Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2011 6:21 PM
Business Highlights

Federal regulators have begun a formal antitrust investigation into Google's business practices.

In a blog post Friday, the Internet search giant said it received notification from the Federal Trade Commission of the review on Thursday.

Google said "it's still unclear exactly what the FTC's concerns are."

But the inquiry is expected to focus in large part on whether Google abuses its dominance of Internet search to extend its influence into other lucrative online markets, such as mapping, comparison shopping and travel. Rivals complain that Google, which handles two out of every three Internet searches in the U.S., manipulates its results to steer users to its own sites and services and bury links to competitors.

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CEO Interview: Southwest co-founder Herb Kelleher

DALLAS (AP) _ Herb Kelleher dressed up as Elvis, wore a paper bag over his head on TV, bragged about drinking Wild Turkey and told bawdy stories. Between the legendary bouts of showmanship he found time to revolutionize the airline industry.

Kelleher was there at the founding of Southwest Airlines Co., fighting the legal battles to get the airline started. As CEO for two decades, he built an airline that now carries more U.S. passengers than any other. Most U.S. airlines lose money more often than they earn it, but Southwest has always posted an annual profit.

It's been a decade since Kelleher, now 80, retired as CEO and three years since he stepped down as chairman, but he still shows up at the office most days. He gives advice when the current CEO, Gary Kelly, asks for it. Recently, Kelleher sat down in his office for an interview with The Associated Press.

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Brazen, publicity-seeking hackers on attack spree

LONDON (AP) _ Can you be famous if no one knows your name? A new band of hackers is giving it its best shot, trumpeting its cyber-capers in an all-sirens-flashing publicity campaign.

Lulz Security has stolen mountains of personal data in a dozen different hacks, embarrassing law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic while boasting about the stunts online.

LulzSec made its name by defacing the site of the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, with an article claiming that rapper Tupac Shakur was still alive. It has since claimed hacks on major entertainment companies, FBI partner organizations, a pornography website and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, whose documents were leaked to the Web late Thursday.

The group, whose name draws on Internetspeak for "laughs," has about 270,000 followers on the messaging site Twitter. Although LulzSec has declined interview requests, it has laid out its prankster philosophy in "tweets" and press releases.

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Jump in factory orders hints at stronger growth

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Factory orders are picking up and the economy may soon follow.

A rise in demand for long-lasting manufactured goods in May suggests the parts shortage stemming from the Japan crises is fading. It would also support the view offered by many economists, who have suggested that the economic slowdown is temporary and that growth will strengthen this summer after six dismal months.

Still, the projected growth won't be enough to make a noticeable dent in the unemployment rate, which was 9.1 percent last month.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year, according to the Commerce Department's third and final estimate. Economists don't expect much better growth in the current April-June quarter, which ends next week. An Associated Press survey of 38 top economists predicts that rate will be about 2.3 percent.

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Stocks end another week lower on Europe worries

Stocks fell Friday, giving the market another losing week, after poor earnings reports from two major technology companies suggested that companies invested less in new technology as the economic recovery slowed.

Fears of a spreading European debt crisis also weighed on markets. Italian bank stocks plunged and trading in some of them was halted after Moody's warned that it might downgrade their credit ratings.

The decline erased all of this week's gains for the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P index. The broad stock market has now fallen for seven of the eight last weeks, largely because of concerns that the U.S. economy is slowing and that Europe's debt problems may lead to another financial crisis. The S&P 500 is down 7 percent since it hit a high for the year April 29.

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Drivers catch a break as gasoline prices fall

NEW YORK (AP) _ A summer road trip may not be such a bad idea after all.

Gasoline prices are falling fast. In the past 7 weeks, the average U.S. retail prices has dropped 38 cents to $3.60 per gallon. Another 25-cent drop is expected by mid-July.

When prices approached $4 in early May, drivers were worried that $5 gasoline was a possibility this summer. But since then, oil prices have collapsed, the result of slowing economic growth in developed countries, weaker demand for oil and gas and this week's decision by the U.S. and other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves. Economists say falling prices will benefit consumers by leaving money in their wallets, and making them feel freer to spend on travel, shopping and dining.

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Obama invites top senators for debt talks

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Stepping directly into stalled debt talks, President Barack Obama is inviting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell to separate meetings Monday, shifting the negotiations to the highest levels.

The White House meetings would seek to pick up where negotiations headed by Vice President Joe Biden left off. Republican negotiators abandoned those talks Thursday over Democrats' insistence on including tax increases in any deficit-reduction plan.

McConnell has been demanding that Obama become personally involved in the budget discussions.

Congressional Republicans want to reach a deal on about $2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years before agreeing to raise the nation's borrowing limit, currently capped at $14.3 trillion. The Treasury Department has said it has until Aug. 2 before its ability to pay U.S. debt runs out.

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Cheerios turn 70; Iconic cereal endures, sells

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ What is the most popular cereal brand in American grocery stores?

Cheerios. The iconic cereal, known by its distinctive yellow box, is 70 years old this year and still a force on the breakfast cereal market. One out of every eight boxes of cereal to leave the shelf in America carries the Cheerios name.

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FDA won't approve Pfizer's pain drug Remoxy

NEW YORK (AP) _ Regulators have rejected a Pfizer Inc. pain drug that is designed to discourage abuse.

The New York drugmaker said the Food and Drug Administration asked for more information about the drug, called Remoxy. In May it said approval of Remoxy could be delayed because of issues with the manufacturing part of its application. Pfizer did not say Friday if the FDA's decision was related to those problems.

Remoxy is similar to Purdue Pharma LP's pain drug OxyContin. OxyContin is one of the most frequently abused prescription drugs, and Remoxy is designed to be more difficult to abuse.

Pfizer shares fell 57 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $20.08. Shares of Pfizer's partners on Remoxy, Pain Therapeutics Inc. and Durect Corp., both plunged.

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AP source: KKR, Silver Lake near deal on GoDaddy

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ GoDaddy, the domain-name registration company known for its racy Super Bowl ads, is close to being purchased by two private investment firms for $2 billion to $2.5 billion, according to a person close to the deal.

A deal is expected by Tuesday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been publicly announced.

The deal is being co-led by Silver Lake Partners and KKR & Co., according to the person. Private equity and venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures will be involved as a lesser partner. The person said GoDaddy had been looking to sell itself.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 115.42 points, or 1 percent, to 11,934.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 15.05, or 1.2 percent, to 1,268.45. The Nasdaq composite fell 33.86, or 1.3 percent, to 2,652.89.