Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 5:57 PM
Business Highlights


Apple unveils faster, more powerful iPhone

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) _ Apple Inc. unveiled a new iPhone on Tuesday that is faster and more powerful but stops short of a more radical upgrade. It said Sprint customers will now be able to use one.

The new iPhone 4S has an improved camera with a higher-resolution sensor. The processor is faster, which helps run smoother, more realistic action games. It's also a "world phone," which means that Verizon iPhones will be useable overseas, just as AT&T iPhones already are.

There had been speculation that Apple would reveal a more radical revision of the phone, an "iPhone 5." The no-show leaves room for speculation that Apple will reveal a new model in less than a year, perhaps one equipped to take advantage of Verizon's and AT&T's new high-speed data networks.


Ford to pay workers $6,000 bonus in new contract

DETROIT (AP) _ The union that once set the gold standard for American wages is giving up pay raises in exchange for a piece of the auto industry's profits and the promise of thousands of new jobs.

Under agreements struck with Ford and General Motors, most of the companies' factory workers will get profit-sharing checks instead of annual raises. They'll also get a signing bonus. In turn, the automakers will increase their workforces and invest billions more dollars in their factories.

It's an unusual turnabout for the United Auto Workers. For decades, its members' pay and benefits were the envy of workers around the world, and it wouldn't hesitate to strike to protect them. But the agreement signals a new reality. After the industry nearly collapsed two years ago, a sobered UAW is no longer fighting the Big Three but fighting to compete against rivals who pay their workers far less.


Bernanke says economic recovery close to faltering

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the economic recovery "is close to faltering" and the central bank is prepared to take further steps to support it.

Bernanke says that the economy is growing more slowly than the Federal Reserve had expected and that the biggest factor depressing consumer confidence is poor job growth.

Bernanke says: "We need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn't drop back and that the unemployment rate continues to fall downward."

Bernanke also tells the Joint Economic Committee that lawmakers face a delicate challenge: They must avoid making deep spending cuts that could impede the recovery. But he says they must also eventually cut spending more deeply than the $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts being sought by a special panel.


Businesses ordered more long-lasting goods

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses ordered more computers, communications equipment and other big-ticket items in August, a hopeful sign for the slumping economy.

Orders for capital goods, which are considered a good measure of business investment plans, rose 0.9 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. It was the second gain in three months.

Overall factory orders fell 0.2 percent, after rising a downwardly revised 2.1 percent in July. A sharp decline in orders for autos and auto parts dragged down the overall total. But that follows July's jump in automotive orders, which was the biggest increase in eight years. Automakers are returning to full production after output was interrupted by Japan's March 11 earthquake.


Yum Brands reports 7 percent higher third-quarter profit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ The owner of the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC chains Tuesday said its third-quarter profit rose 7 percent as sales growth in international markets offset another decline in the U.S.

Yum Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., earned $383 million, or 80 cents per share, for the quarter ending Sept. 3. That's up from $357 million, or 74 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 14 percent to nearly $3.3 billion.

Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 82 cents per share on revenue of $3.08 billion.

Operating profit in Yum's China operations rose 7 percent, adjusted for currency fluctuations. Yum added 138 restaurants in China during the quarter and expects to open a record 600 new units this year.

The company's operating profit fell 16 percent in the U.S.


Bankruptcy judge authorizes Tribune Co. bonuses

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ A bankruptcy judge in Delaware has authorized Tribune Co. to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to managers.

Tribune says it needs to reward these executives for managing the company amid bankruptcy proceedings, and during a challenging period for media businesses.

Tribune sought bankruptcy protection in 2008 after a buyout orchestrated by billionaire developer Sam Zell left it mired in debt. The management incentive plan calls for some 640 employees to share $16 million to $42 million if they hit certain financial targets.

The judge is weighing whether to approve Tribune's reorganization plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection. Some creditors oppose it because it would protect lenders that financed the ill-fated buyout from lawsuits.

Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers and broadcast stations.


Bank of America website still having problems

NEW YORK (AP) _ Bank of America's consumer online banking service was slow for a fifth day Tuesday. And the bank still isn't saying what the problem is.

The bank has said many times since Friday that it resolved the problem. But visitors to its home page on Tuesday saw an error message saying the site is "running slowly" and customers might experience delays or have difficulty accessing parts of it.

The message encourages customers to try again at "a non-peak time" or to visit an ATM or one of nearly 6,000 branches to get into their accounts.

Bank of America Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., is the largest U.S. bank by deposits and has 29 million online customers.

Spokeswoman Tara Burke said the website problems are not the result of hacking. She declined to "break out the root cause" for the problems but said the bank was continuing to "assess the situation."


Gov't report: Fannie knew of `robo-signing' in `03

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Mortgage giant Fannie Mae knew about allegations of improper foreclosure practices by law firms in 2003 but did not act to stop them, a government watchdog says.

Similar allegations are the subject of a probe by state attorneys general into how lenders and law firms ignored proper procedures to handle a crush of foreclosure paperwork.

An unnamed shareholder warned Fannie Mae of alleged foreclosure abuses in 2003, Steve Linick, the inspector general for the agency that regulates Fannie, said in a report released Tuesday.

Fannie Mae responded by hiring a law firm to investigate the claims in 2005. The law firm reported in 2006 that it had found foreclosure attorneys in Florida "routinely filing false pleadings and affidavits."

Fannie officials said they told a government official about the law firm's findings in 2006. That unnamed official, who now works for Fannie's regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said he couldn't recall the conversation, the report said.


Italy government bonds downgraded by Moody's

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Italy's government bond ratings to "A2" with a negative outlook from "Aa2," the result of high debt, a weak global economy and political uncertainties that delay corrective action.

While the change moves the rating down three notches, it's still investment grade. Moody's affirmed the short-term ratings at Prime-1.

The action follows the Sept. 19 one-notch downgrade by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, which cut Italy's long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings to "A/A-1" from "A+/A-1+." That rating is still five steps above junk status. S&P analysts cited weakening economic growth for the nation and higher-than-expected levels of government debt.

The European Central Bank had demanded stiff austerity measures but doubts persist about how serious Italy is about coming to grips with its debt.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed with a gain of 153.41, or 1.4 percent, to 10,808.71.

The Standard and Poor's 500 rose 24.72, or 2.2 percent, to 1,123.95. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite rose 68.99 points, or 3 percent, to 2,404.82.

The benchmark U.S. crude dropped for a third day, giving up $1.94 to end the day at $75.67 a barrel in New York. Brent crude lost $1.92 to finish at $99.79 per barrel in London.

In other energy commodities, heating oil gave up 2.95 cents to finish at $2.7234 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 2.26 cents to finish at $2.4884 per gallon. Natural gas rose 2.1 cents to end at $3.638 per 1,000 cubic feet.