Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2012 5:45 PM
Business Highlights

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US economic recovery is weakest since World War II

WASHINGTON (AP) — The recession that ended three years ago this summer has been followed by the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

Since World War II, 10 U.S. recessions have been followed by a recovery that lasted at least three years. An Associated Press analysis shows that by just about any measure, the one that began in June 2009 is the weakest.

The ugliness goes well beyond unemployment, which at 8.3 percent is the highest this long after a recession ended.

Economic growth has never been weaker in a postwar recovery. Consumer spending has never been so slack. Only once has job growth been slower.

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US factories, builders lift struggling economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy looked more resilient Wednesday after reports showed factories produced more goods in July and homebuilders grew more confident in the housing recovery.

At the same time, consumer prices stayed flat last month. Low inflation could boost consumers spending and lift growth in the second half of the year.

Economists approached the mostly positive data with some caution. The economy remains weak after a sluggish spring. And a severe drought in the Midwest could send food prices surging later this year and crimp consumer spending.

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Target raises profit outlook on solid 2Q sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Target Corp. raised its full-year profit projection Wednesday after the cheap-chic discounter reported better-than-expected second-quarter revenue that showed healthy spending in food, beauty, fashion and other items.

Target, based in Minneapolis, also issued a profit outlook for the current quarter well above analysts' expectations and cited a "positive" start to the back-to-school shopping season. The company's stock hit its highest point since 2007.

Target's rosier picture joins a number of other major retailers, including Macy's Inc., TJX Cos., and Home Depot, that have boosted outlooks as they feel more confident in shoppers' spending in the second half of the year. They're also becoming better at luring shoppers with special deals and other attractions.

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The other Paul Ryan plan: $800 billion in Medicaid cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's another Paul Ryan plan for health care, a fundamental change in caring for the poor and disabled that would affect many more people than the Medicare overhaul for which the GOP vice presidential candidate is best known.

Under the Wisconsin congressman's Medicaid plan, states would take over the program. At the same time, Ryan's budget would reduce projected federal spending on Medicaid by about $800 billion over 10 years, dramatically shrinking it as a share of the national economy.

Medicaid serves about 60 million people, roughly 10 million more than Medicare. It's a diverse population brought together by need. Most Medicaid recipients are low-income children and their mothers, but the costliest cases are severely disabled people, many of them seniors in nursing homes.

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50 Shades of Grey marketing phenomenon goes mainstream

NEW YORK (AP) — You've bought rope for that special someone, picked up a few sex toys and read those "Fifty Shades of Grey" books a time or three. You know who you are.

Well, no need to skulk about at naughty shops or the hardware store as Fifty Shades of Consumption makes it further into the mainstream.

Stuart Weitzman and Marc New York have Grey-struck campaigns in the fat September issues of fashion magazines, the former touting black stilettos and high, Anastasia Steele-worthy boots called "Fifty Fifty," named not for the blockbuster bondage books but equal parts leather and stretch.

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US homebuilder confidence at 5-year-high in August

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. homebuilders grew more confident in the housing recovery in August, as many reported that prospects for sales are the best they've been since the home bubble burst five years ago.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday rose two points this month from July, to 37. That's the highest reading since March 2007.

The index, which is based on responses from 478 builders, has been trending higher since October and only dipped once since January. That suggests a turnaround in housing is solidifying after years of stagnation.

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Cisco's 4Q earnings rise 56 pct., raises dividend

NEW YORK (AP) — Cisco Systems Inc. said Wednesday that earnings jumped 56 percent in the latest quarter compared with last year, when it was in the midst of a restructuring program.

The results beat expectations, and Cisco rewarded investors by raising its dividend by 75 percent. The new quarterly dividend of 14 cents per share represents an annual yield of 3.2 percent of Cisco's stock price, a relatively high yield for a technology company.

Cisco earned $1.9 billion, or 36 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter, from May to July. That compares with income of $1.2 billion, or 22 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

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Deere earnings hit by slowing economic growth

NEW YORK (AP) — The effects of a slowing global economy caught up to Deere & Co. in its fiscal third quarter, as its net income rose 11 percent but fell well short of Wall Street's expectations.

Deere also cut its revenue prediction for the year, and investors reacted strongly. Shares dropped more than 6 percent for their biggest daily decline in a year.

Delays in production lines also hurt the world's largest producer of agricultural equipment. Ongoing drought in the Midwest had a minimal impact, executives said in a conference call with analysts.

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Retailers to launch mobile app for payments

NEW YORK (AP) — A bevy of big-name retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best-Buy Co. and Target Corp., are teaming up to create a company that will give customers another way to make purchases with their cellphones.

The businesses said Wednesday that the new company, Merchant Customer Exchange, is developing a mobile application that will be available for nearly any smartphone. The app is expected to integrate a variety of coupons, rebates and loyalty programs.

With the announcement, retailers are entering an already crowded arena where different industry groups are jockeying for position on the smartphone screen, which everyone expects will be the new way to pay.

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J&J removing harsh chemicals from products by 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson plans to remove trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products worldwide within 3 1/2 years.

The health care giant late last year pledged to remove "chemicals of concern" from its baby products sold around the world. That change came after a large coalition of health and environmental groups began pressing J&J more than three years ago to make its personal care products safer.

The company told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that it remains on track to have baby products, including its Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo, reformulated with safer ingredients by the end of 2013. Adult products will be reformulated by the end of 2015.

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Netflix to expand service to 4 Nordic countries

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix's Internet video service will debut in four Nordic countries before the end of the year, the latest step in an international expansion that has been affecting the company's financial results and stock price.

Wednesday's announcement that Netflix is coming to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland answers a question left hanging since April, when the company said it would enter another European market, without saying where.

The new market includes the setting for one of Netflix's original online video series, "Lillyhammer," which revolves around a New York mobster who moves to Norway.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed with a loss of 7.36 points at 13,164.78. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 1.60 points at 1,405.53 and the Nasdaq composite rose 13.95 points to 3,030.93.

Benchmark oil rose 90 cents to finish at $94.33 per barrel Wednesday in New York, its highest level since mid-May. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, gained $2.22 to end at $116.25 per barrel in London.

Heating oil rose 5.06 cents to end at $3.0852 per gallon. Gasoline increased 8.26 cents to finish $3.084 per gallon. Natural gas fell 8.6 cents, or 3 percent, to end at $2.748 per 1,000 cubic feet.