Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2012 5:34 PM
Business Highlights

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Dow falls more than 200, interrupting 2012 rally

Stocks suffered their biggest losses in three months Tuesday, the first hiccup in a strong and steady rally that started the year. Wall Street worried about the global economy and waited while Greece pressured the last investors to sign on to its bailout plan.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points, giving up more than a quarter of its 745-point advance since Jan. 1, the best start to a year in the U.S. market since 1998.

The sell-off also interrupted a period of unusual calm on Wall Street. Before Tuesday, the Dow had not fallen 100 points for 45 straight trading sessions, the longest streak since 2006.

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Financier Stanford convicted in $7 billion fraud

HOUSTON (AP) _ Former Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas and made him fabulously wealthy, was convicted Tuesday of bilking his investors out of more than $7 billion through a Ponzi scheme he operated for 20 years.

A day after telling U.S. District Judge David Hittner they were having trouble reaching a verdict, jurors convicted Stanford on 13 of 14 charges he faced, acquitting him on a single count of wire fraud stemming from Super Bowl tickets he allegedly used to bribe a regulator.

Stanford, who was once considered one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., looked down when the verdict was read. His mother and daughters, who were in the federal courtroom in Houston, hugged one another, and one of the daughters started crying.

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New iPad expected to have modest upgrades

NEW YORK (AP) _ Apple is expected to reveal a new iPad model on Wednesday, with a sharper screen and perhaps an option for faster wireless broadband. The upgrades are relatively minor, but the iPad is secure in its position as the king of tablets.

As usual, Apple has kept the features of the new device secret. No matter what they are, analysts expect the new iPad to be a success, riding on the popularity of the previous models, as well as pent-up demand from consumers who have been waiting for the new model.

The iPad 2 was a big step up from the original iPad. Apple added a camera and reduced both the thickness and the weight of the device. But there isn't that much Apple can do to jazz up the iPad 3. Company watchers expect the new device to have the same basic size and weight as last year's model.

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Gas price hikes end after 27 days; oil sinks

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gasoline prices finally dropped _ a little _ after 27 straight days of increases.

The nationwide average for regular slipped less than a penny to $3.764 per gallon. That ended a streak of price hikes that began on Feb. 8. Pump prices rose by more than 28 cents per gallon in that period, making gasoline the most expensive ever for this time of year.

Also Tuesday, oil fell to its lowest price in about two weeks, while the price of natural gas remained near a 10-year low.

The relief at the pump should be temporary. Experts predict that gasoline prices will rise over the next several weeks. The Oil Price Information Service says the nationwide average could peak at $4.25 per gallon by April, beating the record high of $4.11 per gallon set in July 2008. That will likely keep gas prices front and center in the presidential campaign, while economists argue their impact on the U.S. economy.

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Peres: Social media helps with peace process

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday visited Facebook's California headquarters, where he blasted the Iranian government and said the social networking site is a way for people to bypass failed efforts of governments to seek peace.

The 88-year-old leader was scheduled to meet with the company CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and launch his official personal page on the site, aimed at creating a dialogue with Arabs who live in countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

In an interview with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg streamed live on the company's website, Peres repeatedly praised Facebook as a tool for positive social change by enabling citizens of different countries to connect.

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A Ritz hotel on Lehman sale list as it winds down

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua hotel in Hawaii, a luxury ski resort in the Rockies and a Manhattan boutique hotel are among the last holdings of Lehman Brothers, the investment house whose spectacular bust triggered the worst of the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank said Tuesday that it will begin unloading its stakes in those properties in April as it prepares to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Lehman's $639 billion bankruptcy remains the largest in U.S. history. It went under on Sept. 15, 2008, the same week that the government rescued AIG and the $700 billion bailout for major banks was conceived.

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Android Market checks out, Google Play moves in

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Google's digital marketplace for mobile applications, music, movies and books is unifying under a new name in an effort to spruce up the shopping experience.

Beginning Tuesday the Android Market will be known as the Google Play Store. Google's eBookstore and recently launched music service will also be part of the Google Play Store. The same selection of books, music and movies was already available at Android Market.

The rebranding will be ushered in with a series of tweaks designed to make it easier for customers to manage content and navigate from one section of the store to another. None of the changes will affect the digital content that existing customers have already purchased and stored on Google computers in password-protected accounts.

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Verizon launches wireless broadband for homes

NEW YORK (AP) _ Verizon Wireless on Tuesday announced a version of its wireless broadband service that's designed for use in rural and remote homes that can't get DSL or cable.

The service, called HomeFusion, could also appeal to some households where DSL is the only fixed-line option, since it's faster than most DSL services.

HomeFusion could provide potent competition for satellite broadband providers, which are often "providers of last resort" for rural homes.

The service requires the installation of a cylindrical antenna, about the size of a 5-gallon bucket, on an outside wall. The hardware costs $200, but installation is free.

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Government: Major Greek banks agree on bond deal

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece's six largest banks have agreed to participate in a crucial bond-swap deal, the government said Tuesday, in a boost for the struggling country as a deadline for the landmark agreement looms.

The Finance Ministry said the six banks have already agreed to participate or would recommend participation at board meetings on Wednesday and Thursday. Though Greece still needs many more creditors to sign up by the Thursday deadline, the inclusion of some of the big banks is a relief for officials and potentially persuasive for smaller bondholders.

The bondholders will lose 53.5 percent of the face value of their debt _ and around 75 percent in real terms _ in exchange for new bonds with longer repayment deadlines and lower interest rates.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 203.66 points to 12,759.15. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 40.16 points to 2,910.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 20.97 points to 1,343.36.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude, which is used to price oil produced in the U.S., fell by $2.02 to end the day at $104.70 per barrel. Brent crude, which prices foreign oil imported by U.S. refineries, gave up $1.82 to finish at $121.98 per barrel.

In other energy trading, natural gas futures were flat at $2.356 per 1,000 cubic feet after nearly hitting a 10-year low on Monday. Heating oil fell 2.92 cents to $3.1882 per gallon. Gasoline futures lost 2.81 cents to finish at $3.2299 per gallon.