Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Jul 10, 2012 7:01 PM
Business Highlights


AP IMPACT: Building costs rise at US nuclear sites

ATLANTA (AP) — America's first new nuclear plants in more than a decade are costing billions more to build and sometimes taking longer to deliver than planned, problems that could chill the industry's hopes for a jumpstart to the nation's new nuclear age.

Licensing delay charges, soaring construction expenses and installation glitches as mundane as misshapen metal bars have driven up the costs of three plants in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, from hundreds of millions to as much as $2 billion, according to an Associated Press analysis of public records and regulatory filings.

Those problems, along with jangled nerves from last year's meltdown in Japan and the lure of cheap natural gas, could discourage utilities from sinking cash into new reactors, experts said. The building slowdown would be another blow to the so-called nuclear renaissance, a drive over the past decade to build 30 new reactors to meet the country's growing power needs. Industry watchers now say that only a handful will be built this decade.


AMR CEO says it's time to weigh merger options

DALLAS (AP) — The head of American Airlines says it's time to reach out to potential merger partners or investors, seven months into a bankruptcy restructuring

CEO Thomas Horton said that American has improved its revenue, made progress on cost-cutting labor deals, and is well on its way to a successful restructuring.

One potential partner, US Airways, has been pushing hard for a merger with American almost since the day that American and its parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in November. But Horton has taken a slower approach, saying he preferred to wait until after AMR cut costs and emerged from bankruptcy protection.


Chief of troubled brokerage left suicide note

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief of an Iowa-based brokerage firm that has been unable to account for $220 million in customer money was found in his car at company headquarters, with a tube connecting the vehicle's tailpipe to the interior, authorities said Tuesday.

Employees of Peregrine Financial Group discovered Russell Wasendorf Sr. in the vehicle Monday, along with a suicide note that prompted investigators to notify the FBI, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said.

The sheriff declined to discuss the contents of the note, except to say it was "a form of documentation that caused alarm, at least concern for us to get federal authorities involved."

The condition of Wasendorf, Peregrine's founder and chairman, was unclear. The local hospital declined to say whether he had been treated there.


EU extends Spain's deficit timeline by 1 year

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union worked towards stabilizing Spain's finances Tuesday as it backed up the blueprint for the country's €100 billion ($122.5 billion) bank bailout with plans to grant the country an extra year to cut its budget deficit.

Finance ministers from the 27 EU countries, meeting in Brussels, approved extending until 2014 Spain's deadline for achieving a budget deficit of less than 3 percent of its annual economic output, said Vassos Shiarly, Cyprus' finance minister and chair of the meeting. The size of Spain's economy in 2011 is estimated to have been $1.5 trillion.

The move comes on the heels of an overnight meeting at which the 17 euro area finance ministers agreed on the terms of a bailout for Spain's troubled banks, saying that the first €30 billion in aid can be ready by the end of this month.


US job openings rose in May, good sign for hiring

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in May than April, a hopeful sign after three months of weak hiring.

Job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.6 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That's up from 3.4 million in April. It's also the second-highest level in nearly four years, just behind March's 3.7 million.

A rise in openings could mean hiring will pick up in the coming months. It typically takes one to three months to fill a job.


Fitch Ratings keeps US at top 'AAA' credit rating

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fitch Ratings kept its top 'AAA' credit rating on the U.S., but it also left the outlook negative, citing the failure of Congress and the Obama administration to get an agreement on reducing the budget deficit.

Fitch says that uncertainty over federal tax and spending policies related to the so-called fiscal cliff "weighs on the near-term economic outlook" and raises the prospect of another recession.

A massive budget showdown could begin after the elections in November and stretch well into next year, despite the threat of the fiscal cliff — $500 billion in impending tax increases and spending cuts.


European fiscal crisis drags down business travel

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. companies are scaling back their travel plans in response to Europe's financial crisis and uncertainty about the economy at home.

American business travelers are expected to take 437.9 million trips this year, the Global Business Travel Association said Tuesday. That's down 1.2 percent from an estimate made in April by the travel and meetings trade group.

The outlook for next year is even worse, with the trade group lowering its forecast to 435 million trips, down 1.9 percent from April's estimate.


Boeing lands more airshow deals

FARNBOROUGH, England (AP) — Boeing Co. and rival Airbus were caught in a fierce dogfight for orders at the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday, with both aircraft manufacturers unveiling multi-billion deals — crucial at a time of global economic unease.

Boeing was a big winner for the second day as it touted two more big orders worth a little more than $11 billion for its remodeled short-haul 737 aircraft, but the deals are not yet firm and could unravel. Meanwhile, European manufacturer Airbus unveiled its first firm multibillion dollar order at this year's airshow.

Boeing said GE Capital Aviation Services, the commercial aircraft leasing and financing arm of General Electric, has committed to buy 75 of the 737 MAX 8s and 25 Next-Generation 737-800s. The deal is valued at around $9.2 billion at list prices but customers rarely pay the full amount. Further discussions are needed and hurdles must be cleared before the deal is finalized.


Penney lays off 350 workers at Texas headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. workers are feeling more pain as the department store chain struggles with a transformation.

More than five months into big changes under its new CEO, Penney announced Tuesday that it's laying off another round of workers at its headquarters in Plano, Texas. The 350 workers being cut were primarily in finance, technology, product development and sourcing, according to company spokeswoman Kate Coultas.

The latest layoffs mean Penney has slashed its headquarters workforce nearly 30 percent, to 3,100 employees, since spring.


RIM seeks patience until BlackBerry 10 ready

TORONTO (AP) — The CEO of embattled BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. asked disgruntled investors for patience Tuesday as the company develops new devices to rival the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Thorsten Heins, who replaced longtime CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January, said the past year has been very difficult for RIM, as its once-pioneering BlackBerry devices lost market share to smartphones that do much more than handle email and phone calls.

RIM has been developing the BlackBerry 10 operating software to catch up with competitors and even surpass them, but the software has faced repeated delays. Devices running it will now miss the lucrative holiday shopping season. By the time they go on sale, RIM will have even more competition, including a new iPhone expected from Apple this fall.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 83.17 points to close at 12,653.12. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 lost 10.99 points to 1,341.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 1 percent to closed 29.43 points lower at 2,902.33.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell by $2.08, or 2.4 percent, to finish at $83.91 per barrel. Brent crude lost $2.35 to close at $97.97 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading heating oil futures fell 3 cents to finish at $2.72 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.25 cents to close at $2.75 a gallon. Natural gas lost 14 cents to finish at $2.737 per 1,000 cubic feet.