Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 6:07 PM

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NFL players find second careers as entrepreneurs

NEW YORK (AP) — Many pro football players would like to start their own businesses after they leave the field, and now they can seek help from programs specifically designed to help retired athletes navigate the obstacles of entrepreneurship.

For some, building a business is a lifestyle choice. They want to keep working.

Others need to earn a living. Although the minimum NFL salary this year is $420,000, many players don't make the big money for very long.

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European Central Bank stimulus faces hurdles compared to Fed

Markets are waiting to see just how much financial firepower the European Central Bank will unleash Thursday, when it is expected to announce large-scale purchases of government bonds with newly printed money to stimulate a sluggish economy.

The decision to use bond purchases, or so-called quantitative easing, follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Federal Reserve — as well as the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.

Europe could definitely use a push, with weak growth is weak, high unemployment and fears of deflation,

Bond purchases would fight that by pumping new money into the economy, raising inflation and making credit cheaper and easier to get. The euro would fall, boosting exports.

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Low gas prices, incentives change math for electric cars

DETROIT (AP) — Drivers trying to calculate whether it's practical to own an electric car are facing a new math.

U.S. gas prices have fallen more than $1 per gallon over the last 12 months, to a national average of $2.06, according to AAA. That makes electric cars — with their higher prices tags — a tougher sell.

Automakers have responded by slashing thousands of dollars off the sticker price of electrics. That's likely to continue.

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New govt standards target pathogens in poultry products

WASHINGTON (AP) — A favorite staple of American diets — chicken — could become safer to eat.

Standards proposed Wednesday by the Agriculture Department aim to reduce rates of salmonella and campylobacter, another pathogen that can cause symptoms similar to salmonella, in chicken parts, ground chicken and ground turkey.

The standards would be voluntary but designed to pressure companies to take steps to reduce contamination.

USDA says the proposed standards could reduce raw poultry-related foodborne illnesses by about a quarter, or 50,000 illnesses a year.

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S&P settles with SEC, 2 states over misconduct charges

NEW YORK (AP) — Standard & Poor's agreed on Wednesday to pay the U.S. government and two states more than $77 million to settle charges tied to its ratings of mortgage-backed securities.

In its first enforcement action against a major rating agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused S&P of fraudulent misconduct, saying the company loosened standards to drum up business in recent years.

S&P said in a statement that it did not admit or deny any of the charges.

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US home construction up 4.4 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new homes rebounded in December, helping to push activity for the entire year to the highest level since the peak of the housing boom nine years ago.

Builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million in December, an increase of 4.4 percent from November when unusually severe weather pushed activity down 4.5 percent, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

For all of 2014, builders started construction on 1.01 million new homes and apartments, an increase of 8.8 percent from 2013.

It was the first time construction has topped 1 million since the height of the housing boom in 2005.

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American Express to cut more than 4,000 jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — American Express is planning to cut more than 4,000 jobs across the company this year, a company spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

The job cuts would represent about 6 percent of American Express' total headcount. An American Express spokeswoman said Wednesday the cuts will span U.S. and international operations

Meanwhile, American Express announced an 11 percent rise in quarterly profit from a year ago.

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EBay to cut 2,400 jobs, spin off or sell enterprise unit

NEW YORK (AP) — EBay plans to cut 2,400 jobs, or 7 percent of its staff, in the first quarter to simplify its structure and boost profit ahead of a planned separation of its business.

The e-commerce company on Wednesday also reported that its fourth-quarter net income rose 10 percent on continued strength of its PayPal payments business, which it expects to spin off in the second half of the year.

The San Jose, California-based company also announced plans Wednesday to spin off or sell its enterprise unit, which develops online shopping sites for brick-and-mortar retailers.

EBay has been under pressure to improve profitability from its largest activist investor, Carl Icahn. On Wednesday eBay said it agreed to name an executive from Icahn's investment firm, Jonathan Christodoro, to its board.

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UnitedHealth earnings rise 6 pct, top Wall St. expectations

UnitedHealth topped Wall Street expectations for the fourth quarter, and the nation's largest health insurer brought an optimistic vibe for the new year.

The Minneapolis-based insurer said Wednesday that it expects stronger enrollment growth from Medicare Advantage plans, a key product that had been pinched by funding cuts in recent years.

It also has already gained more than 400,000 customers through its expanded presence on the health care overhaul's public insurance exchanges, and operating earnings from its Optum segment, which runs several businesses outside health insurance, climbed more than 50 percent.

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Toyota remains top in global vehicle sales, beats VW, GM

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota stayed at the top in global vehicle sales in 2014, taking that auto industry crown for the third year straight, but was less upbeat about this year.

The Japanese automaker sold 10.23 million vehicles, beating out Volkswagen and General Motors. But it expects to sell fewer trucks and cars this year, forecasting sales will fall 1 percent to 10.15 million vehicles, according to numbers released Wednesday.

The drop is largely due to a projected 9 percent plunge in Japan sales. Toyota expects overseas sales to grow 2 percent this year to more than 8 million vehicles.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 39.05 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,554.28. The S&P 500 rose 9.57 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 2,032.12. The Nasdaq gained 12.58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,667.42.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.31 to close at $47.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.04 to close at $49.03 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.3 cents to close at $1.326 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to close at $1.646 a gallon. Natural gas rose 14.3 cents to close at $2.974 per 1,000 cubic feet.