AP News

Business Highlights


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Isaac brings higher gas prices, South and North

NEW YORK (AP) — Drivers are being hit with the biggest one-day jump in gasoline prices in 18 months just as the last heavy driving weekend of the summer approaches.

As Hurricane Isaac swamps the nation's oil and gas hub along the Gulf Coast, it's delivering sharply higher pump prices to storm-battered residents of Louisiana and Mississippi — and also to unsuspecting drivers up north in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The national average price of a gallon of gas jumped almost five cents Wednesday to $3.80, the highest ever for this date. Prices are expected to continue to climb through Labor Day weekend, the end of the summer driving season.

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Few think Bernanke will signal action at conference

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investors are hoping Chairman Ben Bernanke will at least hint Friday that the Federal Reserve is ready to launch another round of bond purchases to try to lower long-term U.S. interest rates and spur more borrowing and spending.

He's unlikely to deliver.

Economists who monitor the Fed doubt Bernanke will say anything dramatic when he speaks at an annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Many think a slightly brighter economic outlook has lessened the urgency for the Fed to act soon.

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US economy grew at 1.7 percent rate in 2nd quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, suggesting growth will stay weak in the second half of the year.

Slightly stronger consumer spending and greater exports were the main reasons the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that growth was better than its initial estimate of 1.5 percent. Still, growth has slowed from the 2 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter and the 4.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Economists expect only modest improvement in the second half of the year. Most believe the economy will keep growing, but at a subpar rate of around 2 percent.

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Citigroup agrees to pay $590 million in shareholder suit

NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup has agreed to pay $590 million to settle legal claims by shareholders that its executives misled them about the bank's growing problems before the financial crisis.

The bank denied the allegations Wednesday, but said it agreed to the deal to eliminate the cost and uncertainty of fighting the class-action suit.

Plaintiffs say Citigroup executives kept mum between February 2007 and April 2008 about huge losses the bank faced on complex mortgage investments. When the problem was disclosed, they say, Citigroup's share price plunged. They blame the bank for their losses.

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France offers to pick up tab for young hires

PARIS (AP) — The French government wants companies to hire young people so much that it's offering to pick up the tab.

President Francois Hollande told his Cabinet Wednesday that he wants to wage a war on unemployment and unveiled a plan for the government to pay most of the salaries of tens of thousands of young people hired next year.

Unemployment in France is 10 percent, but nearly 23 percent for those under the age of 25. That's an imbalance that many European countries are struggling with. In Spain youth unemployment is over 52 percent. It's 34 percent in Italy.

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Contracts to buy US homes hits 2-year high in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans signed more contracts to buy homes in July than at any other point in the last two years, further evidence of a housing recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes jumped 2.4 percent in July to 101.7. That's higher than June's reading of 99.3. It's also the highest reading since April 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The index is 12.4 percent higher than July 2011. It bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after the tax credit expired.

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Campbell channels Andy Warhol for new cans

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Campbell Soup is tapping Andy Warhol for at least another 15 minutes of fame.

The world's biggest soup maker plans to introduce special-edition cans of its condensed tomato soup bearing labels reminiscent of the pop artist's paintings at Target stores starting Sunday. The 1.2 million cans will cost 75 cents each.

The Campbell Soup Co.'s embrace of Warhol's iconic imagery is a switch from its initial reaction, when the company considered taking legal action before deciding to see how the paintings were received by the public.

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United Airlines says hardware issue caused outage

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines said a piece of computer hardware was behind the technology meltdown that delayed 580 flights and shut down its website for more than two hours.

The outage on Tuesday prevented workers from boarding passengers on time. United passengers reported long lines in the airline's hubs in Newark, N.J., San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. It also caused nine cancellations.

The problem was a piece of hardware in a data center that failed to communicate properly with other computer equipment, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Inc. A backup system failed to take over for the troubled hardware.

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Samsung reveals new Galaxy Note II

NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh off a legal battle with Apple, Samsung is announcing a new version of the Galaxy Note, an offbeat, oversized smartphone that's become a surprise hit.

Samsung, the world's largest maker of phones, is revealing the Galaxy Note II at a trade show in Berlin. The 5.5-inch screen is narrower but longer than on the first version. The processor is faster, and the software has been further adapted for the included stylus — the phone's signature feature.

While Apple has been releasing a new smartphone model each year, Samsung makes several to target different types of customers. That includes low-end phones for price-conscious customers. As a result, Samsung has been selling more smartphones than Apple this year.

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Sony to sell ultra-HD '4K' TV set in US stores

NEW YORK (AP) — High-definition TVs roughly quadrupled the resolution of the sets that came before them. Now, the industry is poised to do it again.

By December U.S. stores will sell a TV set with four times the resolution of today's best HDTVs, Sony Corp. said Wednesday. The set will measure 84 inches on the diagonal, making the screen area four times as large as the common 42-inch set.

Executives said Sony will reveal the price of the set next week.

There is, for now, very little video content available that can take advantage of the higher resolution. With some work and know-how, a computer connected to the set can display video in the ultra-HD "4K" resolution. The set will also do its best to "upscale" TV, DVD and Blu-ray movies, so they look better.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.49 points to close at 13,107.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 1.19 points to 1,410.49, while the Nasdaq composite index gained 4.04 points to 3,081.19.

Benchmark oil fell 84 cents to finish at $95.49 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 4 cents to $112.54 per barrel in London.

Heating oil fell 0.46 cent to end at $3.1157 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.58 cents to end at $3.1003 per gallon. Natural gas rose 2 cents to end at $2.634 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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