Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2012 5:23 PM
Business Highlights

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Fed: Economy growing moderately; no policy changes

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Reserve says the economy is growing moderately while cautioning that risks from Europe remain. It's holding off on taking any further steps to boost the recovery.

In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed said Wednesday that economic growth should "pick up gradually" _ a somewhat brighter view than it offered last time. It said the job market has strengthened slightly but that unemployment remains elevated. And it pointed to a pickup in inflation but said it should be only temporary.

The Fed stuck with its plan to keep a key short-term interest rate near zero through at least late 2014. It announced no new plans for further bond buying after a current program ends in June.

But Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters at a news conference that bond buying or other steps are still an option if the economy should weaken.

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I'm not that powerful, Rupert Murdoch tells judge

LONDON (AP) _ News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said Wednesday that his globe-spanning TV and newspaper empire doesn't carry as much political sway as is often believed, telling a British inquiry into media ethics that he wasn't the power behind the throne often depicted by his enemies.

Speaking softly, deliberately and with dry humor, Murdoch sought to deflate what he described as myths about his business, his agenda and his friendships with those at the pinnacle of British politics.

The 81-year-old media baron denied ever calling in favors from British leaders and dismissed the oft-repeated claim that his top-selling daily, The Sun, could swing elections.

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Burger King makes cage-free promise

Burger King on Wednesday became the first major U.S. fast-food chain to pledge that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and eggs by 2017.

The move by the world's second-biggest burger chain helps it satisfy growing demand among customers for humanely produced fare and adds fuel to an industry-wide shift to consider animal welfare when purchasing food supplies.

Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in "battery cages," which give them roughly the same space as a sheet of standard notebook paper. Most pork comes from sows confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.

The hens would still be housed in a barn, but they have room to roam and perches and nesting boxes. Sows are also held indoors, but they would not be confined in the cramped crates while they are pregnant.

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US orders for long-lasting goods plunge in March

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Orders for long-lasting factory goods fell by the largest amount in three years last month, mostly because demand for commercial aircraft plummeted. But companies also ordered less machinery and other equipment, a sign manufacturing output may slow.

Orders for durable goods dropped 4.2 percent in March, the steepest fall since January 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Commercial aircraft orders, a volatile category, fell by nearly 50 percent.

Excluding transportation equipment, orders declined 1.1 percent. That's the second drop in that category in three months.

And orders for so-called "core" capital goods, a good measure of business investment plans, declined 0.8 percent. Companies cut their orders for steel and other metals, industrial machinery and computers.

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Delta, US Airways see strong travel demand

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Rising fares haven't kept passengers away, judging by financial results at Delta Air Lines and US Airways.

Both airlines reported quarterly profits on Wednesday. And both said travel demand appears to be holding up, suggesting that planes will be full and fares will be higher for the busy summer travel season.

Delta, the nation's second-biggest airline, said it will reduce flying by as much as 3 percent during the quarter that ends in June. The idea is that travelers will pay more for the remaining seats. So far, that appears to be working.

Delta earned $124 million for the most recent quarter and US Airways earned $48 million. Both airlines lost money a year ago, and both benefited from special items for their quarterly profit this year.

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Caterpillar 1Q profit jumps 29 percent, boosts outlook

Caterpillar's first-quarter profit jumped 29 percent and it boosted its outlook for the year as U.S. builders replaced old gear and global demand for mining equipment boomed.

But many investors seemed to be expecting more from the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment because Caterpillar's stock fell 5 percent.

The company generated $1.59 billion net income, or $2.37 per share, during the quarter. That's up from last year's $1.23 billion net income, or $1.84 per share.

The Peoria, Ill., firm said Wednesday its revenue grew 23 percent to $15.98 billion from $12.95 billion a year ago.

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Commercial aircraft sales boost Boeing 1Q earnings

DALLAS (AP) _ Airlines around the world are updating their fleets with new, more fuel-efficient planes, and that's good news for aircraft maker Boeing Co.

The Chicago company said Wednesday that first-quarter profit soared 58 percent, beating analysts' expectations, as sales at its commercial airplane division surged. Even its defense business grew, although much more slowly.

Boeing delivered 137 commercial airplanes in the quarter, winning bragging rights over European rival Airbus, which had 131 deliveries. Much of the demand came from emerging markets, said Chairman and CEO W. James McNerney Jr.

Boeing's backlog rose, partly on orders for a new, more fuel-efficient version of its venerable 737 jetliner. McNerney said the company was focused on profitably boosting commercial airplane production and delivery rates.

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Sprint loss widens on Nextel, as iPhone lifts sales

NEW YORK (AP) _ The iPhone boosted struggling Sprint Nextel Corp. in the latest quarter, letting it beat AT&T and perhaps even Verizon in recruiting high-paying phone subscribers to the Sprint network.

Sprint started selling the iPhone in October, after AT&T and Verizon. To get it, it had to promise Apple that it would buy phones for $15.5 billion over four years _ a big sum for a company in a precarious financial position _ and analysts have noted that the phone could push Sprint over the edge, into bankruptcy.

But in the first quarter, the iPhone appeared to help Sprint recruit subscribers and get more money out of each.

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Exxon is top dividend payer after 21 pct. increase

NEW YORK (AP) _ Exxon is raising its quarterly dividend by 21 percent. In doing so, it becomes the top corporate dividend payer, surpassing AT&T.

The Irving, Texas, oil giant raised the payout to 57 cents from 47 cents in the first quarter. That brings its annual dividend to $2.28 per share.

Exxon Mobil Corp. will now pay its shareholders $10.75 billion in dividends per year, according to Standard & Poor's, up from $9 billion. AT&T Inc. is second at $10.44 billion. Apple Inc., which restored its dividend in March, is next at $9.88 billion.

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Coca-Cola recommends first stock split since 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Coca-Cola Co. is seeking its first stock split in 16 years.

The world's biggest beverage maker said Wednesday the 2-for-1 split is in line with its plan to double revenue over this decade. The Atlanta-based company's stock began trading in 1919. Since then, the stock has been split only 10 times.

Companies split stocks when they think their share price has gotten too expensive or if the stock is trading too far above similar companies' shares.

If approved, Coke's split would increase the number of shares to 11.2 billion from 5.6 billion. Shareholders would receive one additional share of stock for each share held in early August.

The move is subject to approval by shareowners on July 10.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average gained 89.16 points to close at 13,090.72, a 0.7 percent increase. The S&P 500 index rose 18.72 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,390.69. The Nasdaq rose 68.03 points, or 2.3 percent, to 3,029.63.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude added 57 cents to $104.12 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price of oil imported into the U.S., added 96 cents to $119.12 per barrel in London.

Natural gas rose 9 cents to $2.07 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil rose by 3 cents to $3.16 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up less than a penny to $3.16 per gallon.