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NEW THIS DIGEST:
— Adds: ENRON-SKILLING, PHARMACY RECALL-COMPOUNDING SHOP, AIRPORT TOWERS
— Updates: OIL PRICES
WASHINGTON — Hospitals within the same city sometimes charge tens of thousands of dollars more for the same procedures, according to figures the government released for the first time. The federal list sheds new light on the mystery of just how high a hospital bill might go — and whether it's cheaper to get the care somewhere else. By Connie Cass and Lauran Neergaard.
DELTA AIR LINES-DIVIDEND
MINNEAPOLIS — Delta Air Lines will start paying a quarterly dividend and buy back some of its shares — investor-friendly moves common in other industries but rare for airlines. Airlines are eager to show they are leaving behind years of losses and bankruptcies and are now solid investments. Delta is the farthest along, although investors hope the others will follow. By Airlines Writer Joshua Freed.
NEW YORK — There's no business like small business. Mix the high stakes of running a small business with a dash of family drama and throw in a camera crew and you get hit reality television shows such as "Pawn Stars," ''Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" and "Duck Dynasty." Turning small business owners into stars has become a winning formula for television producers, but the businesses featured in the shows are cashing in, too. Sales explode after just a few episodes have aired, transforming nearly unknown small businesses into household names. Some small-business owners also are benefiting financially from opening gift shops that sell souvenirs or getting involved in other ventures that spawn from their newfound fame. By Business Writer Joseph Pisani.
Eds: This story stands for SmallBiz-Small Talk. Small Talk will return next week.
— SMALLBIZ-REALITY SHOWS-GLANCE — A look at some reality TV shows that feature small businesses and the average number of people that are watching.
— SMALLBIZ-REALITY SHOWS-HOW TO GET ONE — Want your business to be the star of a reality show? Here are some tips that may help.
WASHINGTON — The nation's slowly improving jobs picture hides problems like stagnant wages and fewer working hours that strike directly at President Barack Obama's base of support — young people, racial minorities and the less affluent. As the president launches a new focus on jobs, his allies are complaining he has put too much emphasis on a deficit-cutting grand bargain with Republicans. By Jim Kuhnhenn.
When Alex Ferguson walked in to take the helm at Manchester United in 1986, the club was languishing and its status as one of England's top football clubs, on and off the field, was in serious jeopardy. Now, 27 years later, Manchester United is back at the top of the English pile and, with annual revenues of nearly half a billion dollars and a market capitalization of a little over $3 billion, has secured its status as one of the world's top sporting franchises. By Pan Pylas.
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 15,000 for the first time Tuesday. Now that stocks have scaled these heights, what's next? Four market experts give their views. By Business Writerrs Steve Rothwell and Bernard Condon.
— WALL STREET — Stocks are edging modestly higher on Wall Street, a day after the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 15,000.
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's loopy signature is showing signs of improvement as he gets ready to affix his "Jacob Lew" to the nation's currency. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
— OVERTIME ALTERNATIVE — The Republican-led House is poised to approve a bill that would give private sector workers the option of choosing paid time off instead of cash wages for working overtime.
— PAID SICK LEAVE — A national push for paid sick days is poised to score a significant victory in New York City. The City Council is expected to vote to require businesses to provide sick leave to an estimated 1 million workers who don't have it now.
— OIL PRICES — The price of oil holds onto small gains after the government reported a slight increase in U.S. crude supplies.
WASHINGTON — Mortgage giant Freddie Mac earned $4.6 billion from January through March, helped by a stronger housing market. Freddie said it paid a dividend of $7 billion to the U.S. Treasury and requested no additional federal aid for the fourth consecutive quarter. By Business Writer Marcy Gordon.
DUBLIN, Ohio — Wendy's is trying to reinvent itself as a purveyor of relatively higher-quality fast food. The problem is that its competitors are aggressively promoting deals and value menus and stealing away price-conscious customers. By Business Writers Candice Choi and Michelle Chapman.
— ENRON-SKILLING — Convicted ex-Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling's more than 24-year prison sentence for his role in the collapse of the once mighty energy giant could be reduced by as much as 10 years if a federal judge approves an agreement reached between prosecutors and defense attorneys. AP photos.
