AP News

Business Highlights


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Hopes up for sunnier US economy once winter fades

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the weather warms up, so too will the U.S. economy.

That, at least, is the prevailing view of economists, who shrugged off a government report Friday that the economy was weaker last quarter than first thought.

Severe winter weather is probably slowing growth again this quarter. But as the chill and snow fade into memory, long-delayed spending by consumers and businesses could invigorate the economy starting in spring.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate last quarter, in part because consumers didn't spend as much as initially estimated. Initially, Commerce had estimated that the economy expanded at a 3.2 percent rate in the October- December quarter.

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Tokyo bitcoin exchange files for bankruptcy

TOKYO (AP) — The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in Tokyo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and its chief executive said 850,000 bitcoins are unaccounted for.

Its CEO said a weakness in its systems was behind a massive loss of the virtual currency, which would amount to about $425 million at recent prices.

The exchange's unplugging earlier this week and accusations it had suffered a catastrophic theft have drawn renewed regulatory attention to a currency created in 2009 as a way to make transactions across borders without third parties such as banks.

It remains unclear if the missing bitcoins were stolen, voided by technological flaws or both.

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Sands: Some customer data was stolen in hacking

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Computer hackers stole some Las Vegas Sands customers' Social Security and driver's license numbers during a data breach earlier this month, the casino company said Friday.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. said in a statement that the information about some patrons at its Bethlehem, Pa., hotel-casino was compromised during the Feb. 10 attack. It was unclear whether credit card information was also taken.

Sands said it was still working to determine whether customer information from other properties was breached. The company runs the Italian-themed Venetian and Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, and several hotel-casinos in China and Singapore.

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GAO report: Too few pilots or too little pay?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's regional airlines are having trouble hiring enough pilots, the government says, suggesting one reason may be that they simply don't pay enough.

A pool of qualified pilots is available, but it's unclear whether they are willing to work for low entry-level wages, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Friday.

The U.S. airline industry will need to hire 1,900 to 4,500 new pilots annually over the next 10 years due to an expected surge in retirements of pilots reaching age 65 and increased demand for air travel, according to the report.

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Citigroup lowers 2013 profit on Mexico fraud

NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup said a fraud at its Mexican banking unit will slice $235 million from last year's net income.

The bank said on Friday that Mexican oil services company Oceanografia SA de CV apparently submitted falsified invoices to get loans it wasn't entitled to. The invoices were supposed to back $585 million in loans, but Citi could only verify the backing for $185 million.

Citi's large Mexican bank, Banco Nacional de Mexico, had been lending money to OSA to cover work that OSA was doing for Mexico's state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

Citi said it learned of the problem on Feb. 11 after OSA was suspended from getting more Mexican government contracts

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Contracts to buy US homes barely budged in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes was essentially flat in January, a possible sign of a softening real estate market.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index inched up 0.1 last month to 95. The index has fallen 9 percent over the past 12 months as sales momentum has faded.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook teases, reassures shareholders

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook is still trying to convince shareholders that the iPhone maker remains a step ahead in the race to innovate, even though recent performance of the company's stock lags behind other technology trendsetters.

In making his case Friday, Cook struck a familiar refrain during Apple's annual shareholder meeting.

Cook promised that Apple Inc. is working on new gadgets that will expand the company's product line-up beyond smartphones, tablets, music players and personal computers without divulging any details. He cited the company's nearly $4.5 billion investment in research and development during the last fiscal year and the completion of 23 acquisitions in the past 16 months as a precursor of the big things to come.

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GrubHub orders up an IPO

CHICAGO (AP) — