Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Jun 12, 2012 5:56 PM
Business Highlights


Verizon to phase out most existing phone plans

NEW YORK (AP) _ Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cellphone company, is phasing out nearly all of its existing phone plans and replacing them with pricing schemes that encourage customers to connect their non-phone devices, like tablets and PCs, to the Verizon network.

The revamped plans let families and other subscribers share a monthly data allowance over as many as 10 devices _ the biggest overhaul in the price of wireless service since the cellphone became a mainstream device. The idea is likely to be copied quickly, at least by AT&T Inc., which has already said it is considering introducing shared-data plans.

For Verizon, the approach reflects a desire to keep growing now that most Americans have a cellphone.


US coal use falling fast; utilities switch to gas

NEW YORK (AP) _ America is shoveling coal to the sidelines.

The fuel that powered the U.S. from the industrial revolution into the iPhone era is being pushed aside as utilities switch to cleaner and cheaper alternatives.

The share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40 percent for the year _ the lowest level since the government began collecting this data in 1949. Four years ago, it was 50 percent. By the end of this decade, it is likely to be near 30 percent.


New Internet suffix bids include `.lol,' `bank.'

NEW YORK (AP) _ If Google has its way, you won't need to type "" any more to search the Internet. You can simply access the search engine at ".Google."

Google's bid for ".Google" as an Internet suffix is among about 2,000 proposals submitted as part of the largest expansion of the Internet address system since its creation in the 1980s. Google Inc. also wants to add ".YouTube" and ".lol" _ the digital shorthand for "laugh out loud." Others want approval for ".doctor," ".music" and ".bank."

If approved, the new suffixes would rival ".com" and about 300 others now in use. Companies would be able to create separate websites and separate addresses for each of their products and brands, for instance, even as they keep their existing ".com" name. One day, you might go to "comedy.YouTube" rather than ""

The organization behind the expansion, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, will announce in London on Wednesday which suffixes have been proposed. Google and a handful of other companies disclosed some of their bids ahead of time. Most proposals, however, remain a secret.


Ford's small SUV has big shoes to fill

DETROIT (AP) _ The redesigned Ford Escape is a small SUV with big shoes to fill.

The Escape that goes on sale this month replaces an older version that helped define the pint-sized SUV category in the early 2000s. It was a huge hit for Ford, with more than 2 million sales over the last decade, and it went toe-to-toe with popular models like the Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty and Toyota RAV4.

If the new, sharper Escape does what Ford wants it to do _ unseat the CR-V _ it will sit atop one of the fastest growing vehicle segments.


More than seven in 10 US teens jobless

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Once a rite of passage to adulthood, summer jobs for teens are disappearing.

Fewer than three in 10 American teenagers will hold jobs such as running cash registers, mowing lawns or busing restaurant tables from June to August. The decline has been particularly sharp since 2000, with employment for 16-to-19-year olds falling to the lowest level since World War II.

And teen employment may never return to pre-recession levels, suggests a projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The drop in teen employment, steeper than for other age groups, is partly a cultural shift. More youths are spending summer months in school, at music or learning camps or in other activities geared for college. But the decline is especially troubling for teens for whom college may be out of reach, leaving them increasingly idle and with few options to earn wages and gain job experience.


US states forecast highest tax revenue in 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ States expect to collect higher tax revenue in the coming budget year that combined would top pre-recession levels, according to a survey released Tuesday. The increase could reduce pressure on states to cut budgets and lay off workers.

A slowly healing job market and modest growth have boosted sales and income taxes, which provide nearly three-quarters of state revenue. Overall corporate income taxes are also growing.

Still, many states continue to struggle with budget shortfalls. And some states, like California, are seeing greater revenue only after raising taxes to stem deficits.


Wal-Mart bribery probe includes 5 countries

NEW YORK (AP) _ Lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have identified Brazil, India, China and South Africa along with Mexico as areas having the biggest risk for corruption, according to a letter from two congressmen who are doing their own investigation into the allegations of bribery in its Mexico operations.

The letter, dated Monday, shed light on a May 21 briefing with outside lawyers from Wal-Mart, who said they had been retained to do a global anti-corruption compliance review of its operations in 2011.

The attorneys from the law firms Greenberg Traurig and Kind Gump said the review focused on Brazil, China and Mexico because they represent the highest corruption risk. Based on the review, they recommended that Wal-Mart also evaluate its operations in India and South Africa.


Burger King bets on bacon sundae for summertime

NEW YORK (AP) _ Burger King wants to lure customers this summer with a barbecue party _ and a bacon sundae.

The world's second biggest hamburger chain on Thursday is launching several pork, beef and chicken sandwiches as limited time offers. And for a sweet ending, the company is also offering a bacon sundae _ vanilla soft serve with fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles and a piece of bacon _ that started in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this year.

The salty-sweet dessert weighs in at 510 calories, 18 grams of fat and 61 grams of sugar.

The limited-time items are Burger King's latest push to win back customers with a revived menu and to reverse sliding market share, an effort that started soon after the company was taken private by 3G Capital in late 2010.


ING pays $619 million to settle sanctions evasion case

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Dutch bank ING Bank NV will pay $619 million to settle charges that it secretly moved billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Cuban and Iranian customers, in violation of U.S. sanctions.

ING intentionally deleted information about thousands of transactions that would have linked the money to sanctioned parties in Cuba, Iran and other countries, the Treasury Department said Tuesday.

The fine, a record for U.S. sanctions violations, defuses multiple criminal and civil probes of ING's practices between 2002 and 2007. It includes agreements that shield ING from further action by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Manhattan District Attorney's office, ING said. All were investigating ING's practices. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control had a parallel probe.


Spain borrowing cost crisis: Rate at euro-era high

MADRID (AP) _ Spain's benchmark borrowing rate hit its highest level Tuesday since the country adopted the euro currency, after ratings agency Fitch downgraded 18 banks and investors continued to find more questions than answers about the country's decision to seek help for its ailing banking sector by tapping a (EURO)100 billion ($125 billion) eurozone bailout fund.

The yield on Spain's 10-year bond yield rose as high as 6.81 percent, according to FactSet. The rate, seen as a measure of a nation's financial health, fell back to 6.67 when markets closed. That's the same level as Spain's previous record _ set on May 30 as the country's economic woes multiplied. This brings Spain's borrowing costs dangerously close to 7 percent _ the level at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal sought international bailouts.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 162.57 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 12,573.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 15.25 points to 1,324.18, and the Nasdaq composite rose 33.34 to 2,843.07.

U.S. crude oil rose 62 cents to finish at $83.32 per barrel Tuesday in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 86 cents to $97.14 per barrel.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 1.42 cents to end at $2.6215 per gallon, gasoline dropped 0.64 cent to $2.6502 per gallon and natural gas rose 1.4 cents to $2.232 per 1,000 cubic feet.