Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Oct 03, 2011 6:47 PM
Business Highlights


US auto sales up in September on big trucks

DETROIT (AP) _ U.S. buyers shrugged off economic worries and snapped up SUVs and pickups last month, surprising the auto industry and raising hopes that a bumpy year will end on a high note.

Big trucks typically sell when the housing market and construction industry are strong, gas prices are low and consumer confidence is high. None of those was true in September. The economy remains weak, confidence is shaky and a gallon of gas costs nearly $1 per more than in September 2010.

But other factors boosted truck sales. Small businesses must eventually replace aging fleets of work trucks, and auto companies offered some good deals to clear out 2011 model trucks. They also stepped up their marketing. And consumers are learning to live with economic uncertainty.


Manufacturing expanded slightly in September

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Manufacturing grew at a faster pace in September than in August, though the pace of growth remains weak.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its manufacturing index rose to 51.6, up from 50.6 in August. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. The increase follows two months of declines.

Measures of production and exports grew, while a gauge of new orders was unchanged. Factories also added workers, the report said. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing executives.


Construction spending up but pace is still weak

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. builders increased spending on homes, office buildings and other projects in August after a big decline in July.

The gain is modestly good news for the economy, but it still left the construction industry far below levels considered healthy.

Construction spending rose 1.4 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Monday. The increase followed a 1.4 percent drop in July, which had been the biggest setback in six months.

Analysts noted that much of the increase stemmed from a jump in spending on government projects, such as roads and schools. But with many states and cities short of cash, gains of that size aren't expected to continue. And private construction is still not healthy.


Apple expected to unveil new iPhone Tuesday

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Apple fans are amped. The computer and gadget maker is expected to announce a new, more powerful version of its wildly popular smartphone this week _ more than a year after it unveiled the iPhone 4.

Last week, Apple Inc. e-mailed invitations to a media event at its headquarters in Cupertino on Tuesday morning. The invite says "let's talk iPhone," implying the normally secretive company intends to show off the latest version of the device. In the past, Apple has typically introduced a new iPhone during the summer, but this year it was expected to hold off until the fall.

It has been 15 months since Apple began selling the iPhone 4 last June. The first iPhone was revealed in 2007, and the phone's signature slick looks, high-resolution screen and intuitive software made it incredibly popular from the start (the rollout of Apple's iTunes App Store in 2008 helped, too). In addition to gaining millions of fans over the years _ 39 million iPhones were sold just between January and the end of June _ the iPhone and its large App Store have sparked fierce competition from smartphone makers such as those using Google Inc.'s Android software, which was first rolled out in 2008.


Employers picking up the tab for loans to states

WASHINGTON (AP) _ States that borrowed billions from the federal government to keep unemployment benefits flowing through the recession now have to start paying those loans back, and they're hitting businesses with new assessments and higher taxes to make that happen.

In all, 27 states owe the federal government nearly $38 billion. The first interest payments on those loans were due Friday and totaled about $1.1 billion.

Most states charged employers a one-time assessment to cover the charge. But those charges are only part of the story.

Businesses pay two types of unemployment insurance taxes. A federal tax primarily covers the administrative cost of the program, and a state tax pays for the basic benefits that laid-off workers receive. In most of the states that borrowed from the feds, the federal tax will increase by $21 per worker next year. Similar increases will take place in subsequent years until the loans are paid in full. Meanwhile, the state taxes have soared in just about every state to deal with the strain caused by the high numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits.


Anti-Wall Street protests spread nationwide

NEW YORK (AP) _ Protests against Wall Street spread across the country Monday as demonstrators marched on Federal Reserve banks and camped out in parks from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine, in a show of anger over the wobbly economy and what they see as corporate greed.

In Manhattan, hundreds of protesters dressed as "corporate zombies" in white facepaint lurched past the New York Stock Exchange clutching fistfuls of fake money. In Chicago, demonstrators pounded drums in the city's financial district. Others pitched tents or waved protest signs at passing cars in Boston, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.

The arrest of 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge over the weekend galvanized a slice of discontented America, from college students worried about their job prospects to middle-age workers who have been recently laid off.

Some protesters likened themselves to the tea party movement _ but with a liberal bent _ or to the Arab Spring demonstrators who brought down their rulers in the Middle East.


J.C. Penney hires Target exec as its president

PLANO, Texas (AP) _ J.C. Penney Company Inc. hired Target's top marketing executive as its new president as the department store operator tries to redefine its brand.

Penney's incoming CEO, Ron Johnson, said the company hired Michael Francis, 48, to "re-imagine the department store experience" in Penney's more than 1,100 stores.

Francis will assume his new role as Penney's president on Tuesday. He will be responsible for merchandising, marketing and product development.

Penney has made a number of management changes recently as it tries to modernize its image. In June, the company had named Johnson, who pioneered Apple Inc.'s hip retail stores, as its new chief executive.


Yahoo, ABC joining forces in news partnership

NEW YORK (AP) _ ABC News and Yahoo Inc. are joining to deliver more online news to their audiences. With the deal, ABC News content will be prominently featured on Yahoo News, the most visited news website in the world. It will also show up on Yahoo's popular front page.

The partnership comes as a growing number of people turn to the Internet for news and other information. The two news organizations have a combined online audience of more than 100 million users per month in the U.S. _ something ABC News president Ben Sherwood noted was "the size of the Super Bowl audience."

While, the deal helps ABC grow its online reach, Yahoo News can drive further traffic to its own site by featuring original, made-for-online content. ABC is launching a Web-only news series, starting with a live interview with President Barack Obama by George Stephanopoulos Monday afternoon. That launches a series, "Newsmakers," with online interviews conducted by the likes of Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts and others.

Both companies will maintain editorial control of their own content.


After 3 years, chances of more Madoff charges fade

NEW YORK (AP) _ One was Bernard Madoff's right-hand man for decades. Two others were executives in his firm. All are family _ and presumed targets of the investigation of Madoff's epic fraud.

But nearly three years into the probe, Madoff's brother, son and niece have avoided criminal charges, raising the possibility that they could get off entirely.

People with knowledge of the case say federal investigators turned over potential criminal evidence against Peter, Andrew and Shana Madoff to prosecutors in the spring with expectations that a decision on whether to prosecute them would be made by the end of summer.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan hasn't taken any action, suggesting any potential criminal evidence gleaned from a massive paper trail and the testimony of cooperators isn't strong enough to conclusively prove that the three knew that Madoff spent decades orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a final decision hasn't been announced. All three family members have denied any wrongdoing.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 258.08 points, or 2.4 percent, to 10,655.30. The S&P 500 lost 32.19, or 2.9 percent, to 1,099.23. The Nasdaq composite slid 79.57, or 3.3 percent, to 2,335.83.

Benchmark crude fell $1.59, or 2 percent, to finish the day at $77.61 per barrel in New York. In London, Brent crude dropped $1.05 to end at $101.71 a barrel.

In other energy trading, heating oil and gasoline futures were both down nearly 3 cents to end at $2.7529 and $2.5110 per gallon, respectively. Natural gas lost 4.9 cents to finish at $3.617 per 1,000 cubic feet.