Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 6:04 PM

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Good news for some of us: Other people are quitting jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Quitting your job — all but unheard of during and after the Great Recession — is becoming more common again. That could mean pay raises are coming for more Americans.

The trend has already emerged in the restaurant and retail industries, where quits and pay are rising faster than in the overall economy. Workers in those industries appear to be taking advantage of rising consumer demand to seek better pay elsewhere.

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Soy sauce makes 'miracle' comeback in tsunami-wrecked Japan

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (AP) — When the tsunami warning sounded, workers at the two-centuries-old soy sauce maker in northeastern Japan ran up a nearby hill to a shrine for safety, and watched in disbelief as towering waters swallowed their factory.

They all believed the business, started in 1807, and its precious fungal cultures that give soy sauce its unique taste were lost forever. Everyone except for Michihiro Kono, the ninth-generation son of the founding family.

Four years later, Yagisawa Shoten Co. has been saved through Kono's conviction, crowd-funding and the unexpected survival of its vital ingredient.

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Early Look: How does Apple Watch stack up vs rival watches?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple made a strong case for how you can use its upcoming Apple Watch, and the device stacks up well against the competition.

If you've waited for the Apple Watch to decide on a smartwatch, here are some things to consider in weighing whether you really need one. You'll need an iPhone 5 or newer, while the rival watches will typically work only with Android. Apple Watch is among the most expensive on the market, and it doesn't have its own cellular connection.

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Apple's Tim Cook cites record sales and 'unbelievable' year

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook took a figurative victory lap at his company's annual shareholder meeting, one day after he announced details about the new smartwatch Apple plans to start selling next month.

A year ago, some investors were voicing frustration over Apple's lagging stock and activist Carl Icahn was pressing Cook to return more cash to shareholders. But no complaints were heard Tuesday. Apple shares are up 65 percent from a year ago, the company has a market value of more than $700 billion — making it the most valuable U.S. company in history — and it will soon bump AT&T to join the benchmark Dow Jones industrial average.

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Q&A: A look at solar plane attempting round-the-world trip

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Swiss pioneers are attempting to fly around the world in a solar-powered airplane without a drop of fossil fuel.

Described by its creators as "an airborne laboratory," the single-seat Solar Impulse 2 has 17,248 ultra-efficient solar cells that transfer solar energy to four electrical motors that power the plane's propellers. The plane's ideal flight speed is about 25 knots, or 45 kph (28 mph), though that can double during the day when sun's rays are strongest.

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US wholesale stockpiles increase, sales sink in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles by a modest amount in January as sales plunged by the largest amount in six years.

Stockpiles held by wholesale businesses rose 0.3 percent in January after no change in December and a 0.8 percent November increase, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Sales dropped 3.1 percent in January following a 0.9 percent December decline. The January decline was the largest setback since sales fell 3.6 percent in March 2009 when the country was mired in the Great Recession. January marked the fourth consecutive month that sales have fallen.

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Spate of derailments deepens fear of oil train disaster

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four trains hauling crude oil have derailed in the U.S. and Canada since mid-February, rupturing tank cars, spilling their contents, polluting waterways and igniting spectacular fires that burned for days.

The number of accidents overall is going up because the oil boom in the U.S. and Canada has dramatically increased the amount of oil shipped by rail.

The derailments have deepened safety concerns that if an oil-train accident were to occur in a populated area, the results could be disastrous.

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Duke Energy to pay $146M to settle lawsuit over CEO ouster

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — America's largest electric company said Tuesday that it will pay nearly $150 million to settle claims that shareholders lost millions when it ousted its CEO hours in a surprise move after a long-anticipated buyout.

Duke Energy said its insurers and shareholders would pay $146 million — an "off the charts," number for such a settlement, according to one expert — to end the lawsuit filed after the company's July 2012 buyout of Raleigh-based Progress Energy Inc.

Duke set aside $26 million for the amount not covered by insurance and said consumers would not pay the cost.

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Credit Suisse shares surge as bank switches CEOs

BERLIN (AP) — Shares in Credit Suisse surged after the Swiss bank sought to turn the page on a period of scandals and fines by replacing its CEO, Brady W. Dougan, with the head of British insurer Prudential, Tidjane Thiam.

Dougan will step down at the end of June to give way to Thiam, who helped Prudential expand into emerging markets in recent years.

Credit Suisse shares were up 8.2 percent on the news, trading at 25.11 francs per share in late day trading in Zurich.

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Target lays off 1,700, won't fill another 1,400 vacancies

Target Corp. said Tuesday that it is laying off 1,700 workers and eliminating another 1,400 unfilled positions as part of a restructuring aimed at saving $2 billion over the next two years.

The news put a number on planned layoffs first announced last week as several thousand. The company said the cuts would fall primarily on headquarters locations in Minneapolis. The layoffs would amount to about 12½ percent of the 13,500 workers there.

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China's auto sales growth decelerates in February

BEIJING (AP) — China's auto sales growth decelerated in February despite a near doubling in purchases of Chinese-made SUVs, an industry group reported Tuesday.

Sales in world's biggest auto market rose 6.4 percent to 1.4 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That was down from January's 10.3 percent expansion.

Demand for autos has weakened as China's economic growth cooled to a two-decade low last year of 7.4 percent. February sales also were depressed by the Lunar New Year holiday, when many businesses close for up to two weeks.

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New Zealand investigating threat to poison baby formula

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An anonymous blackmailer threatened to poison infant formula in New Zealand to protest the country's use of poisonous baits for pest control, and sent dairy giant Fonterra packets of milk powder laced with pesticide, police said Tuesday.

Prime Minister John Key said the threat was likely a hoax, and assured parents that formula was safe for babies to drink. But the announcement prompted fears of a backlash against the country's economically crucial dairy industry.

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Report: Specialty drugs drive prescription spending jump

Prescription drugs spending jumped 13 percent last year, the biggest annual increase since 2003, according to the nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager.

Express Scripts Holding Co. said Tuesday that the jump was fueled in part by pricey specialty drugs that accounted for more than 31 cents of every dollar spent on prescriptions even though they represented only 1 percent of all U.S. prescriptions filled.

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Obama calls for more rights for struggling student borrowers

ATLANTA (AP) — Issuing a clarion call to Americans saddled by student debt, President Barack Obama urged student borrowers Tuesday to stand up for their rights, and announced a medley of modest steps to bring some order to a notoriously chaotic system.

Obama unveiled his "student aid bill of rights" before a gymnasium packed with nearly 10,000 students at Georgia Tech, where he said the nation must mobilize to bring about deeper changes to student loans. Not only should every American be able to afford college, Obama said, they also should be able to afford the loan payments that kick in with a vengeance once they graduate.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average sank 332.78 points, or 1.9 percent, to 17,662.94. The S&P 500 fell 35.27 points, or 1.7 percent, to end at 2,044.16. The Nasdaq composite lost 82.64 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,859.79.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.71 to close at $48.29 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.14 to close at $56.39 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 5.7 cents to close at $1.818 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.6 cents to close at $1.814 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.4 cents to close at $2.732 per 1,000 cubic feet.