Business Highlights

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

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Even Apple loyalists taking their time on Apple Watch

NEW YORK (AP) — For all those who hailed the iPhone as the "Jesus Phone" in 2007, the Apple Watch's arrival has hardly been the second coming.

Sure, it can do many useful, even delightful things, such as showing incoming texts and email, tracking heart rates during exercise or sending digital doodles to friends. But is that enough to spend $350 or more, especially when it requires wearing a watch again while still carrying an iPhone around?

Early Apple Watch owners seem generally happy with it, but Apple's bigger worry should be those on the sidelines — even hardcore Apple fans, not to mention everybody else — who are waiting to take the plunge.

The wait-and-see attitude is not exactly helping investor sentiment.

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US home sales surged in June to fastest pace in 8-plus years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought homes in June at the fastest rate in over eight years, pushing prices to record highs as buyer demand has eclipsed the availability of houses on the market.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes climbed 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million, the highest rate since February 2007. Sales have jumped 9.6 percent over the past 12 months, while the number of listings has risen just 0.4 percent.

The median home price has climbed 6.5 percent over the past 12 months to $236,400, the highest level — unadjusted for inflation — reported by the Realtors.

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Costs from regulations pile up, hurt small business profits

NEW YORK (AP) — It's getting more expensive to be an employer and small business owners say that's making it harder for them to make money.

The health care law, minimum wage increases and paid sick leave laws in some states and cities are increasing costs. Small companies also face the prospect of higher overtime expenses under a proposed federal regulation.

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Coca-Cola fetching higher prices with marketing, mini-cans

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola says people are shelling out more money for its drinks, thanks to a mix of reinvigorated marketing and mini-cans and glass bottles that tend to cost more.

To help boost weak sales growth, the maker of Sprite, Fanta and Powerade has been slashing costs, then pouring some of that money into increased marketing.

The Atlanta-based company, known for more than a century's worth of ads such as "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke," says the stepped-up quality and quantity of its advertising is helping it command higher prices for its drinks.

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On-demand doctor apps bring Uber approach to medicine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pager, an Uber-like service that sends doctors to patients' homes, and similar companies like Heal and Medicast aim to streamline medical care -- cutting out waiting rooms, receptionists and trips to the doctor's office.

But some doctors warn there could be drawbacks to convenience-driven medical care, especially if it disrupts an already complex, fragmented health care system.

As the app makers search for a sustainable business model, however, it appears they are more likely to end up working with traditional medical providers than against them.

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Higher minimum-wage proposals gain ground on both coasts

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The push for a higher minimum wage gained momentum on both sides of the country Wednesday, with New York embracing an eventual $15 an hour for the state's 200,000 fast-food workers and the huge University of California system announcing the same raise for its employees.

The 240,000-student University of California becomes the nation's largest public university to commit itself to the $15-an-hour wage that has become the rallying cry of many labor groups in recent months.

So far, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have approved phased-in increases that eventually will take their minimum wage to $15 an hour, or about $31,200 a year. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous county, voted to craft a law to do the same over five years.

In New York, the state Wage Board endorsed a proposal to set a $15 minimum wage for workers at fast-food restaurants with 30 or more locations. The increase would be phased in over three years in New York City and over six years elsewhere.

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Eli Lilly: Experimental Alzheimer's drug shows some benefit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eli Lilly & Co. reported Wednesday that an experimental medication might slow mild Alzheimer's if people take it early enough, one of a handful of drugs in late-stage testing in the frustrating hunt for a better treatment.

The new findings don't prove that Lilly's solanezumab really works; a larger study is underway that won't end until late 2016.

On Wednesday, researchers at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference updated ongoing research into Lilly's effort, and those of two competitors, that aim to fight Alzheimer's with injections targeting a sticky protein that clogs the brain.

The bottom line: It's going to take more time to figure out if this approach works, but scientists think it's still the right target despite high-profile failures in recent years.

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Fiat Chrysler says it has a software fix to prevent hacking

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler said Wednesday that it has a software fix that will prevent future hacking into the Jeep Cherokee and other vehicles.

The fix is a response to a recent article in Wired magazine about two well-known hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who remotely took control of a Jeep Cherokee through its UConnect entertainment system. They were able to change the vehicle's speed and control the brakes, radio, windshield wipers and other features.

The Jeep incident was the latest warning to the auto industry, which is rapidly adding Internet-connected features like Wi-Fi and navigation that are convenient for drivers but make the car more vulnerable to outside attacks. Earlier this year, BMW had to offer a software patch after hackers remotely unlocked the doors of its cars.

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Qualcomm to cut 15 percent of workforce

Qualcomm says it will cut jobs, update its board and review its business structure as part of an effort to improve its performance.

The announcement comes as the wireless technology company reported a massive drop in its third-quarter revenue and profit and gave a weak quarterly outlook.

Qualcomm said Wednesday that it plans to slash its spending by $1.4 billion. This includes a 15 percent reduction in its workforce. At last count, the company had 31,300 employees.

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After 2 deaths, Ikea and government warn about dressers

NEW YORK (AP) — After Ikea chests tipped over and fatally injured two boys, safety regulators say consumers should stop using Ikea's dressers and chests for children unless the products are mounted to a wall.

The Swedish furniture giant is offering a free kit to help consumers do that. The kit will be available to consumers who bought 27 million chests and dressers above specific heights, including 7 million of Ikea's Malm chests.

Both the company and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission say the furniture should be kept away from children unless it is anchored to a wall.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 68.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,851.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 5.06 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,114.15. The Nasdaq composite shed 36.35 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,171.77.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.67 to close at $49.19 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 91 cents to close at $56.13 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 5.3 cents to close at $1.868 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to close at $1.672 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.5 cents to close at $2.897 per 1,000 cubic feet.