BC-Business News Digest

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Associated Press

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 29 at 3:00 PM

Business News at 5:45 p.m.

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

— Adds: PATRIOT BANKRUPTCY; AMERICAN AIRLINES-US AIRWAYS-UNIONS; ITALY-EARNS-FIAT; GOOGLE-APPLE-FIVE QUESTIONS

— Updates: EARNS-EXPRESS SCRIPTS; OIL PRICES; WALL STREET

TOP STORIES:

RESILIENT CONSUMERS

WASHINGTON — This year got off to a sour start for U.S. workers: Their pay, already gasping to keep pace with inflation, was suddenly shrunk by a Social Security tax increase. Would consumers stop spending and further slow the economy? Nope. Not yet, anyway. On Friday, the government said consumers spent 3.2 percent more on an annual basis in the January-March quarter than in the previous quarter — the biggest jump in two years. It highlighted a broader improvement in Americans' financial health that is blunting the impact of the tax increase and raising hopes for more sustainable growth. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photo.

With:

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON — Americans spent more in March and their income grew, the latest indication that consumers are shrugging off a tax increase. The Commerce Department says consumer spending increased 0.2 percent in March. That followed a 0.7 percent jump the previous month and a 0.3 percent gain in January. By Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photos.

AMERICA'S BIGGEST LENDERS

WASHINGTON — Despite what you may have heard, China isn't the country's biggest creditor. You are. We are. The bulk of the national debt — soon to exceed a staggering $17 trillion — is held by the Federal Reserve, Social Security system, various pension plans for civil service workers and military personnel, U.S. banks, mutual funds, private pension plans, insurance companies and individual domestic investors. By Tom Raum.

AP photos.

— OBAMA-ECONOMY — Obama, as most presidents, wants credit for economic gains, but his strategy could backfire. AP photos.

GOOGLE-APPLE-DUELING ASSISTANTS

SAN FRANCISCO — Google is trying to upstage Siri, the sometimes droll assistant that answers questions and helps people manage their lives on Apple's iPhone and iPad. The duel begins Monday with the release of a free iPhone and iPad app that features Google Now, a technology that performs many of the same functions as Siri. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.

With:

— GOOGLE-APPLE-FIVE QUESTIONS — A look at how Siri, Google Now respond to 5 questions on an iPad.

BANGLADESH-DESTRUCTION AND SURVIVAL

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Merina was tired. It had been three days since the garment factory collapsed around her, three days since she'd moved more than a few inches. In that time she had had nothing to eat and just a few sips of water. The cries for help, so loud in those first few hours, had long since subsided. Describing her ordeal from a hospital bed, Merina's tale was as much a look at the dreams that bring Bangladeshis to work in garment factories as at the terror when one building tumbled down. By Gillian Wong, Chris Blake and Tim Sullivan.

AP photos.

With:

BANGLADESH-BUILDING COLLAPSE

SAVAR, Bangladesh — A Bangladesh court allows police 15 days to interrogate the owner of a building that collapsed last week and killed 382 people, as rescuers used heavy machinery to cut through the destroyed structure after giving up hopes of finding any more survivors. By Farid Hossain and Chris Blake.

AP photos.

DISINFECTING ROBOTS

NEW YORK — They sweep. They swab. They sterilize. What more can hospitals do to kill dangerous superbugs? They are turning to machines that look like "Star Wars" robots giving off ultraviolet light. Or they try germ-resistant copper bed rails. Or antimicrobial linens, curtains and wall paint. In U.S. hospitals, about 1 in 20 patients pick up infections they didn't have when they arrived. Now increased pressure from the government and insurers is driving aggressive action. By Medical Writer Mike Stobbe.

AP photos, video.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

PENDING HOME SALES

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in March to the highest level in three years, pointing to higher sales this spring. The National Association of Realtors says that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 1.5 percent to 105.7. That's the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer's tax credit boosted sales. It's also above February's reading of 104.1. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photo.

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — Technology companies lead the Standard & Poor's 500 index to an all-time closing high. The stock market has recovered all the ground it lost over the previous two weeks, when worries over slower economic growth, falling commodity prices and disappointing quarterly earnings battered financial markets. By Business Writer Matthew Craft.

AP photo.

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil rises to finish at $94.50 per barrel as positive U.S. economic data added to optimism for a rate cut in Europe.

— OBAMA-TRANSPORTATION — President Barack Obama taps rising Democratic politician Anthony Foxx to lead the Department of Transportation, an agency at the center of Washington's fiscal fights. AP photo.

EARNINGS:

EARNS-CHRYSLER

DETROIT — Chrysler's first-quarter profit fell dramatically because of factories that were slow to switch from old models to new ones. While most automakers build up inventory before closing factories between model years, Chrysler plants that make the Grand Cherokee, Ram heavy-duty pickup and Jeep Liberty didn't come back on line fast enough. That cost the company revenue and pushed its earnings down 65 percent. By Auto Writer Tom Krisher.

AP photo.

Also:

— ITALY-EARNS-FIAT — Weak sales in Europe and lower profits at U.S. partner Chrysler pushed Italian carmaker Fiat to a loss in the first quarter.

— EARNS-EXPRESS SCRIPTS — Express Scripts says that its first-quarter earnings jumped 39 percent compared to last year, when charges tied to its acquisition of competitor Medco Health Solutions hurt the pharmacy benefit manager's performance.

INDUSTRY:

WORLD TRADE CENTER SPIRE

NEW YORK — One World Trade Center already is New York's tallest building. And when the last pieces of its spire eventually rise to the roof, the 104-floor skyscraper that replaces the fallen twin towers will be just feet from becoming the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Officials had hoped that would happen Monday, but the weather did not cooperate. By Verena Dobnik.

