Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2015 5:53 PM

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Used cars often sold with unfixed defects, despite recalls

DETROIT (AP) — More than 46 million cars and trucks on the road in the U.S. — about one-fifth of the total — were recalled because of safety defects but never repaired, according to a study by Carfax, a company that sells vehicle history reports.

Some of those defects have the potential to cause a crash, injury, even death.

Last year, around 5 million of those cars were sold to new owners.

There is no legal requirement for dealers or individual sellers to get the repairs done before a used car is sold. They are not even obligated to tell buyers if a car is subject to a recall.

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US automakers improve in magazine's annual brand rankings

DETROIT (AP) — Buick is the first U.S.-based automotive brand to crack the top 10 in Consumer Reports magazine's annual brand report cards.

U.S. automakers also placed three vehicles on the magazine's list of "top picks" for vehicles, the first time that's happened in 17 years. The rankings were unveiled Tuesday in the magazine's annual auto issue.

Buick, made by General Motors, placed seventh in the brand rankings. But the brand rankings and top picks still were dominated by Japanese and German manufacturers, with Lexus, Mazda, Toyota, Audi and Subaru taking the top five brand spots.

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Yellen reiterates Fed's patience in raising rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Tuesday that the U.S. economy is making steady progress, but that for now the Fed will remain patient about raising interest rates because the job market is still healing and inflation is too low.

In her semiannual economic report to Congress, Yellen sought to explain how the Fed would begin raising rates from lows near zero and what it would do to prepare financial markets. Its continuing use of the word "patient" means a rate hike is unlikely for at least the next two meetings, she said.

But even when the Fed eventually drops the use of "patient," Yellen said that will not necessarily translate to an imminent rate increase. Rather, it will indicate that the Fed can start considering rate hikes on a "meeting-by-meeting basis."

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Greece clears key hurdle to extend bailout but doubts remain

BRUSSELS (AP) — Greece cleared a major hurdle Tuesday in its fight to remain solvent as its European creditors approved a 4-month extension to its financial bailout.

But the cash-strapped country must still convince its partners that it deserves help beyond the summer.

The country's creditors endorsed the extension after the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund provisionally backed a list of reforms proposed by Greece. They include measures to combat tax evasion and corruption.

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Oil slump threatens easy life of affluent Norwegians

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) —After a decade of an oil-and-gas boom, plunging energy prices are shaking Norwegians out of a utopian reverie that guaranteed workers lengthy summer vacations and generous health and social benefits.

Some of the helicopters that transport workers from the southwestern coastal city of Stavanger — the epicenter of the oil industry — to platforms on the North Sea have fallen silent. Already 10,000 workers have been laid off.

It's the start of what economists are predicting will be a long recession in the energy industry, which accounts for 15 percent of Norway's economy and 80 percent of the state's income.

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JPMorgan to close 5 percent of bank branches to cut costs

NEW YORK (AP) — JPMorgan Chase plans to close 300 bank branches over the next two years, about 5 percent of the total, as more customers move online and the bank seeks to cut costs.

The closures are part of a $1.4 billion cost-cutting plan the bank announced for this year. The latest developments were revealed during the bank's annual investor day conference Tuesday.

Online and mobile banking have become increasingly popular and that trend is expected to continue. The shift online has begun to make brick-and-mortar branches staffed full of tellers less necessary and, frankly, expensive.

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Trial begins in high-profile Silicon Valley sex bias case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawyer for a former junior partner suing a venture capital firm in a Silicon Valley sex bias suit contended Tuesday that his client was passed over for promotions because she was a woman and then fired after she complained.

In his opening trial statement, attorney Alan Exelrod described a male-dominated culture at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers — the defendant in the case that has sparked debate over the treatment of women in the high-tech and venture capitalist arenas.

Exelrod said his client, 45-year-old Ellen Pao, had received erotic poetry and sketches of nude women from a senior partner at the firm, and another male employee had interfered with her work when Pao broke off an affair with him.

The firm has denied wrongdoing and says Pao was a poor performer who didn't get along with her colleagues.

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Fewer homes for sale pushes up US house prices in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose in December at a faster pace than the previous month, likely because of a much smaller number of homes for sale.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, increased 4.5 percent in December compared with 12 months earlier. That is up from 4.3 percent in November and the same as October's annual increase. The small gain comes after price increases had slowed for 12 straight months.

Americans are listing fewer homes for sale, pushing up prices and keeping many houses out of reach for would-be buyers. Home prices are rising faster than most Americans' wages, slowing sales even as hiring strengthens, consumer confidence grows and mortgages stay low.

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US bank earnings drop 7.3 percent in 4Q

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. banks' earnings dropped 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier as a few big banks had increased costs to settle legal cases and the industry had declines in income from the mortgage business.

The data issued Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a reversal of the trend of rising earnings as the industry has recovered from the financial crisis.

The FDIC reported that U.S. banks earned $36.9 billion in the October-December period, down from $39.8 billion a year ago.

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Merck grants free license for pediatric HIV drug

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Drugmaker Merck & Co. is allowing one of its HIV medicines to be sold inexpensively for young children in poor countries hard-hit by the AIDS virus.

The deal, announced Tuesday, lets drug manufacturers make low-cost pediatric versions of Merck's raltegravir for sale in 92 low- and middle-income countries, according to the Medicines Patent Pool.

Merck sells raltegravir under the brand name Isentress. In the U.S., it costs about $1,350 a month without insurance.

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Review: Apple-centric 'Modern Family' goes beyond gimmicks

NEW YORK (AP) — When "Modern Family" producers revealed that they shot this week's episode entirely with the iPhone and other Apple products, I was skeptical.

Those doubts quickly dissipated as I watched. The digital medium offered a fresh, clever way of storytelling — with jokes and plot twists not possible with the documentary-style approach that "Modern Family" typically uses.

The episode, "Connection Lost," takes place entirely on Claire Dunphy's Mac laptop. Actual iPhones — and to a lesser degree, iPads and Macs — were used to record the characters as they would appear to one another on FaceTime.

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Rothman replaces Pascal as film chief at Sony

NEW YORK (AP) — Former 20th Century Fox chief Tom Rothman has been named chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group, replacing Amy Pascal as studio head and effectively concluding Sony's shake-up following the damaging hacking scandal.

Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton announced Rothman's promotion Tuesday. Since late 2013, Rothman has been running the rejuvenated TriStar Productions at Sony.

In more than a decade running Fox Filmed Entertainment, Rothman oversaw the two biggest box-office grossers ever: "Avatar" and "Titanic." He is known for both budget-consciousness and a deep passion for movies, even hosting screenings of classic films on the Fox Movie Channel.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average added 92.35 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,209.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.82 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,115.48. The Nasdaq Composite gained 7.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,968.12.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 17 cents to close at $49.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 24 cents to close at $58.66 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.6 cents to close at $1.620 a gallon, while heating oil fell 18.9 cents to close at $2.029 a gallon. Natural gas rose 2.3 cents to close at $2.902 per 1,000 cubic feet.