Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2012 6:09 PM
Business Highlights


US sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department and 15 states sued Apple Inc. and major book publishers Wednesday, alleging a conspiracy to raise the price of electronic books and costing consumers more than $100 million in the past two years by adding $2 to $5 to the price of each e-book.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said executives at the highest levels of the companies conspired to eliminate competition among e-book sellers. Justice's antitrust chief Sharis Pozen said publishing executives were desperate to get, marketer of the Kindle e-book reader, to raise the $9.99 price point it had set for the most popular titles, which was substantially below the publishers' hardcover prices.

The federal government reached a settlement with three of the publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster. But it will proceed with its lawsuit in federal court in New York City against Apple and Holtzbrinck Publishers, doing business as Macmillan, and The Penguin Publishing Co. Ltd., doing business as Penguin Group.


US natural gas boom brings decade-low price

NEW YORK (AP) _ The price of natural gas has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, a remarkable decline for a commodity that not long ago was believed to be in short supply.

The country's supply of natural gas is growing so fast that analysts worry the country's underground storage facilities could be full by fall.

On Wednesday the futures price of natural gas dropped to $1.984 per 1,000 cubic feet, the lowest level since Jan. 28, 2002, when the price hit $1.91. If the price falls to $1.75, it will be the lowest since March 23, 1999.


`Battleship' leads attack of game-based movies

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ "Battleship" steams into movie theaters overseas this week, giving international audiences the first chance to decide whether a board game-based movie is seaworthy.

The Hasbro Inc. search-and-destroy game was once a way for kids to while away a summer afternoon. But as it debuts in Europe on Wednesday, "Battleship" the movie has become a potential franchise, sporting Michael Bay-inspired special effects, aliens invading Earth, a bikini-model actress, superstar Rihanna and, of course, lots of guns.

Whether the movie symbolizes Hollywood's lack of new ideas or its brilliance in adapting old ones, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures is betting big that it's the latter. With a reported production budget of $200 million, observers say it will need to reap at least $500 million at box offices worldwide to pay off.


Fed survey shows US growth, hiring improves

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Federal Reserve survey of business conditions across the U.S. suggests that last month's pullback in hiring may prove to be temporary.

The survey released Wednesday showed that each of the Fed's 12 bank districts grew steadily from mid-February through April 2. And the survey noted that hiring was stable or increased in most of the country.

The Labor Department last week said hiring slowed in March, to half the pace of the previous three months. The Fed survey, which is anecdotal and contains no numbers, didn't reflect that slowdown.


US budget deficit hits a record high in March

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. budget deficit is running slightly lower than last year's through the first six months of the budget year but is still on track to top $1 trillion for a fourth straight year.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit in March totaled $198.2 billion, a record for that month. That left the gap through the first half of 2012 at $779 billion, down 6.1 percent from a year ago.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts a deficit of $1.17 trillion for the entire 2012 budget year, which began Oct. 1. That would be a small improvement from last year's $1.3 trillion deficit. Still, the chronic budget deficits are likely to be a top issue in the presidential election.


Arkansas judge fines J&J $1.1 billion in Risperdal case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ An Arkansas judge on Wednesday fined Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary more than $1.1 billion after a jury found that the companies downplayed and hid risks associated with taking the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

Circuit Judge Tim Fox determined that Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., committed nearly 240,000 violations of the state's Medicaid fraud law _ or one for each Risperdal prescription issued to state Medicaid patients over a 3 1/2-year period. Each violation carried a $5,000 fine, the state's mandatory minimum amount, bringing the total to more than $1.1 billion.

Fox issued an additional $11 million fine for more than 4,500 violations under the state's deceptive practices act, but he rejected the state's request to levy fines in excess of the $5,000 minimum for the Medicaid violations.


FDA wants limits on antibiotics given to animals

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Food and Drug Administration called on drug companies Wednesday to help limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals, a decades-old practice that scientists say has contributed to a surge in dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic drugs like penicillin are routinely mixed with animal feed and water to help livestock, pigs and chickens put on weight and stay healthy in crowded barns. Scientists have warned that such use leads to the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs that can be passed on to humans.

The FDA has struggled for decades with how to tackle the problem because the powerful agriculture industry argues the drugs are a key part of modern meat production.


Sands launches $4.4 billion Macau casino-resort

MACAU (AP) _ U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Macau casino operator on Wednesday launched its long-delayed fourth resort, a $4.4 billion complex that is its latest bet on continued strong growth in the world's biggest gambling market.

Sands China Ltd. executives opened the doors to the Sands Cotai Central following a traditional Chinese dragon dance, high-wire tightrope performance and the unveiling of a 2,500 kilogram (5,500 pound) bronze and gold "God of Fortune" statue. Completion was delayed several years by the global financial crisis and worker shortages.

People started lining up to get in about five hours before the grand opening, security guards said, and the queue snaked around the side of the building by the time the doors opened.


Nokia lowers profit outlook, shares nosedive

HELSINKI (AP) _ Nokia Corp. saw its share price plummet 16 percent on Wednesday after it warned that heavy competition will hit its first-quarter earnings, especially in developing markets, and that it expected no improvement in the second quarter.

The world's largest cellphone maker said multiple factors had hurt sales, particularly in the fast-growing markets of India, the Middle East, Africa and China.

The Finnish company has increasingly lost out to competitors in the lucrative high-end smartphone sector, which includes Apple Inc.'s iPhone and companies like Samsung that use Google Inc.'s popular Android software. It's also been squeezed at the other end of the price spectrum by Asian manufacturers, like China's ZTE, that make cheaper phones.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 89.46 points at 12,805.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 10.12 points to 1,368.71 after losing 24 points on Tuesday. The Nasdaq composite climbed 25.24 points to 3,016.46 following a 56-point loss in the previous session.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose by $1.68 to finish at $102.70 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price oil imported by U.S. refineries, increased by 30 cents to finish at $120.18. Heating oil rose by 1.92 cents to finish at $3.1149 per gallon, while gasoline futures climbed 4.59 cents to end at $3.2955 per gallon.