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Associated Press

Posted on January 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Business News at 5:30 p.m.

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

— Adds: HOSTESS-SNACK CAKES, US BEEF-JAPAN, TRADER-FRAUD

— Updates: WALL STREET, IMMIGRATION, EARNS-YAHOO

TOP STORIES:

ECONOMY-TAILWINDS AND HEADWINDS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy is a study in contrasts. The housing, banking and auto industries are surging back to health and that has helped push the stock market to a five-year peak. Yet unemployment remains high, the end of a Social Security tax cut is shrinking already flat pay and federal budget fights loom. Balanced between those tailwinds and headwinds, the economy is struggling to accelerate. By the end of this year, though, many analysts think the tailwinds will succeed in boosting growth and fueling a more robust economy in 2014. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photos.

JC PENNEY-SALES ARE BACK

NEW YORK — J.C. Penney is bringing back sales. The struggling department store chain is planning to add many of the hundreds of sales it ditched last year in hopes that it can lure back shoppers who were turned off when the discounts disappeared. And next month, Penney plans to put new price tags on more than half of its merchandise to show customers how much they're saving by shopping at the mid-priced chain. It's a departure for Penney on the eve of the one-year anniversary when it vowed to almost completely get rid of the big sales and clearance events that Americans covet but that cut into a store's profits. By Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio.

AP photos.

JAPAN-TOYOTA

TOKYO — Now it's official: Toyota is once again the world's top automaker. Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year at a record 9.748 million vehicles — a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles. By Business Writer Yuri Kageyama.

AP photo.

Also:

— AUTOS-FUEL CELL ALLIANCE — Ford is joining with Daimler and Renault-Nissan to speed the development of cars that run on hydrogen. The three companies expect their alliance to bring affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to market as early as 2017.

RIM-BLACKBERRY MAKEOVER

TORONTO — The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone is promising a speedy browser, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same device as the Canadian company embarks on a crucial, long-overdue makeover. By Rob Gillies.

AP photo.

With:

— RIM-BLACKBERRY MAKEOVER-APPLE COMPARISON — A comparison of smartphone and tablet shipments by Research in Motion Ltd. and Apple Inc.

— RIM-BLACKBERRY MAKEOVER-OS TIMELINE — A look at RIM's much-delayed BlackBerry 10 software.

HEALTH OVERHAUL PRIMER-MEDICAID

WASHINGTON — President Obama's Medicaid expansion lets states cover millions of poor people, but future costs are a worry. About 21 million uninsured people, most of them adults, eventually would gain health coverage if all the states agree. Adding up the Medicaid costs under the law, less than $100 billion in state spending could trigger nearly $1 trillion in federal dollars over a decade By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.

AP photos, interactive.

With:

— HEALTH OVERHAUL PRIMER-MEDICAID Q&A — Legislators worry about costs as they weigh expanding Medicaid to cover low-income adults.

— HEALTH OVERHAUL PRIMER-MEDICAID DOLLARS — How federal and state Medicaid spending would change under Obama's health overhaul.

UNEMPLOYMENT-CARD FEES, HFR

WASHINGTON — Jobless people are paying unnecessary fees to access their unemployment benefits because of states' policies encouraging them to use bank-issued payment cards, according to a new report from a consumer group. States have been eliminating fees like overdraft protection that cost workers millions of dollars each year. But hurdles remain for people who want the payments deposited directly to their bank accounts, a lower cost option, according to the report. An early copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

Eds: Hold for release until 12:01 a.m. EST Tuesday.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

DURABLE GOODS

WASHINGTON — U.S. companies placed more orders for long-lasting goods in December from November, helped by large increase in aircraft demand. But businesses pulled back on orders that indicate investment plans. The Commerce Department says that overall orders for durable goods increased 4.6 percent in December compared with November. The gains were led by a 56.4 percent increase in military aircraft orders and a 10.1 percent increase in commercial aircraft orders. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

AP photos.

PENDING HOME SALES

WASHINGTON — A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell last month after reaching a 2 ½-year high in November. Sales were held back by a limited supply of available homes. The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dropped 4.3 percent to 101.7 in December. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photo.

WALL STREET

U.S. stocks meander between small gains and losses, cooling off after a rally that had pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index above 1,500 for the first time since December 2007. Encouraging news about manufacturing provides an early boost, but stocks fall later after a report on the pace of home sales fell short of expectations. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

AP photo.

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil rose to finish above $96 a barrel after a strong durable goods report in the U.S.

— TRADER-FRAUD — A former managing director of an investment bank is indicted on charges he defrauded investment funds the Department of Treasury established in 2009 as part of the federal government's response to the financial crisis.

IMMIGRATION

WASHINGTON — Key Democratic and Republican senators pledge to get a wide-ranging immigration bill through the Senate by summer even as they point to numerous pitfalls ahead. By Erica Werner.

AP photos.

INDUSTRY:

EARNS-CATERPILLAR

MINNEAPOLIS — Caterpillar's fourth-quarter profit was cut in half by a deal in China that went bad and by slower growth around most of the world. It said results for this year depend on how the global economy behaves in the second half. By Business Writer Josh Freed.

JAPAN-BOEING 787

TOKYO — The joint U.S. and Japanese investigation into the Boeing 787's battery problems has shifted from the battery-maker to the manufacturer of a monitoring system. Japan transport ministry official Shigeru Takano says the probe into battery-maker GS Yuasa was over for now as no evidence was found it was the source of the problems. By Business Writer Yuri Kageyama.

