Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2012 6:22 PM
Business Highlights

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Warren Buffett says he has early-stage prostate cancer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Warren Buffett is telling shareholders in an open letter he has been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer.

The 81-year-old billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. says in the letter, released Tuesday, that his condition is "not remotely life-threatening" or debilitating.

Buffett's letter says he and his doctors have decided on a two-month treatment plan to begin in mid-July.

Buffett says he was diagnosed April 11 and has received tests including a CAT scan, a bone scan and an MRI.

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US homebuilders request most permits in 3 1/2 years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. builders requested the most permits in March for single-family homes and apartments in 3 1/2 years, suggesting that many expect the housing market to improve over the next year.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 747,000 in March. That's the highest level since September 2008.

The rise in permits helped offset a slower month of construction.

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Obama aims to target oil market manipulation

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama pushed Congress Tuesday to give oil market regulators more muscle to deter price manipulation by speculators, the latest White House response to determined Republican attacks on administration energy policies amid high gas prices at the pump.

Obama wants Congress to strengthen federal supervision of oil markets, increase penalties for market manipulation and empower regulators to increase the amount of money energy traders are required to put behind their transactions.

The plan is more likely to draw sharp election-year distinctions with Republicans than have an immediate effect on prices at the pump. The measures seek to boost spending for Wall Street enforcement at a time when congressional Republicans are seeking to limit the reach of federal financial regulations.

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Goldman Sachs' profits mask revenue decline

NEW YORK (AP) _ On the surface, Goldman Sachs had a triumphant first quarter. By one popular measure, its profit more than doubled, and the bank announced it would raise its dividend.

But those achievements masked lurking problems. The jump in earnings was a quirk related to repaying Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway last year. Revenue fell 16 percent compared to a year ago. And to make up for those weaknesses, the storied investment bank had to turn to cost-cutting.

Goldman shed 3,000 jobs over the year, or about 8 percent of its work force. It cut back on salaries, trimmed occupancy costs and paid less in brokerage fees, cutting total expenses by 14 percent. Average compensation per employee, which includes benefits, fell to $135,000 for the quarter, down from $148,000 a year ago.

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Coca-Cola sells more drinks, sees higher 1Q profit

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Coca-Cola Co. said Tuesday that its net income rose 8 percent in the first quarter as it hiked prices and sold more of its drinks around the world.

Although volume growth came from all regions, the world's largest soft-drink maker said increases were far greater in emerging markets. In the region encompassing Russia, India, the Middle East and Africa, for example, volume grew 9 percent, compared with a 2 percent increase in North America.

The Atlanta-based company also saw strong growth beyond its sodas as consumers have become more concerned about healthy drinking and eating. Global volume for bottled water grew 15 percent in the quarter, while volume for energy drinks rose 25 percent. That surpassed the volume gains in the company's namesake Coca-Cola soda, which increased 4 percent.

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J&J 1Q profit jumps despite sales dip

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit jumped 12.5 percent on lower spending on research, sales and administration and a boost from selling rights to a drug.

Its revenue slipped due to generic competition.

The health care giant again said it will take longer than anticipated to return many recalled consumer products to stores and to rebuild a factory that made them, because of serious quality problems.

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Yahoo's 1Q earnings rise 28 pct. to top Street view

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Yahoo's first-quarter results showed signs of modest progress under recently hired CEO Scott Thompson.

The long-struggling Internet company earned $286 million, or 23 cents per share, during the first three months of the year. That represented a 28 percent increase from net income of $223 million, or 17 cents per share, at the same time last year.

The earnings exceeded the average estimate of 17 cents per share among analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue totaled $1.22 billion, an increase of less than 1 percent from the same time last year. Still, that slight uptick represented a breakthrough for Yahoo because the company's revenue has been steadily falling since 2008.

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Intel 1Q earnings fall 13 percent

NEW YORK (AP) _ First-quarter earnings at Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, fell 13 percent as spending on research and marketing rose while sales were flat.

The results beat analyst expectations, but failed to sustain Intel's stock, which hit a seven-year high of $28.78 in regular trading. In extended trading, after the release of the results, the shares fell 68 cents, or 2.4 percent to $27.79.

Intel's first-quarter net income was $2.74 billion, or 53 cents per share, down from $3.16 billion, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier.

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First Solar lays off 2,000 as Europe demand wanes

NEW YORK (AP) _ First Solar Inc. is laying off 2,000 workers and closing its plant in Frankfurt, Germany, in response to waning demand for solar panels and increased competition from China.

America's largest maker of solar panels said the layoffs amount to 30 percent of its global workforce. Some cuts come from shutting down the Frankfurt (Oder) plant, where it doubled the number of employees to more than 1,200 just last year. The company will also shutter some production in Malaysia. More jobs will be cut in Europe and the U.S.

Solar manufacturers have been hurt by the global recession, an influx of Chinese panels and declining subsidy programs in Europe. Germany, the world's largest market for solar power, announced in February that it would cut solar subsidies by 30 percent.

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Citigroup investors give thumbs down to executive pay

NEW YORK (AP) _ Citigroup has become the first Wall Street bank to get a thumbs-down from shareholders over outsized executive pay.

At its annual meeting Tuesday, 55 percent of the bank's shareholders voted against the pay packages that have been granted to Citigroup's top executives, including CEO Vikram Pandit's $15 million for last year and $10 million in retention pay. The vote is advisory and won't force the bank to change its pay practices, but it did send a powerful message of discontent to Citi's leadership.

Wall Street's massive compensation packages have raised the ire of shareholders for years, especially when they appear to have little relation to the performance of specific executives. Bonuses became a flashpoint of public outrage after the 2008 financial meltdown, which was caused in large part by many of those same Wall Street firms.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 194.13 points, or 1.5 percent, at 13,115.54. The S&P 500 gained 21.21 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,390.78. The Nasdaq composite index soared 54.42 points, or 1.8 percent, to 3,042.82.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose by $1.27 to end the day at $104.20 per barrel. Brent crude, used to set the price of oil imported by U.S. refineries, increased by 10 cents to end at $118.78 per barrel.

Natural gas futures lost 6.5 cents to end at $1.951 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil added a penny to finish at $3.1266 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up 3.3 cents to finish at $3.234 per gallon.