AP photos.

SPACE TOURISM

MOJAVE, Calif. — A spaceship bankrolled by British tycoon Sir Richard Branson made its first powered flight Monday in a test that moves Virgin Galactic toward its goal of flying into space later this year. By Raquel Maria Dillon.

AP photo.

— JC PENNEY-GOLDMAN SACHS — J.C. Penney says that Goldman Sachs will provide it with $1.75 billion in financing to fund the company's operations as well as pay off some of its debt.

— BAYER-CONCEPTUS — German drug company Bayer AG says it intends to buy California-based Conceptus to expand its birth control offerings. Bayer will launch a public offer to pay $31.00 per share for all the stock in Conceptus Inc., or $1.1 billion.

— SUBARU-RECALL — Subaru is recalling about 10,000 of its 2014 Forester wagons because the floor mats can interfere with the clutch, brake or gas pedals.

— GILEAD SCIENCES-FDA — Gilead Sciences Inc. says that the Food and Drug Administration has rejected two marketing applications for HIV treatments, citing quality control problems at the company's manufacturing facilities.

— AMERICAN AIRLINES-US AIRWAYS-UNIONS — The president of the AFL-CIO is worried that the merger of American Airlines and US Airways will trigger a costly fight between two unions over representation of airline ground workers.

— PATRIOT BANKRUPTCY — Patriot Coal's long-awaited bankruptcy hearing begins, with the coal company insisting it must significantly cut thousands of retirees' health care and pension benefits or risk liquidation, a claim that its miners' union strongly rejects.

— GOODYEAR-UNION TALKS — With the backdrop of an uncertain economy, shrinking unions and company cost-cutting, Goodyear and the Steelworkers are negotiating on a new national contract covering 8,000 tire workers at six plants.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

JAMES BOND STUDIO-US

ATLANTA — The British film studio home to the James Bond franchise announces plans for its first U.S. movie production facility at a site near Atlanta. The large-scale film complex will be called Pinewood Atlanta. Pinewood will manage the facility under an agreement with a group of private investors. By Christina A. Cassidy.

AP Photos.

JACKSON-AEG SUIT

LOS ANGELES — Millions, and possibly billions, of dollars are at stake in a civil trial starting Monday over allegations from Michael Jackson's mother that the company promoting his comeback failed to properly investigate the doctor convicted in his death. By Anthony McCartney.

AP photos.

— EASTMAN KODAK — Eastman Kodak Co. has agreed to sell its personalized and document imaging businesses to its U.K. pension plan as part of an agreement that settles $2.8 billion of claims that the retirement fund had sought from the photography pioneer.

— ALIBABA-SINA WEIBO — Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce company, has agreed to buy an 18 percent stake in Sina Corp.'s Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging platform.

— SOFTBANK-SPRINT — Sprint Nextel says it reached a deal with SoftBank that will allow it to enter into talks with Dish Network about its rival bid for the company.

— SPAIN-CYBERCRIME — A Dutch citizen arrested in Spain on suspicion of launching what authorities have called the biggest cyberattack in Internet history is expected to be handed over to the Netherlands within 10 days, a Spanish court official says.

INTERNATIONAL:

ITALY-POLITICS

ROME — Italy's new premier makes immediate concessions to his uneasy coalition allies, promising to ease part of a slate of austerity measures that have weighed on Italians impatient at the slow pace of economic recovery. By Colleen Barry and Frances D'Emilio.

AP photos.

FRANCE-ENTREPRENEURS

PARIS — President Francois Hollande announces a series of measures to encourage the French entrepreneurial spirit, including drastic cuts in capital gains taxes — up to 65 percent — for the sale of small companies and a plan to make France startup friendly. By Elaine Ganley and Sylvie Corbet.

AP photo.

— SPAIN-SANTANDER — The chief executive of Santander, Spain's largest bank, is stepping down and will be replaced by Javier Marin.

— CYPRUS-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Cyprus' president has proposed a package of reforms increasing the accountability of politicians and curbing their immunity to prosecution. AP photo.

— GERMANY-EXPORTS — A leading business organization says German exports to countries outside the European Union will overtake those to the 27-nation bloc by 2025.

— GERMANY-HUFFINGTON POST — The Huffington Post is expanding its footprint in Europe with a German language edition.

— GERMANY-VOLKSWAGEN — Volkswagen's namesake brand saw operating earnings slip by 45 percent in the first quarter, as it joined the ranks of European carmakers suffering a tough first quarter.

— SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Spain and Germany are setting up a joint program to promote investment in small and medium enterprises in Spain in a bid to reduce the country's massive youth unemployment problem.

— PROTECTING BEES — The European Union says it will move ahead with measures to restrict three pesticides in an effort to better protect dwindling bee populations. AP photos.

MALAYSIA-ELECTIONS-ECONOMY

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — With less than a week to general elections, Malaysia's opposition alliance is banking on the promise of bold change to end the governing coalition's 56-year rule. It says a new economic playing field will strip away decades of race-based policies that it believes bred corruption and hampered growth. By Eileen Ng.

AP photos.

AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY — Australia's government says its tax revenue has continued to fall in recent months as company profits declined and the mining boom that kept the nation out of recession cools.

MONEY & MARKETS:

CENTERPIECE

Back in the $200 club

Netflix stock shot up 32 percent last week and moved above $200 for the first time since September 2011. Up more than 130 percent this year, the stock of the video subscription service is the best performer in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

JC Penney to get $1.75B in financing

J.C. Penney's cash crunch will be lessened by new financing from Goldman Sachs. The five-year senior secured term loan can be used to fund the company's operations as well as pay off some of its debt.

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