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Associated Press

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Business News at 5:50 p.m.

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All times EDT.

NEW THIS DIGEST:

— Adds: JC PENNEY-CEO

— Updates: WALL STREET, EARNS-ALCOA

TOP STORIES:

JC PENNEY-CEO

NEW YORK — J.C. Penney is naming Mike Ullman as its new CEO. He takes over from Ron Johnson, who is leaving the company. Ullman was head of the department store chain, based in Plano, Texas, prior to Johnson's appointment to the top spot in 2011 in an effort to halt the department store chain's sliding earnings. Johnson came under pressure after his turnaround strategy failed to win over shoppers. Eds: Developing.

AP photos.

With:

— MACY'S-JC PENNEY TRIAL — The trial in Macy's lawsuit against rival J.C. Penney over domestic diva Martha Stewart's services resumes after court-ordered mediation goes nowhere.

AIRLINE QUALITY

WASHINGTON — Airline passengers are getting grumpier, and it's little wonder. Seats are shrinking, more people are stuffed onto planes, and more people with tickets are being turned away because flights are overbooked. Private researchers who analyzed federal data on airline performance also said in a report being released Monday that consumer complaints to the Department of Transportation surged by one-fifth last year even though other measures such as on-time arrivals and mishandled baggage show airlines are doing a better job. By Joan Lowy.

AP photo.

With:

— AIRLINE QUALITY-COMPLAINTS GLANCE.

OBAMA'S IOUS-ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

Every president since Richard Nixon has pushed to cut U.S. dependence on imported oil, and President Barack Obama is no exception. Now, though, for the first time in 30 years, oil imports are falling in a significant way. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey. Eds: Part of a series examining Obama's campaign promises.

AP photos.

PORTUGAL-FEELING THE PAIN

LISBON — Serving a frugal lunch in their tiny kitchen, Pedro and Elena Baptista spoon stewed chicken feet onto their boiled potatoes and leave the slightly meatier wings for their 12-year-old daughter Vania and 7-year-old son Joao. The Baptista family counts itself among the casualties of an unrelenting financial crisis that is squeezing the life out of some European Union economies, including Portugal. Now the Portuguese government has said it will pile on more austerity, leading many to wonder how a fraying society will cope. By Barry Hatton.

THATCHER-ECONOMIC LEGACY

LONDON — More than any other field, Margaret Thatcher helped redefine global finance by championing the liberal capitalism that turned London into one of the world's largest banking centers and reduced the role of the state in the economy. But by her death, many of the UK's banks had failed, victims of the excessive risk-taking they had been allowed to take. Meanwhile, another recession looms in Britain. Critics and supporters are divided over whether today's economic mess proves her policies wrong. By Danica Kirka.

AP photo.

With:

— BRITAIN-OBIT-THATCHER — Love her or loathe her, one thing's beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain. The former prime minister died Monday morning of a stroke. She was 87. AP photos.

DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-HTC ONE

NEW YORK — The HTC One is this year's first top-notch super phone, and it's the first iPhone challenger that can measure up to Apple's standards of feel and finish. It marries a stupendous screen to true stereo speakers, making for a superb entertainment device. Unfortunately, the manufacturer keeps meddling with Google's Android software, making the phone unnecessarily confusing to use. By Technology Writer Peter Svensson.

AP photos planned.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

BUDGET

WASHINGTON — The White House is warning friend and foe alike that they're not going to like every part of President Barack Obama's budget when it's released this week.

AP photo.

BERNANKE

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks in Atlanta at a financial markets conference. The theme is "Stress-Testing Banks: What Have We Learned?" By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

Eds: Speech begins at 7:15 p.m. Q&A to follow.

CHINA-FOREIGN INVESTORS

BOAO, China — Major multinational companies appeal gingerly to Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce barriers to doing business in China's heavily government-directed economy, drawing a commitment to create a more level playing field. In a rare audience with the head of the Communist Party, executives from Pepsico, Samsung Group, Volvo Group and more than a dozen other companies — from agri-businesses to finance — trade handshakes with Xi while carefully broaching the problems that have bedeviled business success in the world's second-largest economy. By Charles Hutzler.

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — Stocks end modestly higher, shrugging off an early decline, as investors wait to see whether big U.S. companies will deliver on expectations of strong earnings in 2013. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photo.

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil is a little higher as traders await the start of the quarterly corporate earnings season and the latest word from the Federal Reserve on the economy.

— SEC-WHITE CONFIRMATION — Senate confirms White to head SEC; will be first ex-prosecutor to lead watchdog agency.

INDUSTRY:

POSTAL PROBLEMS

WASHINGTON — What business gets more customers every year, yet keeps losing money? The U.S. Postal Service delivers mail to 11 million more homes, offices and other addresses than it did a decade ago, even as the amount of mail that people in the United States receive has dropped sharply. That combination may be financially dicey, some analysts say. By Pauline Jelinek.

AP photos.

EARNS-ALCOA

NEW YORK — Alcoa Inc. kicks off earnings season by reporting a larger first-quarter profit than analysts expected, helped by strong demand for aluminum used to make airplanes and automobiles.

