Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Jun 20, 2011 6:21 PM
Business Highlights


Coming soon to the Internet: The .whatever address

SINGAPORE (AP) _ A quarter-century after the creation of ".com," the agency that assigns Internet addresses is loosening its rules and allowing suffixes named after brands, hobbies, political causes and just about anything else.

Under guidelines approved Monday, Apple could register addresses ending in ".ipad," Citi and Chase could share ".bank" and environmental groups could go after ".eco." Japan could have ".com" in Japanese.

It's the biggest change to the system of Internet addresses since it was created in 1984.


High court bars mass sex bias case vs. Wal-Mart

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court blocked the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history on Monday, siding with Wal-Mart and against up to 1.6 million female workers in a decision that makes it harder to mount large-scale bias claims against the nation's other huge companies, too.

The justices all agreed that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could not proceed as a class action in its current form. By a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the court also said there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit.

With 2.1 million workers in more than 8,000 stores worldwide, Wal-Mart could have faced billions of dollars in damages if it had had to answer claims by the huge group of women.

Now, the handful of employees who brought the case may pursue their claims on their own, with much less money at stake and less pressure on Wal-Mart to settle.


Stocks post third straight day of gains

NEW YORK (AP) _ Investors largely put aside their concerns about the Greek financial crisis Monday and focused instead on value. Stocks rose broadly after the market shook off its longest weekly losing streak in nearly a decade.

The S&P 500 notched its third straight day of gains, the longest stretch of increases in the stock market for nearly a month. The index eked out a tiny gain last week, breaking a six-week losing streak driven by concerns that U.S. economic growth would falter in the second half of the year and that Greece's debt crisis would spread. It was the S&P's longest slide since 2002.

The S&P is now 6 percent below the 2011 high it reached on April 29.


AP IMPACT: US nuke regulators weaken safety rules

LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.

Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.

The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety _ and inching the reactors closer to an accident that could harm the public and jeopardize the future of nuclear power in the United States.


Federal regulators sue JPMorgan, RBS for $840M

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal regulators have sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland PLC in a bid to recover about $840 million in losses on securities tied to high-risk mortgages that were purchased by five wholesale credit unions that failed in the financial crisis.

The National Credit Union Administration, a federal regulatory agency, on Monday accused the two banks' securities divisions of misrepresenting how risky the mortgage securities were.

When the value of the securities plunged, that led five corporate credit unions to fail in 2009 and 2010, according to the lawsuit. The credit unions were seized by the agency, which put them into conservatorship and then liquidated them.

The NCUA said it could sue five to 10 other banks in coming weeks.


Low-income prepaid-card users facing higher fees

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Millions of poor Americans who use prepaid debit cards could soon face higher fees.

Under a rule to take effect in July, companies that issue debit cards must reduce the fees they charge retailers. To recoup their lost revenue, banks that offer the cards are raising fees for people who use them.

People who use prepaid debit cards, typically low-income consumers and those collecting government benefits, are supposed to be shielded from the fee hikes. To protect them, the rule provided an exemption: It let companies that issue prepaid cards keep charging retailers higher rates.

But that exemption could take up to a year to enact. In the meantime, card companies will likely charge users of prepaid cards higher fees to recoup the lost revenue.


PNC buys Royal Bank of Canada US banks for $3.45B

NEW YORK (AP) _ PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said Monday that it is buying the U.S. retail operations of Royal Bank of Canada for $3.45 billion.

PNC said that the transaction will bring its total to 2,870 branches and make it the fifth biggest among U.S. banks. RBC Bank (USA), based in Raleigh, N.C., has 424 branches and about $25 billion of assets.

It is the second big banking transaction in recent days following the announcement that U.S. bank Capital One Financial Corp. struck a $9 billion deal to buy the online bank of the Dutch financial services company ING.


FDA to issue new graphic cigarette warning labels

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ In the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years, the Food and Drug Administration is set to release nine new warning labels that will depict in graphic detail the negative health effects of tobacco use. Among the possible images are rotting and diseased teeth and gums and a man with a tracheotomy smoking.

The labels will take up the top half of a pack _ both front and back _ of cigarette packs. Warning labels also must appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of an ad. Cigarette makers have until the fall of 2012 to comply.


EU strives to contain Greek debt storm

LUXEMBOURG (AP) _ Europe tried to set up a firewall on Monday between the financial turmoil ravaging Greece and the destinies of Ireland and Portugal, the two other bailed-out eurozone countries, and increased pressure on Athens to pass new austerity measures in exchange for saving it from default.

Eurozone governments agreed to reinforce their bailout funds to boost confidence in their ability to stop the crisis from taking down other countries and to help Ireland and Portugal emerge from their debt holes.

Greece's financial life support from Europe, meanwhile, depends on it taking new deficit-cutting measures.

After days of political chaos, the government in Athens has to survive a confidence vote and then get its austerity plan through parliament. To make sure that happens, eurozone ministers have delayed crucial new loans until after the parliamentary vote.


Airbus racks up orders, glitches at Paris Air Show

LE BOURGET, France (AP) _ Airbus and Boeing signed over $25 billion in orders to kick off the Paris Air Show on Monday, but the European jet maker's appearance at the industry's biggest annual event suffered a setback when its star superjumbo clipped a wing.

The haul from the first day of the show was an improvement from recent years despite a challenging environment for the industry, which faces high fuel prices, a slowing global economy and uncertainty caused by violence in the Middle East and Japan's natural disasters.

Airbus topped the totals, signing orders and commitments for 142 aircraft worth $15 billion at list prices, the company said Monday.

Rival Boeing countered with more than $11 billion worth of orders and commitments for 56 of its jets.


By The Associated Press

The S&P 500 index rose 6.86 points, 0.5 percent, to close at 1,278.36. The Dow Jones industrial average added 76.02 points, or 0.6 percent, to 12,080.38. The Nasdaq composite gained 13.18, or 0.5 percent, to 2,629.66.

Benchmark crude for July delivery gained 25 cents to settle at $93.26 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The July contract expires on Tuesday, and most of the trading switched to the August contract, which added 23 cents to settle at $93.63 per barrel.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil lost 5.1 cents to settle at $2.932 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 3.5 cents to settle at $2.912 per gallon. Natural gas gave up less than a penny to settle at $4.317 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell $1.52 to settle at $111.69 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.