— AIRPORT TOWERS — FAA to keep 72 airport control towers open at night that were slated for closure. AP photo.
— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-ING — Dutch financial company ING Groep NV reported that its first-quarter earnings rose as it sold businesses and improved profit margins at its banking arm. Its insurance arm reported a loss.
— GERMANY-EARNS-EON — German utility company E.ON says net income rose 25 percent in the first quarter thanks to the sale of some businesses. The company said its operations otherwise remained under pressure from a slack economy and competition for its gas-fired electricity plants from renewable energy sources and coal.
— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-AEGON — Aegon NV, the Dutch insurer that does most of its business in the United States under the Transamerica brand, says first quarter profits fell sharply due to stock market losses.
TOKYO — Toyota's quarterly profit more than doubled to 313.9 billion yen ($3.2 billion) as cost cuts and better sales worked with a weakening yen to add momentum to the automaker's comeback. By Business Writer Yuri Kageyama.
— JAPAN-US-SUBARU PLANT EXPANSION — Subaru says it is investing $400 million to expand its Indiana factory and will add 900 workers to build the Impreza small car there in 2016.
— CHINA-GM-CADILLAC FACTORY — General Motors Co. says its main Chinese joint venture has received government approval to build a Cadillac factory as part of GM's efforts to expand its share of China's luxury auto market. GM also opened a factory in Indonesia to manufacture its Chevrolet Spin, a seven-seat subcompact multipurpose vehicle.
— ITALY-FERRARI — Ferrari says it will limit sales of its high-performance street cars this year to below 7,000 units to protect the brand's aura of exclusivity.
NEW YORK — McDonald's says a key sales figure slipped again in April, with the world's biggest hamburger chain citing fears over a new strain of avian flu for weakness in China. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.
— PHARMACY RECALL-COMPOUNDING SHOP — The Food and Drug Administration warns doctors and pharmacists to avoid drugs made by a Florida specialty pharmacy called The Compounding Shop, due to potential safety problems uncovered by health inspectors
— COCA-COLA-OBESITY — Coca-Cola says it will work to make lower-calorie drinks and clear nutrition information more widely available around the world. The goal is to have diet options available wherever regular versions are sold.
— PROSTATE CANCER — A new genetic test to gauge the aggressiveness of prostate cancer may help tens of thousands of men each year decide whether they need to treat their cancer right away or can safely monitor it. AP photo.
—CALIFORNIA OIL DRILLING — Federal land managers have cited the toll of environmental litigation — as well as budget problems and low staffing — in postponing all oil and gas lease auctions in California until October.
— MERCK-RAGWEED PILL — Drugmaker Merck & Co. says the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing its second application to sell a new type of allergy treatment meant to gradually reduce allergic reactions over time, rather than just relieving sneezing, itching and other symptoms temporarily.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
— EARNS-NEWS CORP — News Corp. reports quarterly financial results after the market closes. By Ryan Nakashima.
— DISNEY-HOLIDAY TRADEMARK — After widespread online criticism, Disney drops an effort to trademark "Dia de los Muertos," the name of the traditional "Day of the Dead" holiday celebrated by millions in Mexico and the U.S.
— CHINA-US-CYBER STRAINS — Signs are growing that the sustained surge in cyberattacks emanating from China is imperiling its relations with the U.S., lending urgency to fledgling efforts by both governments to engage on the issue.
— GERMANY-EARNS-TELEKOM — Deutsche Telekom stopped losing U.S. customers in the first quarter after it dropped conventional two-year contracts. While reporting a modest increase in first quarter net profit, Deutsche Telekom said its T-Mobile USA division saw a small increase in customers under its own brand for the first time in four years. AP photo.
— SPAIN-EARNS-TELEFONICA— Spanish telephone company Telefonica says its first-quarter net profit rose 21 percent to 902 million euros ($1.18 billion) despite a fall in revenues in its key Latin American market.
DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-PINTEREST'S NEW LOOK
NEW YORK — Don't worry, Pinterest fans: Your sprawling virtual pegboards of wedding dresses, handmade jewelry, craft projects and food porn haven't changed dramatically. They're just easier to manage. The popular link- and photo-sharing website has rolled out an update, one offering people simpler navigation and new ways to arrange their boards to fit their needs. Although the haphazard spirit of Pinterest remains, the site is much less overwhelming. By Business Writer Bree Fowler.
BEIJING — China reports stronger April trade but analysts say export data were inflated and its shaky recovery might be weaker than it looks. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.
— EUROPE-BANKING UNION — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet signs off on plans to hand the European Central Bank the power to oversee the continent's lenders, the centerpiece of plans to stabilize the 17-nation euro area's financial system. AP photo.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — German industrial production increased by 1.2 percent in March compared with the previous month — an unexpectedly robust performance that adds to this week's upbeat signals for Europe's biggest economy. Economists had forecast that production would decline by 0.1 percent in March.
— GERMANY-MANAGERS' PAY — The German government plans to give companies' shareholders a greater say in setting managers' pay.
LONDON — The British government says it will announce bills to tighten immigration controls, reform pensions and reduce red tape for business when it lays out legislative plans for the next year at the state opening of Parliament. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that its agenda will contain "bills on growth, immigration, pensions, consumer rights (and) social care." By Jill Lawless.
VILLA TUNARI, Bolivia — Bolivia's President Evo Morales has campaigned unceasingly to destigmatize the coca leaf, urging that it not be ingested as cocaine but rather digested in candies, breads, salad greens and even soda pop. A stubborn problem kept getting in the way: Most people, it turns out, find coca-based products unappetizing. By Paola Flores.
WARSAW, Poland — News that Talisman Energy Inc. is pulling out of exploration for shale gas in Poland is a blow to the country's hopes that its deposits of the hydrocarbon will soon cut its dependence on Russian supplies and support the weakening economy. Canada's Talisman said it had not found enough gas to warrant further expensive exploration or extraction procedures. The company's retreat — the second by a major company in less than a year — suggests Poland was too optimistic about the value of its deposits, or at least the speed with which it can retrieve them. By Monika Scislowska.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The colorful handmade giraffes, elephants and warthogs made in a Nairobi workshop were once only dirty pieces of rubber cruising the Indian Ocean's currents. Kenya's Ocean Sole sandal recycling company is cleaning the East African country's beaches of used, washed-up flip-flops.
— BANGLADESH-BUILDING COLLAPSE — Bangladeshi police say the death toll from the collapse of a building housing five garment factories has passed 800 and is continuing to climb.
—UN-GREEN ECONOMY — The U.N.'s environment agency says the global market for low-carbon and environment-friendly goods and services is projected to almost triple to $2.2 trillion by 2020. AP photo.
— UN-YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT — Youth unemployment is likely to rise globally to 12.8 percent by 2018, wiping out gains made in the recent economic recovery, the U.N.'s labor office said. AP photo.
— NEW-ZEALAND-CURRENCY — New Zealand's central bank has intervened in the currency market for the first time in five years to try to curb the local dollar's rise.
— CHINA-AIR-CHINA — Air China is planning to buy 100 Airbus jets to expand its fleet as it seeks to keep up with growing demand from Chinese travelers.
—NORWAY-CABIN CREW STRIKE — The Norwegian airline Wideroe says its cabin crew has gone on strike after labor negotiations broke down, grounding all aircraft and stranding 11,000 passengers in Norway and northern Europe.
ON THE MONEY-STUDENT LOANS
Finding a job in a slowly growing economy is daunting enough without new financial obligations. That's the challenge many university students graduating over the next few weeks will soon face as their student loan payments start coming due. Here are several ways new grads can manage their student loan debt. By Alex Veiga.
MONEY & MARKETS:
Dividends in bloom
Corporate America is sharing more of its wealth. In April, Apple, Exxon Mobil and Wells Fargo, each announced plans to boost its annual dividend payments by at least $1 billion. All told, 44 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index announced increases, up from 30 in April of last year.
Trulia to acquire Market Leader
Real estate website operator Trulia is seeking to provide more extensive services by buying real estate software provider Market Leader for more than $300 million in cash and stock.