Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Apr 16, 2012 5:28 PM
Business Highlights


US retail sales rose 0.8 percent, helped by job gains

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A healthier job market and warmer weather encouraged more Americans to shop in March.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Monday. That's below February's 1 percent increase but above January's pace.

Some of the increase went to pay higher gas prices. Still, steeper gas hasn't deterred Americans from spending more on other goods.

Consumers spent more on building materials, autos, electronics, furniture and clothing. Excluding car and gasoline sales, retail sales increased 0.7 percent. And excluding autos, gas, and home supplies, so-called "core" sales rose 0.5 percent in March, matching February's gain.


US business stockpiles grew 0.6 percent in February

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. companies restocked at a steady pace in February, suggesting businesses are more hopeful about the economy's prospects this spring.

The Commerce Department said Monday that business stockpiles rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent. That's below January's upwardly revised gain of 0.8 percent.

The increase pushed stockpiles to $1.58 trillion. That's nearly 20 percent above the recent low hit in September 2009, just after the recession ended.


US homebuilder outlook dips below 4-year high

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The outlook among U.S. homebuilders dimmed in April after six months of rising or steady confidence. The decline suggests the housing market remains weak despite modest gains.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said Monday that its builder sentiment index fell this month to 25 from 28. Last month's reading was the highest since June 2007. The index rose for five straight months between September and February.

Builders expressed weaker confidence in sales over the next six months. A separate gauge measuring that outlook rose for six straight months before falling this month, from 35 to 32.


American Jim Yong Kim is chosen to lead World Bank

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jim Yong Kim, an American who is president of Dartmouth College, has been chosen to be the next president of the World Bank. His selection extends the U.S. hold on the top job at the 187-nation development agency.

Kim, a surprise nominee of President Barack Obama, was selected Monday in a vote by the World Bank's 25-member executive board. He'll succeed Robert Zoellick, who's stepping down after a five-year term.

Developing nations waged an unsuccessful challenge to Kim, 52, a physician and pioneer in treating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in the developing world.

Kim's selection marks a break from previous World Bank leaders who were typically political, legal or economic figures. The World Bank raises money from its member nations and borrows from investors to provide low-cost loans to developing countries.


Citi made $2.9 billion in 1Q; global transactions grow

NEW YORK (AP) _ Citigroup, which has 4,600 branches in 40 countries, boasts that it is the most global American bank. That reach paid off big time in the first three months of the year.

Citigroup pulled in record revenue from processing transactions for its international corporate clients, and its loans to customers in Asia and Latin America grew.

The bank said Monday that it made $2.9 billion in the first three months of the year, or 95 cents per share, which includes a $1.3 billion accounting charge that Citi took because the value of its debt increased.

Without that charge, its earnings per share would be $1.11, which beat estimates of $1.01 among analysts surveyed by FactSet, a provider of financial data.


Mattel 1Q net income falls, Barbie sales down

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mattel Inc. said Monday that its first-quarter profit dropped 53 percent, pulled down by costs tied to an acquisition and lower sales for Barbie and Hot Wheels.

Results for the largest U.S. toy maker were below expectations and its shares fell more than 9 percent in trading. But the disappointing results came during what is typically a slow time for toy sales, so Mattel executives say they remain optimistic.

Mattel's toy brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels and American Girl have been perennial best sellers in the toy aisle. But during the period _ the smallest quarter of the year for toy makers _ cautious reordering by retailers coupled with the timing related to shipping "Cars 2"-related toys last year, hurt results. That was particularly true in North America, where revenue slid 9 percent.


Wal-Mart's CEO paid $18.1 million in 2011

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mike Duke, the CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., received a pay package in 2011 worth $18.1 million, a 3 percent dip from the year before, according to an Associated Press calculation, mainly because his performance-based cash bonus shrunk.

The dip in compensation came even as Wal-Mart reversed a more than two-year sales slump in its namesake business as it emphasized low prices across the store and restored thousands of items that it had culled during its campaign three years ago to declutter its stores.

Duke, 62, who has been Wal-Mart's CEO since February 2009, received a base salary of $1.3 million, up almost 3 percent, and stock awards worth $13.1 million, up 3 percent from fiscal 2010. But Duke's cash-based performance bonus fell 25 percent to $2.88 million in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 because the company's operating income fell short of goals established in the compensation plan, according to documents filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Wal-Mart's operating income growth has been hurt because the company's aggressive moves to cut prices to better compete with rivals have hurt gross profit margins.


FCC fines Google $25,000 over Street View probe

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Federal Communications Commission has fined Google $25,000, saying the online search leader impeded an investigation into how it collected data while taking photos for its "Street View" mapping feature.

The FCC said in a report from Friday that Google Inc. "deliberately impeded and delayed" the investigation for months. The agency said that the online search leader did this by not responding to requests for information and documents.

At the same time, the FCC said it will not take action against Google over its data collection. Part of the reason for that is that it still has "significant factual questions" about the Street View project that haven't been answered. To get some answers, the FCC had subpoenaed a Google engineer who developed the software code that the company used to collect and store data. But the engineer, who is not named in the report, declined to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against incriminating himself.


Argentine leader moves to nationalize oil shares

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Monday proposed a bill to expropriate 51 percent of the shares of YPF oil company that is controlled by Spain's Repsol, moving ahead with the plan despite fierce opposition from Madrid.

Fernandez said in an address to the country that the measure sent to congress on Monday is aimed at recovering the nation's sovereignty over its hydrocarbon resources. She said the shares being expropriated will be split between the national and provincial governments.

The president complained that Argentina had a deficit of $3 billion last year as a net importer of gas and petroleum.


Exxon and Rosneft to team up on oil projects

NEW YORK (AP) _ Exxon is teaming up with Russian oil giant Rosneft to develop oil and natural gas fields in Russia and North America.

The deal is a major score for Exxon, granting the Irving, Texas company access to some of the world's richest sources of crude oil and other hydrocarbons in the Black Sea and the Russian Arctic. In turn, Rosneft subsidiaries will take ownership stakes in three Exxon projects in the U.S. and Canada.

The companies agreed in August to form a partnership. They announced new details Monday in conjunction with a signing ceremony in Russia that was held at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's suburban residence.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 71.82 points to 12,921.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 dropped a fraction of a point to 1,369.57. And the Nasdaq composite index is down 22.93 points to 2,988.40.

Brent crude, which is used to price many kinds of international oil, lost $3.15 to end the day at $118.68 per barrel in London. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose 10 cents to finish at $102.93 per barrel in New York.

Natural gas futures rose 3.5 cents to end at $2.016 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other energy trading, heating oil lost 5.8 cents to finish at $3.1166 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up 7.91 cents to end at $3.267 per gallon.