AP photo.

AUTOS-FUEL CELL ALLIANCE

DETROIT — Ford is joining with Daimler and Renault-Nissan to speed the development of cars that run on hydrogen. The three companies say they expect their alliance to bring affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to market as early as 2017. By Auto Writer Tom Krisher.

OIL BARGES HIT BRIDGE

VICKSBURG, Miss. — Cleanup crews with booms were skimming oily water from the Mississippi River a day after a barge with more than 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge near Vicksburg, spreading a sheen of light crude that kept part of the waterway shut to ship traffic. A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it was "not leaking that much oil," but officials were still unable to give an estimate of how much had spilled. At least 24 vessels were backed up on the normally bustling corridor, with no certainty about when the river would reopen. By Holbrook Mohr.

AP photos, video.

KENTUCKY PYRAMID SCHEME

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tens of thousands of people in the United States and abroad may have lost millions in what federal and state officials are calling a classic pyramid scheme being run by a Kentucky-based company. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said Monday the state and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are investigating Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing of Lexington. The company charged fees to consumers in exchange for allowing them to sell consumer goods such as satellite television service. By Bruce Schreiner.

— HOSTESS-SNACK CAKES — Hostess picks McKee Foods as the lead bidder for its Drake's cakes.

— BARNES & NOBLE-STORE CLOSINGS — Barnes & Noble plans to continue to shrink its store base. The head of Barnes & Noble's retail group, Mitchel Klipper, tells The Wall Street Journal that the company will have 450 to 500 stores in a decade. That's down from about 689 now.

— AMR-US AIRWAYS — American Airlines ground workers would get immediate 4.3 percent raises if the carrier merges with US Airways under a deal negotiated by the workers' union and both airlines.

— HESS-REFINING — Hess Corp. plans to sell its U.S. terminal network and shutter its New Jersey refinery, completing its exit from the refining business and continuing its shift in focus toward exploration and production.

— US BEEF-JAPAN — U.S. beef producers eager to boost sales after Japan eases cattle age restrictions on imports.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

EARNS-YAHOO

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo showed more signs of progress during the fourth quarter as the Internet company took advantage of higher ad prices and rising earnings from its international investments to deliver numbers that exceeded analyst forecasts. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.

CARIBBEAN COPYRIGHT HAVEN

LONDON — Americans call it piracy. Antiguans call it justice. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are threatening to strip intellectual property protections from American goods as part of a long-running trade dispute over the U.S. embargo on the tiny Caribbean nation's online gambling industry. By Raphael Satter.

— GOOGLE-SAFARI LAWSUIT — A British law firm says that about a dozen Apple customers are suing Internet search leader Google in the U.K. over its alleged secret tracking of their Internet browsing habits.

— WARNER BROS-CEO — Kevin Tsujihara was named the next chief executive of the Warner Bros. studio, one of the largest producers of TV shows and movies in Hollywood. He'll take over from Barry Meyer on March 1.

INTERNATIONAL:

MYANMAR-WORLD BANK

YANGON, Myanmar — The World Bank announces a long-awaited deal to allow Myanmar to clear part of its huge decades-old foreign debt, opening the door for new much-needed lending to jumpstart its lagging economy. By Aye Aye Win.

— BRITAIN-HIGH SPEED RAIL — The British government unveils details of new high-speed rail lines linking London to cities in northern England with trains traveling up to 225 miles an hour (360 kph).

— JAPAN-ECONOMY — Anticipating a boost from stimulus spending and a weakening yen, Japan's government raises its growth forecast, predicting the economy will emerge from recession and expand 2.5 percent in the coming fiscal year.

— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Striking public transport workers in Athens have defied a court order to return to work, despite a government threat to impose an emergency order that could lead to prosecution. AP photos. AP photo.

— ITALY-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Italy has easily sold $5.4 billion in 24-month bonds in an auction that saw the country's borrowing rates fall, in a further sign that investors are shrugging off uncertainty ahead of elections next month and Italy's latest financial scandal.

— ITALY-MONTEPASCHI — The CEO of Monte dei Paschi di Siena says the embattled bank increased its request for government aid by $672 million after incoming managers found a document in a company safe in late October indicating trading losses. AP photos.

— NETHERLANDS-SNS REAAL — SNS Reaal NV, the troubled Dutch banking and insurance group, is looking to strengthen its capital buffers through strategies including a possible share issue. AP photos.

— CARIBBEAN COPYRIGHT HAVEN — The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are threatening to strip intellectual property protections from American goods in retaliation for a U.S. embargo on the tiny Caribbean nation's online gambling industry.

— FRANCE-CAR PROTEST — A few hundred French striking autoworkers are disrupting production at a key Peugeot Citroen plant north of Paris, protesting layoffs linked to its pending closure. AP photos.

— FINLAND-FINNAIR — Finnair CEO Mika Vehvilainen has announced he will step down on Feb. 28 to head the international cargo handling company Cargotec.

— ALGERIA-PIPELINE ATTACK — A security official says gunmen attacked a gas pipeline in northern Algeria and killed two guards but were driven off.

___

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CENTERPIECE

Fit to grow

The annual ritual of New year's fitness resolutions are a particularly rich treat for the health and fitness industry. Health clubs, for example, add between half and 70 percent of their new members each year in the first quarter. Here's a closer look three stocks poised to benefit from New Year's resolutions.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

Caterpillar profit tops estimates

Caterpillar's adjusted profit and revenue for the fourth quarter were better than analysts expected.

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