AP News

Business Highlights


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Renewed fervor for Google lifts stock above $800

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google's stock price topped $800 for the first time Tuesday amid renewed confidence in the company's ability to reap higher profits from its dominance of Internet search and prominence in the growing mobile market.

The milestone comes more than five years after Google's shares initially hit $700. Not long after breaking that barrier in October 2007, the economy collapsed into the worst recession since World War II and Google's stock tumbled into a prolonged malaise that eventually led to a change in leadership.

Besides enriching Google's employees and other shareholders, the company's resurgent stock is an implicit endorsement of co-founder Larry Page. He replaced his managerial mentor, Eric Schmidt, as CEO in April 2011. Google's stock has risen by 36 percent since Page took over. By contrast, the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed by 15 percent over the same stretch.

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US ready to strike back against China cyber attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — As public evidence mounts that the Chinese military is responsible for stealing massive amounts of U.S. government data and corporate trade secrets, the Obama administration is poised to spell out specific trade actions it may take against Beijing or any other country guilty of cyberespionage.

According to officials familiar with the plans, the White House is eyeing fines, penalties and other trade restrictions as initial, more-aggressive steps the U.S. would take in response to what top officials say has been an unrelenting campaign of cyberstealing linked to the Chinese government. The new strategy is to be released Wednesday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the threatened action.

The White House plans come after a Virginia-based cybersecurity firm released a torrent of details Monday that tied a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai to years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies. After analyzing breaches that compromised more than 140 companies, Mandiant has concluded that they can be linked People's Liberation Army's Unit 61398.

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China rejects status as world's biggest trader

BEIJING (AP) — China has a new status its government doesn't want — world's biggest trader.

Official Chinese and American trade data indicate China passed the United States last year in total imports and exports by a margin of $3.866 trillion to $3.822 trillion. That is about $44 billion, or just over 1 percent of China's total.

The Commerce Ministry has taken the unusual step of publicly denying China is the new No. 1. It says China still trailed the U.S. by $15.6 billion last year — or a razor-thin 0.3 percent — under World Trade Organization standards for valuing goods.

Beijing wants to be a global leader but insists it still is a poor country. It is wary of any change that might erode that status and fuel demands for action to stimulate the global economy or concessions on trade and climate change.

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Microsoft's Outlook takes aim at Google's Gmail

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft is so confident it has the Internet's best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the U.S.

The barrage began Tuesday when Microsoft's twist on email, Outlook.com, escalated an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.

As part of the process, all users of Microsoft's Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as MSN.com will be automatically converted to Outlook.com by the summer, if they don't voluntarily switch before then. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Outlook.com. Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.

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Baubles to bars: India gold culture defies curbs

MUMBAI, India (AP) — India's steep new tax on gold imports doesn't deter Mousumi Rao as she holds up a glittering $5,000 filigree necklace that could adorn her daughter on her wedding day. Rao's daughter isn't getting married next month or even next year. The 12-year-old is at least several years away from her wedding.

Since tradition demands a bride practically drip with gold jewelry, it's never too early for an Indian family to start preparing, particularly with the high cost of gold these days.

Gold has been deeply entwined in Indian culture for thousands of years. Nowadays, India is by far the world's biggest buyer of gold and those imports are an increasing drain on an economy that is growing too slowly to reduce widespread poverty. Last year Indians imported 864 tons of gold, about one fifth of world sales. The cost of 2.5 trillion rupees ($45 billion) was second only to India's bill for imported oil. The unquenchable appetite for gold coins, bars and jewelry has swelled India's trade deficit and weakened its currency, making crucial imports such as fuel more expensive.

The government can't do much about oil imports — without fuel, the economy would grind to a halt — so in the past year it has tried to rein in gold demand, raising the import duty three times in a year to its current level of 6 percent. The higher tariff is proving little match for age-old tradition.

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Younger vets still struggle as jobs scene improves

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months after completing his five-plus years as an Army medic, Dan Huber is still looking for a job. And while he's had some promising interviews, he has no assurances the search will end soon.

That's given him some insight that he shares with some of his buddies back at Fort Polk in Louisiana: Don't wait until you've left the military to determine how you'll make ends meet as a civilian.

The unemployment rate for veterans between 18 and 24 exceeded 20 percent last year. It was also in double digits for those 25-34. The unemployment rate for both age groups was higher than for their nonveteran peers and much higher than the national average.

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Dell earnings fall 31 percent in the fourth quarter as PC market stays weak, buyout looms

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) — Dell Inc. on Tuesday posted another quarter of declining sales and profits, the type of results that have disenchanted shareholders and prompted a buyout agreement.

Two weeks ago, Dell's founder and CEO Michael Dell and a group of investors agreed to buy the company for $24.4 billion with a plan to turn it around. If the deal goes through, it will take the PC maker off the stock market after 25 years.

Dell's slump stems from weakening demand for PCs as more technology spending shifts toward smartphones and tablet computers.

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Insurer stocks slip over possible Medicare cuts

Health insurance stocks wobbled Tuesday after data released by the federal government pointed to possible steep Medicare Advantage payment cuts in 2014, which could lead to reduced coverage or fewer options for people buying the plans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Friday after markets closed that it expects costs per person for Medicare Advantage plans to fall more than 2 percent in 2014, a bigger drop than many analysts who cover the industry anticipated.

The government uses this figure as a benchmark to determine payments for these privately run versions of the government's Medicare program that covers the elderly and disabled people, and analysts worry that this might lead to big payment cuts.

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US homebuilder confidence dips from a 6½ year high

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Confidence among U.S. homebuilders slipped this month from the 6½ year high it reached in January, with many builders reporting less traffic by prospective customers before the critical spring home-buying season.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday dipped to 46 from 47 in January. It was the first monthly decline in the index since April.

Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. The last time the index was at 50 or higher was in April 2006, when it was 51. It began trending higher in October 2011, when it was 17. The latest index, based on responses from 402 builders, comes as the U.S. housing market is strengthening after stagnating for roughly five years after the housing boom collapsed.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 53.91 points to close at 14,035.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11.15 points to 1,530.94. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 21.56 points to 3,213.59.

Benchmark crude for March delivery rose 80 cents to finish at $96.66 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of oil, was down 34 cents to $117.66 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Heating oil fell 2.98 cents to $3.1806 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.33 cents to $3.1212 per gallon. Natural gas added 11.9 cents to $3.2720 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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