Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2012 5:52 PM
Business Highlights

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AP Interview: JC Penney CEO talks about the chain

NEW YORK _ Everyone in the retail world wants to see if Ron Johnson can work his magic a third time.

For 15 years, he helped shape Target's cheap chic image. Then, he spent about a decade changing the way Americans shop for electronic gadgets at Apple.

Now, Johnson faces perhaps his biggest challenge yet as CEO of J.C. Penney: Dust off one of the dowdiest brands in retailing to make it cool again. To do that, he's borrowing from Apple's uber-successful playbook.

During an hour-long interview in which he talked about how he planned to transform Penney, the 52-year-old mentioned Apple 19 times. Like he did at Apple, the 30-year retail industry veteran says he plans to change the shopping experience, shun heavy discounting and sell services along with products.

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25 EU nations to sign treaty to stop overspending

BRUSSELS _ All countries in the European Union, except Britain and the Czech Republic, agreed Monday to sign a new treaty designed to stop overspending in the eurozone and put an end to the bloc's crippling debt crisis, while also pledging to stimulate growth across the region.

The new treaty, known as the fiscal compact, was agreed to at a summit of European leaders in Brussels. It includes strict debt brakes and makes it more difficult for deficit sinners to escape sanctions. The 17-country eurozone hopes that the tighter rules will convince investors that all countries will get their debts under control and restore confidence in their joint currency.

Although the new rules only apply to the 17 euro states, the currency union was hoping to get broad support from the other EU states.

The summit also promised Monday to stimulate growth and create jobs across the region, in a tacit acknowledgment that their exclusive focus on austerity has had painful side effects.

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Incomes up strong 0.5 pct., consumer spending flat

WASHINGTON _ Americans' income rose in December by 0.5 percent, the most in nine months, a hopeful sign for the economy after a year of weak wage gains. But consumers didn't spend any more last month than they had in November.

Americans ended up saving their additional income.

Economists noted that income rose last month largely because of strong hiring. The economy added 200,000 jobs in December. More jobs mean more income available to spend.

The best hope for the economy is further job gains. On Friday, the government is expected to report another solid month of hiring for January.

For all of 2011, income barely rose.

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WTO: China unfairly limits export of raw materials

The World Trade Organization ruled Monday that China unfairly limited exports of nine raw materials to protect domestic manufacturers.

A WTO appeals body rejected China's appeal of an earlier ruling in July that concluded the Asian economic powerhouse had violated international trade rules. The appeals body largely sided with the U.S., European Union and Mexico, which had taken issue with Chinese restrictions on its exports of nine materials used widely in the steel, aluminum and chemical industries.

The ruling affects China's exports of certain forms of bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorous and zinc. The WTO appeals body says China must now "bring its export duty and export quota measures into conformity with its WTO obligations."

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Tech companies team up to combat email scams

NEW YORK _ Google, Facebook and other big tech companies are jointly designing a system for combating email scams known as phishing.

Such scams try to trick people into giving away passwords and other personal information by sending emails that look as if they come from a legitimate bank, retailer or other business. When Bank of America customers see emails that appear to come from the bank, they might click on a link that takes them to a fake site mimicking the real Bank of America's. There, they might enter personal details, which scam artists can capture and use for fraud.

To combat that, 15 major technology and financial companies have formed an organization to design a system for authenticating emails from legitimate senders and weeding out fakes. The new system is called DMARC _ short for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance.

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Stocks and bond yields drop on Europe worries

NEW YORK _ The wait for an expected deal between Greece and its creditors rattled financial markets around the world Monday. Yields for ultra-safe U.S. government debt hit their lowest this year, the euro dropped against the dollar, and European stocks fell.

U.S. stocks dropped slightly, with the Dow Jones industrial average off 0.1 percent.

Borrowing costs for European countries with the heaviest debt burdens shot higher. The two-year interest rate for Portugal's government debt jumped to 21 percent after trading around 14 percent last week.

Greece and the investors who bought its government bonds were said to be close to an agreement that would replace bonds held by investment funds and banks with new ones at half the face value.

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Starbucks, Tata to open 50 Indian stores this year

MUMBAI, India _ Starbucks aims to open 50 outlets in India by year's end, through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages, the companies said Monday.

Tata Starbucks Ltd., as their venture is known, hopes to capitalize on the rising aspirations _ and fattening wallets _ of many Indians, who are eager to partake of the global latte life.

The first outlet will open in Mumbai or New Delhi by September.

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Wendy's CEO: Our wounds were `self-inflicted'

NEW YORK _ Wendy's new CEO on Monday called the dour results of the past few years "self-inflicted wounds" and vowed to do better, laying out plans that included hiring top-tier workers and reclaiming market share from higher-end competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger.

Emil Brolick, the CEO since September, told investors that he was intent on winning back customers jaded by a stale menu and inconsistent service, as well as investors, who have grown weary of "a little bit of overpromising and under-delivering."

And rather than blaming the struggling economy for the revenue declines and quarterly losses of the past few years, Brolick said that the company's problems were its own fault.

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Gates Foundation, drug makers push on tropical ills

Thirteen major pharmaceutical companies, government groups and health charities will work together in a push to eliminate or control by 2020 10 tropical diseases that affect more than a billion people in poor countries.

The partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, call it the largest coordinated effort ever to combat neglected tropical diseases. The government groups and charities alone are committing just over $785 million in new funding.

The drug makers are donating billions of doses of their medicines over the rest of the decade, but did not attribute a value to them. The companies also will work together to speed up development of new treatments, and the partners will work on improving drug delivery and treatment programs, including prevention and education.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 6.74 points to close at 12,653.72, for a drop of 0.1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,313.01. The Nasdaq composite lost 4.6 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,811.94.

Benchmark crude fell by 78 cents to finish at $98.78 per barrel in New York on Monday. Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oils that are imported by U.S. refineries, lost 71 cents to end at $110.75 per barrel in London.

Heating oil fell 2 cents to finish at $3.05 per gallon and gasoline futures fell 6 cents to end at $2.87 per gallon. Natural gas futures fell 4 cents to end the day at $2.71 per 1,000 cubic feet.