Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2016 6:06 PM

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Experts expect corporate tax inversions to survive new rules

President Barack Obama scored a victory this week when Pfizer scrapped a $160 billion overseas deal that would have kept a chunk of the drugmaker's profits beyond the U.S. tax man's reach.

But recent, aggressive federal actions that discouraged Pfizer Inc.'s combination with another drugmaker, Allergan PLC, won't stop all so-called inversions, or deals that end with a company relocating to another country — at least on paper — and trimming its U.S. tax bill in the process.

Tax and legal experts say these deals, which have come under growing criticism from politicians, will remain attractive to some companies until the U.S. pursues a massive tax law overhaul.

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Allergan, Pfizer call off proposed $160B merger

Top U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Irish rival Allergan are charting independent futures after scrapping a record $160 billion deal torpedoed by new Treasury Department rules meant to block American companies from moving their corporate addresses overseas — on paper — to avoid U.S. taxes.

The rules issued Monday, aimed at stopping the companies' "tax inversion" deal, wiped out its financial incentives and rationale for Pfizer Inc., though they had no impact on Allergan PLC.

That led Pfizer and Allergan to walk away "by mutual agreement" on Wednesday.

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A top haven for tax cheats that may surprise you: the US

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. lambastes and strong-arms countries that help drug lords and millionaire investors hide their money from tax collectors. Critics say it should look closer to home.

America itself is emerging as a top tax haven alongside the likes of Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Panama, those seeking reform of the international tax system say. And states such as Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, in particular, are competing with each other to provide foreigners with the secrecy they crave.

"There's a big neon sign saying the U.S. is open to tax cheats," says John Christensen, executive director of the Tax Justice Network.

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Stricter rules unveiled for brokers giving retirement advice

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration acted Wednesday to require that brokers who recommend investments for retirement savers meet a stricter standard that now applies to registered advisers: They must act as "fiduciaries" — trustees who are obligated to put their clients' best interests above all.

The action, in rules issued by the Labor Department, could shake up how Americans' retirement investments are handled by brokers. The anticipated release of the rules had been the target of heated lobbying campaigns from both the financial industry and consumer advocates.

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US stocks rise as health care and energy companies soar

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks broke a two-day losing streak Wednesday as investors bought up drugmakers and other health care companies. Energy companies also jumped as the price of oil surged.

Biotech drug companies, which have been mired in a long slide, made their biggest gains in almost five years. That came after Pfizer gave up on a plan to buy Botox maker Allergan and investors wondered if it will look elsewhere.

The gains were only enough to wipe out most of the market's losses from a day earlier. Stocks have wavered recently as investors wait for quarterly earnings to start pouring in; many are bracing for another shaky quarter.

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Monsanto misses Street 2Q forecasts on falling seed sales

Monsanto Co. reported weaker-than-expected earnings Wednesday as the company offered price discounts to try and revive flagging sales of its biotech-enhanced seeds.

The company has struggled with falling prices for crops like corn, soy beans and wheat, which have reduced farmers' spending on Monsanto's genetically enhanced seeds. At the same time, the strong dollar has made its products, including chemical weed killer, more expensive overseas.

The St. Louis-based company reported a second-quarter profit of $1.06 billion, or $2.41 per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $2.42, missing market expectations.

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Fliers beware: new airfare rule could lead to costly mistake

NEW YORK (AP) — The three largest U.S. airlines have changed the way they price multi-city trips, forcing those who book such itineraries to pay hundreds of extra dollars.

Travelers visiting several cities on one trip are seeing airfares six or seven times the normal price. Many might not know of the new policy or that there is a way to avoid the higher fares.

The simultaneous adoption of new pricing rules by all three carriers has led the Business Travel Coalition to accuse the airlines of illegally coordinating and has asked for an investigation of possible airline collusion.

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Federal suit to stop deal between 2 oilfield services firms

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is suing to stop Halliburton from buying oilfield-services rival Baker Hughes, the latest effort by the Obama administration to block mergers that it believes enrich corporations but hurt consumers.

The government argues that the $35 billion deal would lead to higher prices and less innovation in the industry.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in federal court in Delaware.

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Fiat Chrysler to lay off 1,300 workers

DETROIT (AP) — Tumbling sales of Fiat Chrysler's main midsize car have driven the company to indefinitely lay off 1,300 employees at a Detroit-area factory.

Workers on the second shift at Fiat Chrysler's assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, will be furloughed starting July 5 as the slow-selling Chrysler 200 has started to stack up on dealer lots.

Fiat Chrysler sold only 7,500 of the cars last month, less than half the number it sold a year ago.

It's the company's first indefinite layoff since 2009.

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Ex-coal CEO gets 1 year in prison in deadly mine blast

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge sentenced former coal executive Don Blankenship to a year in prison Wednesday for his role in the deadliest U.S. mine explosion in four decades, saying he was part of a "dangerous conspiracy."

One day after the sixth anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, which killed 29 men, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger gave the ex-Massey Energy CEO the maximum prison time and fine of $250,000. A federal jury convicted Blankenship on Dec. 3 of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch.

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Teenage girl killed by exploding Takata air bag in Texas

DETROIT (AP) — An exploding Takata air bag has claimed another life, this time a 17-year-old girl whose car crashed near Houston.

The girl is the latest victim of malfunctioning air bag inflators that have killed 10 people in the U.S., touching off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history. More than 100 people have been hurt by the inflators, which can explode with too much force.

The girl was driving a 2002 Honda Civic when it rear-ended another vehicle in a "moderate" crash and the air bags went off, which sent shrapnel into her neck, killing her.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 112.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,716.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 21.49 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,066.66. The Nasdaq composite index added 76.78 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,920.72.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.86, or 5.2 percent, to close at $37.75 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, added $1.97, or 5.2 percent, to close at $39.84 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.39 a gallon. Heating oil jumped almost 7 cents to $1.14 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $1.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.