Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2012 5:49 PM
Business Highlights


Subdued Dimon is confronted over $2 billion trading loss

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The CEO of JPMorgan Chase offered a quick but blunt apology to shareholders Tuesday for a $2 billion trading loss that "should never have happened" and survived a push to strip him of the title of chairman of the board.

CEO Jamie Dimon, who in recent years has given expansive answers to questions about the bank's handling of foreclosures and loan modifications, was unusually subdued at the JPMorgan annual meeting.

He spent four minutes talking about the trading loss and steps the company has taken to address it, and just two more talking about accomplishments of the company over the past year.

The loss, disclosed Thursday, rattled investor confidence in the largest bank in the U.S. and in the ability of Wall Street to fight regulatory changes more than three years after the financial crisis.


Lack of trust in Facebook may hold back ad sales

NEW YORK (AP) _ Facebook's reach is wide but not deep. Few users surveyed in an Associated Press-CNBC poll say they click on the site's ads or buy the virtual goods that make money for it.

More than 40 percent of American adults log on to the site _ to share news, personal observations, photos and more _ at least once a week. In all, some 900 million people around the world are users. But many of them don't have a very high opinion of Facebook or trust it to keep their information private.

If Facebook the company were a Facebook user, it would have a lot of virtual friends but not many real ones, the poll suggested.


Americans spending a bit more as gas prices fall

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans are starting to see some relief from higher gas prices, a change that could revive the economy in the months ahead.

Consumer prices were flat in April, largely because of a decline in gas prices. Lower prices at the pump may be combining with steady job growth to power more spending on big purchases.

Sales of autos, furniture and electronics all rose in April. And Americans spent more at restaurants and bars _ generally a sign of confidence in the economy.


Cheaper gas not enough to boost summer driving

NEW YORK (AP) _ Cheaper gas won't be enough to get many more Americans on the road this summer. They're still too worried about their jobs and the economy.

Economists and tourism experts are expecting only a small uptick in the number of summer travelers. Gas prices are lower, but still high enough to keep some Americans off the road. The job market is improving, but still shaky. And household debt remains high.

Those who do travel won't feel free to splurge. The bulk of road trippers, experts say, will take shorter trips and reduce food and entertainment spending to conserve cash.


Penney reports loss and plummeting sales in 1Q

NEW YORK (AP) _ Turns out, American shoppers don't prefer predictable pricing over blockbuster bargains _ at least not yet.

J.C. Penney on Tuesday reported a larger-than-expected first-quarter loss that missed Wall Street's already low expectations largely because customers were turned off by the retailer's new plan to get rid of heavy discounting periodically throughout the year in favor of everyday low pricing.

The aim of the strategy, which was rolled out on Feb. 1, is to discourage shoppers from waiting for the nearly 600 sales Penney used to offer each year. But the move has backfired: It seems many faithful Penny customers have stopped shopping altogether.


Warmer weather pushes Home Depot 1Q profit up

NEW YORK (AP) _ Home Depot said Tuesday that its first-quarter net income climbed nearly 28 percent as an unseasonably warm winter and increased business from contractors and other professional customers boosted results at the world's biggest home-improvement retailer.

The company raised its 2012 net income guidance on the better-than-expected profit. But its revenue fell short of Wall Street expectations, sending its stock down more than 2 percent.

Home Depot's results illustrate what's going on in the U.S. economy. While a prolonged U.S. housing slump has caused some Americans to cut back on spending on their homes, contractors and other professionals are starting to buy again.


US builder confidence at highest level in 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Confidence among U.S. builders rose to the highest level in five years in May, a hopeful sign that modest improvement in the housing market will pick up.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose to 29 in May. That's the highest reading since May 2007 and up from a downwardly revised reading of 24 in April.

The index rose for five straight months before leveling off in March and falling in April.


Cardinal Health ends DEA inquiry with settlement

NEW YORK (AP) _ Pharmaceutical wholesaler Cardinal Health Inc. said Tuesday one of its Florida facilities will be barred from shipping controlled substances for two years under a settlement with federal authorities over alleged ineffective controls.

The Lakeland, Fla., facility will remain open and other operations will continue under the agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Cardinal Health also intends to improve procedures that are designed to prevent prescription drugs from being abused.

The Dublin, Ohio, company said the DEA is not planning to take further action against other Cardinal Health facilities.


Ex-tabloid boss Brooks faces phone hacking charges

LONDON (AP) _ One of Rupert Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants and five people close to her were charged Tuesday with conspiring to hide evidence of phone hacking, bringing the scandal that has raged across Britain's media and political elite uncomfortably close to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The charges against former U.K. tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and four aides are the first prosecutions since police reopened inquiries 18 months ago into wrongdoing by the country's scandal-hungry press.

Brooks, 43, faces three separate allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice _ an offense that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.


Eurozone avoids recession as Germany powers ahead

FRANKFURT (AP) _ Germany prevented the economy of the 17 countries that use the euro from falling into a recession in the first quarter despite a raging debt crisis within the eurozone that threatens to break up the currency union.

Germany, which accounts for over a quarter of the economic output in the single currency bloc, managed to post growth of 0.5 percent in the first three months of the year against the previous quarter _ equal to the U.S. rate according to Eurostat, the EU's statistics office.

German exporters were able to offset tough conditions across Europe by gaining business elsewhere, including in China and the U.S. Solid domestic consumption also helped shore up the country's economy.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average ended with a loss of 63.35 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 12,632. The Standard & Poor's 500 index finished down 7.69 points, or 0.6 percent, at 1,330.66. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.82, or 0.3 percent, to 2,893.76.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude gave up 80 cents to end the day at $93.98 per barrel in New York. Oil hasn't finished that low since Dec. 19. Brent crude, which is used to set the price of oil imported by U.S. refineries, added 45 cents to finish at $111.45 per barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil added less than a penny to end at $2.933 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline lost 1.49 cents to finish at $2.9441 per gallon. Natural gas rose by 6.9 cents to $2.50 per 1,000 cubic feet.