Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Feb 14, 2012 5:53 PM
Business Highlights

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New setback for Greece bailout as meeting canceled

BRUSSELS (AP) _ Two steps forward, one step back. So goes the frenzied effort across Europe to bail out Greece and save it from a potentially devastating default on its debts.

A meeting of the finance chiefs of the 17 euro countries planned for Wednesday to discuss Greece's second multibillion bailout was called off Tuesday after Athens failed to deliver on several demands made by its partners in the currency union.

The last-minute cancellation of the meeting shows the eurozone wants much tougher guarantees now from Athens before giving it an extra $171 billion in rescue loans, on top of $145 billion granted in 2010, raising fears that the complex deal could still fall apart.

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January retail sales gain points to modest growth

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans rebounded from a weak holiday season and stepped up spending on retail goods in January. The latest government report on retail sales pointed to a slowly improving economy.

Retail sales rose at a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Consumers spent more on electronics, home and garden supplies, sporting goods, at department and general merchandise stores and at restaurants and bars. They also paid higher prices for gas.

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Businesses boosted stockpiles 0.4 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Companies restocked at a faster pace in December, a positive sign that they expect consumers to step up spending.

Business stockpiles grew 0.4 percent in December, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That followed a similar gain in November. Sales rose 0.7 percent, almost double the November gain.

Companies are building up their stockpiles again after cutting them over the summer amid recession fears. Higher inventories require more production, which boosts economic growth. It also suggests companies expect more sales.

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Toyota boosts US sales with rental cars

DETROIT (AP) _ Toyota's strong start to 2012 got a boost from a market it has long avoided: rental-car companies.

The Japanese automaker sold 47 percent more cars and trucks to U.S. rental companies and other fleets in January, compared with a year earlier. Without those corporate customers, U.S. sales would have been up less than 1 percent instead of 7.5 percent.

The sharp increase in fleet sales is a big change for Toyota, which has long shied away from that market because it's less profitable than sales to individuals. Rental-car sales, in particular, can hurt a brand's image and lower resale values, because they flood the market with models. Ninety-three percent of Toyota's January fleet sales went to rental-car companies. The rest went to corporate customers.

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Avon posts 4Q loss as sales slump, costs rise

NEW YORK (AP) _ Despite Avon Products Inc.'s efforts to revive its business, the beauty products seller posted a fourth-quarter net loss as sales fell, costs rose and it marked down the value of a silver jewelry company acquired in 2010.

Avon has been struggling to improve results and wind up a long-running international bribery investigation that began in 2008. The company has restructured and cut jobs. But its profit has shrunk over the past three years, and the bribery investigation has widened. To placate critics, in December the company said it would seek a replacement for longtime CEO Andrea Jung, who plans to remain chairman.

The New York company said Tuesday that it doesn't expect its margins _ how much it keeps of revenue after costs _ to improve this year.

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Goodyear posts 4Q profit, but misses Street view

AKRON, Ohio (AP) _ Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. returned to profitability in its fourth quarter partly as it sold more higher-priced tires after reporting a loss a year ago that included hefty costs tied to a plant closing.

But its results fell short of Wall Street expectations.

The biggest U.S. tire maker also cautioned that global tire industry growth will be at a slower pace in the near term than previously predicted due to economic difficulties in several markets.

For the period ended Dec. 31, Goodyear reported net income of $18 million, or 7 cents per share. That compares with a net loss of $177 million, or 73 cents per share, a year ago.

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Boeing locks in biggest plane order with Lion Air

NEW YORK (AP) _ Boeing has locked in its biggest order ever with a little-known airline halfway around the world.

The Chicago airplane manufacturer said Tuesday that it has finalized an order from Indonesian carrier Lion Air for 230 planes _ worth a combined $22.4 billion. The deal is the largest commercial airplane order ever for Boeing Co. by both dollar value and number of airplanes. Lion Air also has the rights to buy 150 more planes.

The order includes 201 of Boeing's redesigned 737, which it calls the Max, and 29 extended range 737-900s. Lion Air plans to pay for the planes over 12 years with bank financing.

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Zynga posts 4Q net loss, higher revenue

NEW YORK (AP) _ Online game maker Zynga Inc. reported a net loss in the last three months of 2011, weighed by hefty stock-compensation expenses and other costs in its first quarter as a public company.

San Francisco-based Zynga said Tuesday that it lost $435 million, or $1.22 per share, in the fourth quarter. That's down from earnings of $16.1 million, or 5 cents per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings were 5 cents per share, surpassing Wall Street's expectations. That excludes one-time items including $510 million in stock compensation expenses triggered by the IPO.

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AP: Yahoo's talks to sell Asian assets unravel

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ As Yahoo tries to head in a new direction, the fate of the struggling Internet company's Asian holdings remains in limbo.

The negotiations to sell Yahoo's stakes in China's Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan abruptly broke off in a disagreement over the sales price and the best way to get the complex deal done, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are considered to be confidential, despite repeated leaks about the discussions during the past few months.

It's the latest twist in the drama that has been swirling around Yahoo Inc. since it fired Carol Bartz as CEO five months ago.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 4.24 points to close at 12,878.28. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 1.27 points to close at 1,350.50. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.44 point at 2,931.83.

Benchmark crude fell 17 cents to finish at $100.74 per barrel in New York. Brent crude fell 4 cents to end at $117.35 per barrel in London.

Natural gas futures surged by 10 cents, or 4.2 percent, to finish at $2.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Heating oil rose about half a cent to end at $3.17 per gallon and gasoline futures fell by 3 cents to finish at $2.98 per gallon.