satellite and phone company services.

Even though Comcast did a better job of keeping subscribers, Internet video company Netflix Inc. surpassed Comcast in the quarter. Netflix ended March with 22.8 million U.S. subscribers, about 34,000 more than Comcast.

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Official: Portugal bailout to be $115 billion

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Hard-up Portugal has negotiated an international bailout worth 78 billion euros ($115 billion) over a three-year period, officials said Tuesday.

A government official, speaking on departmental rules of anonymity, told The Associated Press the amount includes aid for Portugal's cash-strapped banks. The official did not provide further details.

Portugal's interim prime minister announced the financial rescue package for his ailing country will run through 2013.

Portugal is the third member of the 17-nation eurozone, after Greece and Ireland, to take a bailout due to crippling debts after its economy and financial plans went awry. One of western Europe's poorest countries, Portugal has said it will run out of money next month.

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New Sears CEO vows to improve sales, clothing

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) _ Sears' new CEO pledged Tuesday to help turn around the ailing retailer by relying on its core brands like Crafstman and Lands' End and being smarter about marketing to customers.

Louis D'Ambrosio told shareholders at Sears Holding Corp.'s annual meeting that improving the company's long-sagging clothing business will be a priority. He did not lay out a detailed plan for how to achieve that, although he cited strong hopes for two new clothing lines in particular: the Kardashian Collection, which debuts in August in 400 Sears stores, and Sofia Vergara, from the star of ABC's "Modern Family."

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NYC picks Nissan minivan for its cab fleet

NEW YORK (AP) _ New York City's iconic taxi fleet is getting a Japanese makeover

City officials announced Tuesday that they had picked Nissan to supply the fleet for the next 10 years. The Japanese automaker beat out Ford Motor Co. and Karsan USA in a contest for the rights to anchor the fleet.

Nissan's tall, boxy NV200 minivan is already in use as a taxi in some other parts of the globe.

This marks the first time New York City has worked directly with automakers to design its taxicab model.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average inched out a gain of 0.15 percent to close at 12,807.51. The S&P 500 fell 4.60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,356.62. The Nasdaq composite fell 22.46, or 0.8 percent, at 2,841.62.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery fell $2.47, or 2.2 percent, to settle at $111.05 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude dropped $2.67 to settle at $122.45 per barrel.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil lost 6.13 cents to settle at $3.1908 per gallon, gasoline futures gave up 1.85 cents to settle at $3.3294 per gallon and natural gas fell 2.5 cents to settle at $4.738 per 1,000 cubic feet.