AP News

Business Highlights


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Retailers report best sales growth since March

NEW YORK (AP) — This summer, Americans were walking contradictions: They opened their wallets despite escalating fears about the slow economic recovery and surging gas prices.

A group of 18 retailers ranging from discounter Target to department-store chain Macy's reported on Thursday that August sales rose 6 percent — the industry's best performance since March — according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. At the same time, the government released numbers showing that Americans spent in July at the fastest clip in five months.

The recent data appear to show that what Americans say and do are two different things. The reports come two days after a private research firm said consumer confidence in August fell to its lowest level since November 2011 as Americans grew more concerned about the job market, business conditions and the overall economy.

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US consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in July after earning a little more. The increase in income and consumer spending could help boost an economy mired in subpar growth.

Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July from June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That followed no change in June and a slight decline in May.

Income grew 0.3 percent, matching the gains from May and June. Americans also earned 0.3 percent more after paying taxes.

The savings rate after taxes dipped to 4.2 percent in July. That's down slightly from 4.3 percent in June, the highest in a year.

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US unemployment applications flat at 374,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250.

Applications for unemployment benefits reflect the pace of layoffs. They have risen slightly over the past three weeks, though they remain lower than in spring, when hiring nearly stalled. Last week's number was revised upward to 374,000 from the 372,000 reported initially.

Still, when applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

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Amazon Kindle Fire sold out as new model expected

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon.com Inc. says it has sold out of its Kindle Fire tablet computer amid expectations of a new model for the holiday season.

The Internet retailer has a major press conference scheduled for next Thursday. It's widely expected it will reveal a new model of the Fire then, so Thursday's announcement that the first model is "sold out" suggests that Amazon halted production a while ago to retool for a new model.

Amazon launched the $199 tablet last November. It was the first Kindle with a color screen and the ability to run third-party applications, placing it in competition with Apple Inc.'s iPad, at half the price of the cheapest iPad.

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Average rate on 30-year US mortgage falls to 3.59 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week and are just slightly above record lows reached earlier this year. The low rates have contributed to a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.59 percent, down from 3.66 percent last week. Five weeks ago, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.86 percent. That's down from 2.89 percent last week and slightly above the record low of 2.80 percent set five weeks ago.

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Report: Foreclosure sales fell sharply in 2Q

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of bank-owned homes and those already on the foreclosure path fell sharply in the second quarter, reflecting a thinner slate of properties for sale in many cities as banks take a measured approach to placing homes on the market.

Even so, foreclosure sales' share of all U.S. home purchases grew in the April-to-June period, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The combination of fewer bank-owned homes for sale and stronger demand during the traditional spring home-buying season also pushed sale prices higher. Bank-owned homes and those in some stage of foreclosure posted the biggest annual increase in average sales price since 2006, before the housing bubble burst, the firm said.

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Barclays appoints retail head as new CEO

LONDON (AP) — Barclays PLC on Thursday named the head of its retail and business banking operations its new chief executive, as shares in the troubled bank dropped following word of a new investigation into its deals.

Barclays said that Antony Jenkins, 51, would fill the post vacated by the resignation of Bob Diamond in the wake of a scandal over attempts to manipulate a key interest rate index.

Jenkins takes over just as the bank has been hit by more bad news.

Barclays disclosed Wednesday that Britain's Serious Fraud Office was looking into payments the bank made to Qatar Holdings LLC when Barclays raised more than 5 billion pounds ($8 billion) of emergency capital at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. The funds raised by Barclays in the Middle East saved it from joining other U.K. banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds in taking a government bailout.

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Carlyle buying DuPont coatings business for $4.9 billion

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The DuPont Co. said Thursday that it is selling its performance coatings business for $4.9 billion in cash to The Carlyle Group, giving the private equity firm another investment in the automotive and industrial segments.

DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said the sale of the performance coatings unit will allow the Wilmington, Del.-based company to focus on higher-growth, higher-margin businesses. Those include agriculture and nutrition, bio-based industrials, and advanced materials, which Kullman said are the foundation of DuPont's long-term growth targets.

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Japan Airlines sets price range for share sale

TOKYO (AP) — Japan Airlines, which was bailed out by the government and removed from Tokyo stock market listing, has set the price range for a relisting that is expected to be the second biggest share sale this year after Facebook's $16 billion initial public offering.

The shares will be priced between 3,500 yen and 3,790 yen ($44.51 and $48.20) each, JAL said Thursday. That puts the value of the 175 million shares to be sold next month at up to (663 billion yen) $8.44 billion.

Japan's once-proud flagship carrier, which competes against All Nippon Airways at home, filed for one of the country's biggest-ever bankruptcies in January 2010, receiving a 350 billion yen government-orchestrated bailout.

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NY AG: Janssen pays $181M over drug marketing

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and parent company Johnson & Johnson on Thursday announced a $181 million settlement with 36 states and the District of Columbia over charges of marketing anti-psychotic drugs for non-approved uses.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, representing one of the states involved, claimed in a court filing that Janssen engaged in deceptive practices from 1998 to at least 2004 in the marketing of the drugs Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab and Invega. The multistate settlement comes amid a similar federal case that is still pending.

Schneiderman said the company promoted "off-label" uses of the drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. For instance, Janssen is accused of promoting Risperdal, which is used to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, for non-approved uses including dementia, anger management and anxiety. Janssen rewarded doctors who prescribed and promoted Risperdal for unapproved uses with lucrative consulting agreements, according to Schneiderman's complaint.

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Paramount and 'Godfather' author heirs clash in NY

NEW YORK (AP) — The lawyer for the late creator of "The Godfather" stories told a judge Thursday that Paramount Pictures broke a nearly half-century-old deal with the writer and should no longer get exclusive rights to make movies based on books his heirs commission.

Attorney Bertram Fields told a federal judge in Manhattan that Paramount broke a 1969 contract when it went to publishers of the newest "Godfather" book and claimed the family did not have rights to publish it. "The Family Corleone" was published in May, though proceeds remain in an escrow account pending outcome of litigation.

A Paramount lawyer countered that the company was only asserting its rights when it contacted publishers in December.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 106.77 points to 13,000.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 11.01 to 1,399.48. The Nasdaq composite slid 32.47 to 3,048.71.

Benchmark oil fell 87 cents to finish trading at $94.62 in New York. Brent crude rose 11 cents to end at $112.65 a barrel.

Heating oil rose less than a penny to finish at $3.1245 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.77 cents to end at $3.0826 per gallon. Natural gas rose 6.3 cents, or 2.3 percent, to finish at $2.7480 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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