Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2012 5:57 PM


Storm delays lift already strong US auto sales

DETROIT (AP) — Superstorm Sandy gave an extra boost to already strong U.S. auto sales last month, although carmakers warned that uncertainty over the "fiscal cliff" could undo some of those gains.

Most major companies, from Toyota to Chrysler, posted impressive increases from a year earlier. Only General Motors was left struggling to explain its 3-percent sales gain and large inventory of unsold trucks.

The storm added 20,000 to 30,000 sales industry wide in November, mostly from people who planned to buy cars during the October storm but had to delay their purchases, Ford estimated. People who need to replace storm-damaged vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles will eventually need to be replaced.


News Corp.'s new media co. to be named Fox Group

NEW YORK (AP) — News Corp. said Monday that its new publishing company will keep the News Corp. name, while its separate media and entertainment company will be renamed Fox Group.

The conglomerate announced plans this summer to split into two public companies, one for its newspaper and book publishing business and the other for its fast-growing movie and TV operations. Rupert Murdoch will serve as chairman of the new News Corp. and chairman and CEO of Fox Group.

The new News Corp. will control newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and New York Post as well as Dow Jones Newswires. Fox Group will include 20th Century Fox film and television studios and the Fox TV channels among other properties.


Europe takes on tech giants and their tax havens

PARIS (AP) — A storm is brewing in Europe as nations try to force Internet powerhouses like Google and Amazon to pay more taxes.

Governments, hungry for money to prop up their struggling economies, are accusing the technology giants of incorporating themselves in low-tax countries so they can avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars to countries such as Germany, Britain and France — where most of their European income is derived.

In Britain on Monday, a lawmaker pushing to tighten laws said the multinationals' ability to escape corporate taxes "is outrageous and an insult to British businesses and individuals who pay their fair share."


Pope joins tweeting masses with Pontifex handle

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology, is now trying brevity — spreading the faith through his own Twitter account.

The pontiff will tweet in eight languages starting Dec. 12 using his personal handle (at)Pontifex, responding live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience, the Vatican said Monday.

Within six hours of the Vatican's announcement, Benedict had already garnered nearly 150,000 followers on the English version alone, with thousands more following him in the eight other language accounts.


US manufacturing shrinks in November to 3-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing shrank in November to its weakest level since July 2009, one month after the Great Recession ended. Worries about automatic tax increases next year cut demand for factory orders and manufacturing jobs.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of manufacturing conditions fell to a reading of 49.5, down from 51.7 in October.

Readings above 50 signal growth, while readings below indicate contraction. Manufacturing grew in October for only the second time since May. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.


US builders boost spending 1.4 percent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders increased their spending on construction projects in October by the largest amount in five months.

The Commerce Department said Monday that construction spending rose 1.4 percent in October. It was the largest gain since a 1.7 percent increase in May.

The increase raised spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $872.1 billion. That's nearly 17 percent higher than a 12-year low hit in February 2011.


Delta Air eyes bigger slice of NY-London travel

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The skies between London and New York are full of business travelers, and Delta Air Lines wants more of them.

Delta is looking into buying a big stake in Virgin Atlantic, the second-biggest airline at London's Heathrow airport. New York-to-London is one of the world's most important travel routes, and Delta currently flies fewer flights to Heathrow than its main U.S. competitors, American and United.

On Monday, Singapore Airlines said it is in discussions with "interested parties" to sell its 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic. A person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that Delta is in talks with Singapore Airlines about buying the Virgin Atlantic stake. The person requested anonymity because the talks are ongoing. The Singapore Airlines statement said the talks may or may not result in a deal.


Archer Daniels Midland raises offer for GrainCorp

NEW YORK (AP) — Agribusiness conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland Co. is increasing its buyout offer for GrainCorp by almost 4 percent and disclosed it has already added to its stake in the Australian grain handler.

Under the revised bid disclosed Monday, it would cost ADM about $2.33 billion to buy the rest of the Australian company.

ADM said that it owns 19.9 percent of GrainCorp Ltd., up from 14.9 percent when it made its first bid in October.


Saputo to buy US diary supplier Morningstar

MONTREAL (AP) — Canadian cheesemaker Saputo Inc. is bolstering its position in the U.S. by pursuing the largest acquisition in its history, a $1.45 billion deal to buy Morningstar Foods.

Montreal-based Saputo said Monday that it is expanding its U.S. operations by adding dairy and non-dairy products to its current operations as a cheese manufacturer, distributor and exporter. The move effectively replicates the breadth of its operations in Canada, creating a U.S. division of comparable size.

Morningstar has about 2,000 employees and 10 manufacturing plants in the U.S.


Pfizer laying off some US sales representatives

NEW YORK (AP) — Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. is starting another round of layoffs, targeting U.S. sales representatives who promote Pfizer primary care medicines to doctors.

New York-based Pfizer isn't giving details on how many salespeople it employs, how many will leave or when that will happen. Individual salespeople haven't been notified whether they'll be furloughed.

A Pfizer spokesman confirmed changes are coming but says details about the sales force are proprietary.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59.98 points to close at 12,965.60. The Standard and Poor's 500 dropped 6.72 points to 1,409.46. The Nasdaq composite was down 8.04 points to 3,002.20

Benchmark oil closed up 18 cents at $89.09 per barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 31 cents to $110.92 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Heating oil fell less than a penny to end at $3.056 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3 cents to $3.59 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline lost less than a penny to close at $2.727 a gallon.