Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 6:19 PM

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Martha Stewart Living acquired for $353 million

NEW YORK (AP) — Martha Stewart single-handedly changed the game for home decorating and cooking in the late 1990s, becoming the "it" designer for all things domestic.

But the announcement on Monday of an acquisition of her media and merchandising empire in a deal that values the company at far less than in it was worth in its glory days shows how much her brand has eroded over the years.

Martha Stewart's is being sold to Sequential Brands Group, which owns and licenses such brands as Ellen Tracy and Jessica Simpson, in a deal valued at $353 million. That's a fraction of the $1.8 billion valuation when the company went public in 1999.

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Here's why home sales are finally surging

WASHINGTON (AP) — Real estate has gotten hot again.

Home sales are on pace for their best year since 2007. First-time buyers are streaming back into the market. Prices are skyrocketing, aided by a stronger job market and tantalizingly low mortgage rates that are creating pressure for buyers to act fast.

The resurgence is a sign that the U.S. economy — after muddling through a sluggish, six-year recovery — has re-discovered another source of growth. Buyers are more confident about their own prospects. But many also appear ready to close sales quickly because of concerns of being potentially priced out of the market by rising mortgage rates and home values.

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Anthem reaffirms commitment to its $47-billion bid for Cigna

Anthem sees its more than $47 billion bid to buy rival Cigna as a way to muscle up on technology that helps consumers and to strengthen its rapidly growing Medicare Advantage business.

Leaders of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer reaffirmed on Monday their commitment to getting a deal done a day after Cigna shot down the idea in a letter delivered to Anthem's board.

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Europe cautiously optimistic of Greek debt deal this week

BRUSSELS (AP) — Greece has finally offered economic reforms that creditors consider potentially acceptable, giving Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras a couple days to turn a spirit of goodwill into a deal that might keep the country from a painful exit from the euro currency.

Even though a firm deal to get Greece more loans remained elusive Monday, leaders from the 19 euro nations and the International Monetary Fund said Tsipras' new reforms plan offered the basis to break a four-month deadlock in talks.

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Vibrating, rollicking 4-D seats in theaters growing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mike Koenig sat back in his seat for a recent screening of "Mad Max: Fury Road." But this was no ordinary theater chair.

As the theater darkened and death machines rumbled across the desert on screen, Koenig's chair rumbled with them. As bullets whizzed by Furiosa, the movie's heroine played by Charlize Theron, puffs of air shot out of Koenig's headrest. Wall-mounted fans in the theater gusted desert winds and fog machines pumped smoke from the mayhem.

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Bernanke: Dump Jackson, not Hamilton, on US currency

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Federal Reserve chief-turned blogger Ben Bernanke is calling for the U.S. Treasury to abandon plans to drop Alexander Hamilton from his featured spot on the $10 bill and to dump Andrew Jackson from the $20 instead.

Bernanke wrote Monday that he is "appalled" by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's plans to replace Hamilton with a woman. In a post entitled "Say it ain't so, Jack," Bernanke wrote that adding a woman is "a fine idea, but it shouldn't come at Hamilton's expense."

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Airline checked bag, reservation change fees set 1Q record

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. airlines continue to collect record fees from passengers who check suitcases or make changes to their reservations. In the first three months of this year, airlines took in $1.6 billion in such fees, up 7.4 percent from the same period last year.

That's the highest amount for the first quarter since bag fees started in 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. January through March is traditionally the slowest period for air travel.

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Governors' trade missions have uneven record of success

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governors across the country have been packing their bags for all-expenses-paid trade missions abroad, spending taxpayer dollars on costly trips that have an uneven track record of yielding any tangible benefits for their states.

Last week alone, governors of 10 states were jetting across Europe, many converging at an air show in Paris. Others traveled to Canada, South America and Asia. At the beginning of last week, more than a quarter of the nation's governors were out of the country.

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Williams rejects ETE bid, considers possible sale of company

DALLAS (AP) — The Williams Cos. rejected a $48 billion buyout offer from Energy Transfer Equity, but said that it may still put the natural-gas pipeline company up for sale. Its stock jumped 26 percent to close at $60.86.

Williams said ETE's bid significantly undervalues the business, but that it was exploring other strategic options.

ETE confirmed Monday that it had offered $64 per share, a 32 percent premium to Williams' closing price Friday. It put the deal's total value at $53.1 billion, including debt and other liabilities.

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Lone Star Funds buying Home Properties for about $4.36B

NEW YORK (AP) — Private equity firm Lone Star Funds is taking Home Properties private for approximately $4.36 billion.

Dallas' Lone Star will pay $75.23 per Home Properties share, a 3 percent premium to the real estate investment trust's Friday closing price of $72.73.

The companies put the total value of the deal at about $7.6 billion including debt.

Home Properties, based in Rochester, New York, may seek third-party proposals over the next 30 days.

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General Mills to drop artificial ingredients in cereal

NEW YORK (AP) — General Mills is dropping artificial colors and flavors from its cereals, the latest company to respond to a growing desire for food made with ingredients people see as natural.

The company said Monday that Trix and Reese's Puffs will be among the first cereals to undergo the changes. As a result, the reformulated Trix cereal later this year will be made with four colors instead of six, said Kate Gallager, cereal developer for General Mills.

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Doctors propose tool to help gauge the value of cancer drugs

The pushback against soaring cancer drug prices is gaining steam. A leading doctors group on Monday proposed a formula to help patients decide if a medicine is worth it — what it will cost them and how much good it is likely to do.

The move by the American Society of Clinical Oncology is the third recent effort to focus on value in cancer care. Two weeks ago, the European Society for Medical Oncology proposed a similar guide. Last week, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York posted an online tool suggesting a drug's fair price, based on benefits and side effects.

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Instagram users in N. Korea warned site put on blacklist

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Warnings are appearing on Instagram accounts in North Korea that say access to the popular photo-sharing app is being denied and that the site is blacklisted for harmful content.

Opening the app with mobile devices on the North Korean carrier Koryolink has resulted in a notification in English saying: "Warning! You can't connect to this website because it's in blacklist site." A similar notice in Korean says the site contains harmful content, though that is not mentioned in the English version.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average added 103.83 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,119.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 12.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,122.85. The Nasdaq rose 36.97 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,153.97.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 7 cents to close at $59.68 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 32 cents to close at $63.34 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.9 cents to close at $2.030 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.2 cents to close at $1.869 a gallon. Natural gas fell 8.3 cents to close at $2.733 per 1,000 cubic feet.