Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Feb 15, 2012 5:54 PM
Business Highlights

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Eurozone calls for tighter Greek surveillance

BRUSSELS (AP) _ Greece has made progress convincing the rest of the eurozone that it should get a $170 billion bailout _ but the country's austerity efforts will need much tighter surveillance, the chairman of the eurozone's finance ministers said Wednesday.

During a 3 1/2 hour conference call between the finance chiefs of the 17 countries that use the euro, the ministers received assurances from Greece that it had found a further $424 million in cuts on top of austerity measures already agreed.

They also welcomed written commitments from the leaders of the two Greek parties that make up the coalition government to implement promised cuts and reforms after elections, expected in April.

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With Pringles, Kellogg looks to expand overseas

NEW YORK (AP) _ Kellogg is hoping Pringles will satisfy its craving for a salty snack.

The food giant is best known for its lineup of sweet breakfast items, including Frosted Flakes and Eggo frozen waffles. On Wednesday it became the world's second-biggest savory snack maker behind PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay with a $2.7 billion deal to buy the potato snack brand from Procter & Gamble.

The addition of Pringles bolsters Kellogg Co.'s cupboard of salty snacks like Cheez-It and Keebler's Club crackers. It also positions the company to expand at a time when the appetite for on-the-go foods is growing worldwide, particularly in emerging markets like China and India.

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Fed minutes: Members divided over more bond buys

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Reserve isn't about to launch another bond-buying program to boost the economy _ at least not anytime soon.

While some Fed officials are open to such a move, according to minutes of the Fed's Jan. 24-25 policy-setting meeting, others believe the economy _ which has come to life lately _ would need to weaken before taking such action.

The debate took place at a meeting in which the Fed decided to hold its benchmark interest rate at record lows until at least late 2014. One Fed official argued that the central bank might need to consider abandoning that plan to keep inflation low.

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House leaders praise emerging payroll tax cut deal

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congressional leaders of both parties praised an emerging deal Wednesday to extend a payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits through 2012, but cautioned that bargainers still had to nail down final details.

The rare, bipartisan consensus reflected a desire by both parties to put the long-running drama over the issue to rest and a shared sense that their tentative agreement was probably the best deal they could get. The pact came together after House Republicans conceded that the roughly $100 billion payroll tax cut would not have to be paid for with spending cuts.

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World Bank president leaving

WASHINGTON (AP) _ World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Wednesday he is stepping down, raising the possibility that a non-American might be chosen for the first time to head the 187-nation lending organization.

Zoellick, 58, informed the board he will leave June 30 at the end of a five-year term, during which he led the bank's response to the global financial crisis.

The board now begins looking for a new president under guidelines directors adopted in 2011 calling for an "open, merit-based and transparent selection" process.

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Foreign demand for US Treasury debt declines

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Foreign demand for U.S. Treasury debt fell slightly in December after hitting a record high the previous month. A key reason for the drop was that China, the largest holder of Treasury debt, cut its purchases for a third straight month.

Total foreign holdings dipped 0.4 percent in December to $4.73 trillion, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday. It was the first drop in foreign holdings of Treasury debt since July.

China cut its holdings 2.8 percent to $1.1 trillion. Japan, the second-largest buyer of Treasury debt, increased its holdings 0.3 percent to $1.04 trillion.

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Homebuilder optimism rises for 5th straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. homebuilders are gradually growing more optimistic about the depressed housing market and believe homes sales could pick up sharply when the spring buying season begins.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said Wednesday that its builder sentiment index rose for a fifth straight month in February to 29, up from 25 in January. The index has climbed 15 points since September and is now at its highest level since May 2007.

Builders have generally become more hopeful during that stretch about current sales, sales six months out and foot traffic, the report shows.

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Lexus tops as survey finds more auto dependability

DETROIT (AP) _ Lexus is the top performer in a survey of vehicle dependability released Wednesday, but most other brands also showed improvement in an industry that has reached historically high dependability levels.

Consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates polled 31,000 owners of 2009 model-year vehicles and rated brands by the number of problems owners have experienced in the last 12 months. Problems can range from stalling engines and transmission issues to peeling paint and electronics glitches.

The top complaint in this year's survey was excessive wind noise, followed by noisy brakes.

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Deere says 1Q profit up 4 percent on strong sales

Deere & Co. posted a 4 percent jump in its quarterly profits thanks to strong equipment sales, but some expected better, and potential headwinds from currency exchange rates overshadowed even a healthier outlook.

The world's largest maker of agricultural equipment posted first-quarter earnings of $532.9 million, or $1.30 per share in its fiscal first quarter. That's up from $513.7 million, or $1.20 per share, last year.

Deere's quarterly revenue grew 11 percent to $6.77 billion from last year's $6.12 billion.

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Comcast subscribers sticking with cable

NEW YORK (AP) _ It's become the routine in the cable industry that subscribers stream out the door every quarter, hanging up on cable in favor of service from satellite or phone companies. But in the October to December quarter, Comcast Corp. slowed that flow.

The country's largest cable company on Wednesday said it lost 17,000 TV customers in the fourth quarter, the smallest number of defections in five years. It compares with a loss of 135,000 subscribers in the same quarter a year earlier.

Comcast credits more video programming available on more screens, like tablets and phones, and better customer service.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 97.33 points to close at 12,780.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 7.27 points to 1,343.23. The Nasdaq fell 16 points to 2,915.83.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose by $1.06 to end the day at $101.80 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oil that's imported by refineries, rose by $1.58 to finish at $118.93 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose by 3 cents to end at $3.19 per gallon and gasoline futures rose by 2 cents to finish at $3.01 per gallon. Natural gas futures fell by 11 cents, or 4.2 percent, to end at $2.43 per 1,000 cubic feet.