BABY FOOD-LEAD

SAN FRANCISCO — A trial begins in a lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the nation's largest baby food makers aimed at forcing the companies to alert consumers that some products contains low amounts of lead. By Jason Dearen.

GENERAL ELECTRIC-LUFKIN ACQUISITION

NEW YORK — General Electric Co. has agreed to buy the oilfield equipment maker Lufkin Industries Inc. for $3 billion, furthering an effort by GE to grow its oil and gas operations. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey

ITALY-DESIGN-KNOLL-KOOLHAAS

MILAN — Shedding his "puritanical" attitude against architects designing objects, Rem Koolhaas has shifted scale to create 11 pieces of furniture for the U.S. industrial design house Knoll. The Dutch architect's creations include a dynamic counter — a stack of three horizontal beams that can be transformed from a screen-like unit to cantilevered shelves and benches that invite people to sit, climb and lean in. The end result is a social/intellectual romper room. By Colleen Barry.

AP photos.

— AVON-JOB CUTS — Avon is eliminating more than 400 positions and abandoning or restructuring smaller or underperforming businesses in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, including an exit from Ireland.

— OLD SPICE-BAR SOAP— Old Spice aftershave brand, which is known for appealing to more mature men, is introducing a line of scented soap bars this month.

— DRAGSTRIP LAWSUIT — The mogul behind the Charlotte Motor Speedway is trying to resurrect his lawsuit against local officials, claiming they reneged on an offer of $80 million in incentives for upgrades and a new drag strip.

— NFL-CONCUSSION LAWSUITS — With perhaps billions of dollars at stake, a hearing over concussion litigation filed against the NFL promises to be a brawl between legal heavyweights.

— CEDC-BANKRUPTCY — Vodka producer Central European Distribution Corp. is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to cut more than $665 million of its debt.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

FOX BROADCAST THREAT-AEREO

LAS VEGAS — A top executive with the owner of the Fox broadcast network is threatening to convert the network to a pay-TV channel if Internet startup Aereo continues to "steal" Fox's over-the-air signal and sell it to consumers without paying for rights.

— NEWSPAPER DATA — The newspaper industry's revenue declines at its slowest pace in six years, as publishers turned to new businesses and raised more money from online subscriptions.

— ERICSSON-MICROSOFT MEDIAROOM — Ericsson says it has agreed to buy Microsoft's Mediaroom business, which makes the software that powers AT&T's U-Verse TV service.

— INTERNET NAMES — The agency that oversees Internet domain names says it will open a satellite office in China, home of the world's largest Internet population.

INTERNATIONAL:

EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS

BRUSSELS — European countries should ease off their austerity and adopt more growth-friendly policies, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says as he kicked off a series of meetings with the region's top leaders. America's biggest trading partner and the world's largest economic bloc has entered the fourth year of its debt crisis, which has plunged many of the 27 EU governments into recession. The U.S. administration hopes Europe will relent in its focus on debt reduction, which has been hurting growth through spending cuts and tax increases. By Juergen Baetz.

AP photos.

— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Stocks of Greek banks NBG and Eurobank plunge 30 percent — the maximum allowed in a day — after their planned merger was postponed and fears grew that they may be nationalized.

—GERMANY-ECONOMY — The German government releases mixed figures about Europe's largest economy as a larger than expected increase in industrial production in February was offset by a downward revision to the previous month.

— GERMANY-RUSSIA — German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronts Russia's president with her concerns about a crackdown on non-governmental organizations, but Vladimir Putin brushes the issue aside by repeating that his government needs to know who is funding the groups.

— CYPRUS-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Cyprus' new finance minister is ruling out any notion that the cash-strapped country will abandon the euro as its currency.

KOREAS-TENSIONS

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said it will suspend operations at a factory complex it has jointly run with South Korea, pulling out more than 53,000 North Korean workers and moving closer to severing its last economic link with its rival as tensions escalate. By Hyung-Jin Kim.

— OLY--SPONSORSHIP SEARCH — Two major Olympic sports have lost key sponsors in the midst of a global economic slump. AP Photos.

— DENMARK-VESTAS-CANADA — Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, says it will provide 166 wind generators to a project in Alberta, Canada. The Danish company will begin deliveries in the second half of this year. The turbines, with a total capacity of 399 megawatts, are expected to be online by April 2014.

— AUSTRALIA-CHINA-CURRENCY — Australia and China have agreed to make their currencies directly exchangeable in a deal that advances internationalization of the yuan and reduces costs for companies.

—EMIRATES-MILAN-NY — Dubai-based airline Emirates says it will start its first direct flights connecting Europe and the U.S. later this year.

_____

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CENTERPIECE

Value takes the lead

Value or growth? Deciding between the investment strategies is a key consideration in constructing a well-diversified portfolio. Mutual funds specializing in value stocks have outperformed their growth peers four quarters in a row, and the margin has been unusually large the past two quarters. In the first quarter, value funds posted an average return of 12.03 percent, compared with 9.95 percent for growth funds.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

Alcoa kicks off earnings season

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa kicked off first-quarter earnings season when it reported results after the stock market closed on Monday.

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