Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2012 6:13 PM
Business Highlights

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HP combines printer, PC units in turnaround effort

NEW YORK (AP) _ Hewlett-Packard Co. is combining its printer and PC divisions as it tries to overcome sluggish earnings, growing competition and the absence of a focused identity.

The move announced Wednesday will help the company streamline its business and save money to invest in growing areas. HP also hopes the restructuring will boost innovation.

The change comes as sales of printers and ink, once HP's lifeblood, are falling because people are sharing more documents and photos online instead of printing them.

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Charges filed against Chevron execs in Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) _ Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean company executives on Wednesday for an oil leak in the Atlantic, a move deemed outrageous by those targeted but applauded by environmentalists.

Prosecutors accused the executives of environmental crimes, misleading Brazil's oil regulator about safety plans and not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill.

At least 110,000 gallons of oil seeped through cracks in the ocean floor near a Chevron Corp. appraisal well off the Rio de Janeiro coast in November. The well drilled by Transocean Ltd. has since been sealed, but a small amount of seepage has reappeared, raising concerns that the damage is not over.

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Court weighs US power over states in health case

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress will help pay for your roads, but your state can't lower its drinking age below 21. There's federal money for colleges, but they can't discriminate against women in the classroom or on the athletic field.

Federal cash comes with strings. Now 26 states are telling the Supreme Court that President Barack Obama's health care law has stretched an old rule too far. The new law's requirements for expanding Medicaid amount, in their view, to coercion that violates the Constitution's division of power between the federal government and the states.

No lower court has sided with the state plaintiffs. But the justices have reserved time next Wednesday to hear the Medicaid issue as part of their broad review of challenges to the national health care overhaul. And their decision could have implications far beyond health _ for federal aid for housing, law enforcement, education and transportation.

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US home re-sales complete best winter in 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. home sales are gradually coming back. A mild winter and a stronger job market have helped boost sales ahead of the crucial spring buying season.

The past two months made up the best winter for sales of previously occupied homes in five years, when the housing crisis began. And the sales pace in January was the highest since May 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

February sales dipped only slightly to a seasonally adjusted 4.59 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That's 13 percent higher than the sales pace last July and just below the revised 4.63 million in January.

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Bernanke says US banks could withstand euro shocks

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional panel Wednesday that U.S. banks could withstand shocks from Europe, even if the debt crisis there significantly worsened.

The U.S. banking system remains exposed to Europe, but stress tests conducted by the Fed found most banks could weather a severe recession triggered by the debt crisis, Bernanke told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Fed looked at how the 19 largest U.S. bank holding companies would handle a severe recession that drove the unemployment rate to 13 percent and cut stock prices 50 percent. The stress tests found all but four were strong enough to survive.

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Obama, GOP vie for upper hand on energy

BOULDER CITY, Nev. (AP) _ Wooing a nation of increasingly angry motorists, President Barack Obama and his Republican rivals are all plunging into gas-pump politics, seeking the upper hand as energy becomes a driving issue in the election campaign.

The president defended his energy agenda this week. He traveled on Wednesday to a solar panel plant in Nevada, then to oil and gas fields in New Mexico and the site of a future oil pipeline in Oklahoma that the White House is promising to accelerate. At the same time GOP opponents from presidential candidate Mitt Romney on down are vigorously accusing him of stifling domestic production and betting on risky alternative energy methods over traditional oil drilling.

With gasoline reaching a national average of $3.86 a gallon and apparently heading higher, many are growing impatient for Obama _ or perhaps someone else _ to do something about it.

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Hartford Financial exiting annuity business

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. is exiting the annuity business so it can focus on property and casualty insurance, group benefits and mutual funds.

The company said Wednesday that it is also looking to sell or pursue other options for its individual life, retirement plans and broker-dealer Woodbury Financial Services. It will continue to seek new business for them in the meantime.

Christopher Swift, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a statement that the individual life, Woodbury Financial Services and retirement plans "will be better positioned for success as part of other organizations."

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Discover 1Q profit jumps 36 percent as card use rises

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Discover Financial Services on Wednesday said its profit jumped 36 percent in its fiscal first quarter, as use of its namesake credit card increased and customers' payment habits improved.

The Riverwoods, Ill., company reported that its net income climbed to $624 million, or $1.18 a share, in the three months ended Feb. 29. That compares with net income of $459 million, or 84 cents a share, in the prior-year quarter.

Revenue rose to $1.84 billion, up from $1.73 billion a year earlier.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of 94 cents a share on total revenue of about $1.84 billion.

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Kraft Foods to rename snacks company Mondelez

NORTHFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Kraft Foods Inc. announced Wednesday that its new global snacks company will be named Mondelez International Inc.

Mondelez was inspired by the suggestions of two Kraft employees. It is intended to evoke the idea of a "delicious world" as "monde" is derived from the Latin word for "world" and "delez" as an expression of "delicious."

Kraft announced in August that it will split its business in two by the end of the year.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 45.57 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,124.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed down 2.63 points, or 0.2 percent, at 1,402.89. The Nasdaq composite average closed up 1.17 at 3,075.32.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose $1.20 to finish at $107.27 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used by many U.S. refineries to make gasoline, rose by 8 cents to end at $124.20 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 2 cents to finish at $3.22 per gallon. Gasoline futures lost less than a penny to end at $3.36 per gallon. Natural gas rose 2.5 cents to finish at $2.36 per 1,000 cubic feet.