Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2012 6:16 PM
Business Highlights

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Google creates a spectacle with eyewear project

NEW YORK (AP) _ If you think texting and walking is dangerous, just wait until everyone's wearing Google's futuristic, Internet-connected glasses.

While wearing a pair, you can see directions to your destination appear literally before your eyes. You can talk to friends over video chat or even buy a few things online as you walk around.

These glasses can do everything you now need a smartphone or tablet computer to accomplish.

Mind you, the technology doesn't actually exist. Google offered a glimpse of "Project Glass" in a video and blog post this week as a way to start a discussion and solicit ideas.

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Retailers report positive March sales

NEW YORK (AP) _ Retailers from discounter Target to department-store chain Macy's reported better-than-expected sales in March in the latest sign that Americans are feeling better about the economy.

A combination of warm weather and high demand for spring fashions boosted revenue for the month, but analysts say there's much more than higher temperatures at play: Americans who cut back on spending in the slow economic recovery are encouraged by the improving job market.

Even though only a handful of retailers report monthly figures, industry watchers say March figures are reason to be optimistic. That's because the numbers offer a snapshot of consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of all economic activity.

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Penney cuts 600 workers, 13 percent of HQ staff

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two months into J.C. Penney's transformation, its workers are starting to feel the pain.

The mid-priced department store chain said Thursday that it has laid off 600 workers, or 13 percent of the staff at its headquarters in Plano, Texas, as the company looks to streamline operations amid a major reinvention of the business.

Penney also will eliminate 300 more jobs at its customer call center in Pittsburgh when it closes the center July 1.

The moves come as the company's new CEO, former Apple Inc. executive Ron Johnson, transforms every aspect of Penney's business, from pulling back on constant promotions to rethinking the brands it carries.

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Painkiller sales soar around US, fueling addiction

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sales of the nation's two most popular prescription painkillers have exploded in new parts of the country, an Associated Press analysis shows, worrying experts who say the push to relieve patients' suffering is spawning an addiction epidemic.

From New York's Staten Island to Santa Fe, N.M., Drug Enforcement Administration figures show dramatic rises between 2000 and 2010 in the distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. Some places saw sales increase sixteenfold.

Meanwhile, the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, is rising in Appalachia, the original epicenter of the painkiller epidemic, as well as in the Midwest.

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UK's Sky News: We hacked in the public interest

LONDON (AP) _ Rupert Murdoch's British satellite news channel on Thursday became the latest branch of the mogul's global media empire to acknowledge bending the rules in an effort to stay ahead.

Sky News admitted its reporters hacked emails on two separate occasions, insisting that it was done in the public interest.

But legal experts said that's no defense, the police are investigating and Murdoch's goal of taking full control of Sky News' profitable parent company, British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, may be at risk.

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Spain becomes focus as euro debt fears return

MADRID (AP) _ Rising concerns over Spain's economy and its ability to handle its debts sent its cost of borrowing higher Thursday, sparking fears that Europe's debt crisis is flaring up again after a brief respite.

Spain has become the focus of investor concerns with many worried about the ability of the government to push through a big austerity program at a time when its economy is heading for a return to recession and unemployment stands at around 23 percent.

A disappointing set of Spanish bond auctions on Wednesday _ when it managed to raise (EURO)2.6 billion ($3.5 billion), at the bottom end of the (EURO)2.5 billion to (EURO)3.5 billion target _ has heightened fears that Spain could soon join the ranks of Greece, Portugal and Ireland in asking for a bailout. A Spanish bailout would be far more difficult for the country's partners in the 17-country eurozone, since its economy is twice the size of the three countries that have already needed a financial rescue.

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US unemployment claims hit 4-year low of 357,000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, suggesting employers kept hiring in March at a healthy pace.

Weekly applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the fewest since April 2008.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 361,750, also the lowest in four years.

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US rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.98 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was mostly unchanged this week, as the cost of home-buying and refinancing stayed near record lows.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan fell slightly to 3.98 percent from 3.99 percent last week. In February, the rate touched 3.87 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage also fell, to 3.21 percent from 3.23 percent. That's above the record low of 3.13 percent hit last month.

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New York appeals court reinstates case against YouTube

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal appeals court revived a 5-year-old copyright case against YouTube on Thursday, finding that a jury might conclude that the online video service knew it was infringing rights when it allowed the distribution of videos of popular television shows and other programs.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan decided the case after hearing lawyers several months ago debate whether the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act shields a company like YouTube from broad copyright claims. Google Inc. paid $1.76 billion for YouTube in 2006, just months after the video service was launched in December 2005.

The appeals decision pertained to several lawsuits filed against YouTube, including one in which Viacom Inc. claimed YouTube committed "rampant copyright infringement," and others in which The Football Association Premier League Ltd. and various film studios, television networks, music publishers and sports leagues joined to challenge YouTube's practices.

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Happy Meal lawsuit dismissed by Calif. judge

Children in California will still be able to get toys with their Happy Meals.

A San Francisco judge has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to stop McDonald's Corp. from using toys to market its meals to children in the Golden State. The suit was filed in late 2010 by Monet Parham, a California mother of two, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington.

The suit claimed that the world's biggest hamburger chain was violating consumer protection laws and exploiting children's vulnerability by using toys to lure them to eat nutritionally unbalanced meals that can lead to obesity. The lawsuit did not seek damages.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 14.61 points to 13,060.14. The S&P 500 fell 0.88 point Thursday to close at 1,398.08. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.41 points to 3,080.50.

Natural gas futures on Thursday gave up 5.2 cents, or 2.4 percent, to finish at $2.089 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. That's the lowest price in more than a decade.

Benchmark crude added $1.84 to finish at $103.31 per barrel. Brent crude increased by $1.09 to end at $123.43 per barrel.

In other energy trading, heating oil was almost a penny higher, finishing at $3.1692 per gallon, while gasoline futures rose less than a cent to end at $3.3405 per gallon.