Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 6:25 PM
Business Highlights

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Lagarde chosen to lead IMF; first woman in top job

WASHINGTON (AP) _ French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was chosen Tuesday to lead the International Monetary Organization and will immediately confront a European debt crisis that threatens the global economy.

Lagarde will be the first female managing director of the 66-year-old global lending organization and the 11th European. Next week, she will begin a five-year term.

Among her challenges, she will have to prod fellow Europeans to take painful steps to prevent a default by Greece. She'll face pressure from developing nations that want a greater voice at the IMF. And she'll be looked upon to restore the IMF's reputation, which was tarred by a scandal involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man she's replacing.

Strauss-Kahn resigned last month after being charged with sexually assaulting a New York City hotel housekeeper. He has denied the charges.

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Spring buying boosts home prices in 13 U.S. cities

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Home prices in most major U.S. cities are rising for the first time in eight months, boosted by an annual wave of spring buying. Analysts cautioned that the increases may be temporary and don't signal a rebound for the depressed home market.

Prices rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index, according to the April report released Tuesday. The sharpest increases were in Washington, D.C. The next-largest were in San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle.

The index covers metro areas that together make up about 50 percent of U.S. households. It measures sale prices of select homes in those cities compared with prices in January 2000. It then provides a three-month average. The April data is the latest available.

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Consumers' confidence down in June on job worries

NEW YORK (AP) _ If you're a U.S. consumer, why would you be confident?

Following a string of bad news that threatens the painfully slow economic recovery, consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in June on continuing worries about high unemployment and stagnating wages, according to a report released Tuesday by a private research group.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index slipped to 58.5 in June. That's down from a revised 61.7 in May, which marked an almost six-point drop.

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Judge approves Dodgers bankruptcy financing

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ A Delaware judge has authorized the Los Angeles Dodgers to enter into a $150 million bankruptcy financing arrangement after the club satisfied certain concerns raised by Major League Baseball.

After trading sharply worded briefs over the proposed financing, attorneys for the league and the team agreed the Dodgers could proceed with their proposed financing on an interim basis pending a July 20 hearing.

The agreement includes reducing a proposed exit fee for the lending group from $4.5 million to $250,000, and removing certain deadlines regarding the sale of broadcast rights.

Earlier Tuesday, the league accused Dodgers owner Frank McCourt of siphoning off more than $100 million in revenue and driving the team into a liquidity crisis. The Dodgers said the league was trying to exert a stranglehold on the team.

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Sony faces jittery shareholders after cyberattack

TOKYO (AP) _ Sony Corp. Chief Executive Howard Stringer credited "very loyal" PlayStation Network gamers for flocking back to the service in big numbers, as he sought Tuesday to reassure shareholders following a series of embarrassing hacker attacks.

Stringer apologized for the data breach in April, which compromised personal data from more than 100 million online gaming and entertainment accounts. Sony was subsequently criticized for lax security and acting too slowly to inform customers as it grappled with one of the largest-ever security thefts.

Stringer said at an annual shareholders meeting held at a Tokyo hotel that as many as 90 percent of subscribers have come back since the Japanese company began restoring service last month.

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AP Source: News Corp. to sell MySpace this week

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ News Corp. is aiming to sell struggling social network site MySpace this week after three years of massive losses, according to a person familiar with the matter. The move will likely result in the layoff of more than half of the site's remaining 500 workers.

It's a jarring goodbye for a once-hot Internet property, which News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch predicted four years ago would eventually make $1 billion in annual revenue. MySpace never reached that goal. This year, MySpace is expected to make less than a fifth of that as ad sales plummet, according to research firm eMarketer.

MySpace's crash coincided with Facebook's rise _ due in large part to its cleaner interface, smoother operation and better integration with other services. MySpace was generally clunky, slower and littered with display ads. It was also slower to adapt.

At least three bidders are still in the running for MySpace _ online advertising network operator Specific Media, private equity fund Golden Gate Capital and Austin Ventures, an investment fund that is working with MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe. The company hasn't chosen a buyer yet, according to the person, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Google unveils latest social networking feat

NEW YORK (AP) _ Online search leader Google Inc. is taking yet another stab at social networking, as it tries to go up against Facebook in this wildly popular and lucrative segment of the Internet. This time the project is called Google+ and it aims to make online sharing more like real life.

"We think people communicate in very rich ways," said Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google. "The online tools we have to choose from give us very rigid services."

Other social networking tools make selective sharing within small groups difficult. Existing social networks don't allow for the nuances that people are used to in offline communication and because they call so many acquaintances "friends," said Gundotra in a blog post announcing the service. Many Facebook users, for instance, find it difficult to limit their status updates to small groups of people so that their co-workers aren't exposed to party photos or their parents aren't privy to flirtatious posts on their "wall." Though Facebook has tried to address this with a much-hyped "Groups" feature, it's not clear how many people use it.

Gundotra's criticism seems aimed squarely at Facebook, the world's largest online social network. Facebook has become synonymous with online sharing since its founding seven years ago. In a prepared statement, Facebook said only that "we're in the early days of making the web more social, and there are opportunities for innovation everywhere."

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Campbell to cut 770 jobs, close Russian operations

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ The Campbell Soup Co. says it's eliminating 770 jobs around the world and shutting down its soup-selling operation in Russia.

The major announcements come just a month before Denise Morrison takes over from Douglas Conant as president and CEO of the world's largest soup maker.

The job cuts will include layoffs, most of which will come in July.

About 130 of the 1,200 positions at its headquarters in Camden will be eliminated.

The company also plans to close its manufacturing plant in Marshall, Mich., among other changes

Campbell has about 18,400 workers around the world.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 145.13 points, or 1.2 percent, to 12,188.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 16.57, or 1.3 percent, to 1,296.67. The Nasdaq composite index added 41.03, or 1.5 percent, to 2,729.31.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate gained $2.28, or 2.5 percent, to settle at $92.89 per barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude added $2.79, or 2.6 percent, to settle at $108.78 per barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil added 6.01 cents to settle at $2.8415 per gallon and gasoline futures added 7.12 cents to settle at $2.8156 per gallon. Natural gas rose 10.1 cents to settle at $4.357 per 1,000 cubic feet.