Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Sep 19, 2011 6:00 PM
Business Highlights

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Netflix separates its DVD, streaming businesses

NEW YORK (AP) _ Netflix Inc. is separating its DVD-by-mail business from the online movie streaming service it sees as the future of entertainment consumption.

In announcing the changes, CEO Reed Hastings also apologized to subscribers for the way the company communicated its decision to split the two services, which raised prices for those who want both.

The mail order plan will be renamed "Qwikster." In a few weeks, Netflix subscribers who want to get DVDs by mail will go to a separate website to access Qwikster. The streaming business will continue to be called Netflix.

Members who subscribe to both services will have two entries on their credit card statements. Instead of Netflix, the distinctive red envelopes that end up in customers' mailboxes will now say Qwikster.

It's a risky gamble. The amount of streaming content the company offers is still far less than the number of DVDs in its catalog. And competition, from Hulu, Amazon, Coinstar's Redbox kiosks and other services, is growing. Netflix could even alienate customers further by asking them to now deal with two separate websites and accounts instead of just one.

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Bernanke is tolerating dissent but pushing past it

WASHINGTON (AP) _ For someone known as a consensus builder, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sure generates _ and shrugs off _ a lot of dissent.

Bernanke last month pushed ahead with a plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero through mid-2013 despite three dissenting votes on the Fed's policy-making committee. For decades, the Fed's culture and sometimes its strong-willed chiefs have normally capped dissents at two.

Former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist, suggests that Bernanke's willingness to accept three dissents last month has "broken the ice": Bernanke won't let resistance from several members stop him from pushing through bold moves that he and a Fed majority consider necessary.

It's one reason many economists expect the central bank to announce something new after its policy meeting this week to try to jolt the sputtering economy.

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Greek creditor talks to continue Tuesday

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece's finance minister and international debt inspectors ended a conference call Monday night without a decision on whether the inspectors will return to Athens, a vital point that could affect whether the nation gets more bailout funds or defaults on its debts.

As global stocks fell on fears of a Greek default, Athens struggled to convince officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that the country could meet strict budget targets promised in return for the international cash lifeline.

European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said another conference call was set for Tuesday evening. "In the meantime, technical discussions are ongoing in Athens," he said.

A finance ministry statement said the two-and-a-half hour discussion was "productive and substantive."

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You can't reinvent the burger; you can remake it

NEW YORK (AP) _ When Wendy's decided to remake its 42-year-old hamburger, the chain agonized over every detail. A pickle chemist was consulted. Customers were quizzed on their lettuce knowledge. And executives went on a cross-country burger-eating tour.

The result? Dave's Hot `N Juicy, named after late Wendy's founder Dave Thomas. The burger _ with extra cheese, a thicker beef patty, a buttered bun, and hold the mustard, among other changes _ will be served in restaurants starting Monday.

For Wendy's Co., based in Dublin, Ohio, reinvention is critical. That's why executives at the 6,600-restaurant chain spent the past two and a half years going over burger minutiae during an undertaking they call Project Gold Hamburger. That included deciding whether to switch from white onions on its burgers to red (they did), to change the fat/lean ratio of the meat (they didn't), or to go with plain or crinkled pickles (they picked crinkled.)

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US home builder outlook worsens in September

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. homebuilders' outlook worsened in September, as foreclosures and anxious buyers hurt construction and sales activity.

The National Association of Home Builders said Monday that its index of builder sentiment in September fell to 14 from 15. The index has been below 20 for all but one month during the past two years.

Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. It hasn't reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

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Tyco Intl plans to break up into 3 companies

Tyco International Ltd. said Monday it plans to separate into three independent, publicly-traded companies, a move that will mark its second breakup since 2007.

The company will create an ADT North America residential security business and separate companies for flow control products and commercial fire and security. Tyco said the new companies will have greater flexibility to pursue their own growth strategies than they would under the current corporate structure.

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Lennar third-quarter profit drops 31 percent, meets Street view

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Homebuilder Lennar Corp. said Monday that its fiscal third-quarter profit fell 31 percent as it sold fewer houses than it did a year earlier.

Home deliveries fell partly by comparison with a period last year when many buyers were racing to get their home purchases completed in time to qualify for federal homebuyer tax credits.

Conversely, Lennar's new home orders in the latest quarter benefited from the comparison with softer orders last summer and rose 11 percent. That was the first quarterly increase in more than five years, excluding the first half of 2010, when new orders also rose due to the housing tax credits.

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Apple stock hits $413.23, its highest level ever

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Apple Inc. stock reached its highest level ever Monday, hitting $413.23 in intraday trading even as the broader market declined.

That price was 3.2 percent higher than Friday's close and brought the company's market capitalization to $383 billion, albeit briefly.

The stock slipped to close at $411.63 and was trading after hours at $411.58, still up about 2.8 percent, while the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.9 percent.

Apple is again the most valuable company in America, putting Exxon Mobil, whose market cap Monday was about $358 billion, at No. 2.

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Google adds Visa, Amex, Discover cards to Wallet

NEW YORK (AP) _ Google's Wallet is getting thicker, with the addition of Visa, American Express and Discover to the search company's payment system, which aims to make cellphones the credit cards of tomorrow.

MasterCard, the other major payment processor, is already part of the project. And Google released the Wallet application Monday for one Sprint smartphone for users with MasterCards.

People with that phone will be able to "load" a Citibank MasterCard into the Wallet application on the phone, and pay by tapping the phone to wireless-capable payment terminals in stores instead of swiping a credit card.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 108.08 points, or 0.94 percent, to 11,401.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 11.92, or 1 percent, at 1,204.09. The Nasdaq composite fell 9.48, or 0.4 percent, at 2,612.83.

Benchmark crude lost $2.26, or 2.6 percent, to finish at $85.70 per barrel in New York. Brent crude fell $3.098, or 2.7 percent, to end at $109.14 in London.

In other commodities trading, heating oil lost 6.42 cents, or 2.1 percent, to finish at $2.9447 per gallon and gasoline futures fell 8.76 cents, or 3.2 percent, to end at $2.6965 per gallon. Natural gas was up 2 cents to finish the day at $3.829 per 1,000 cubic feet.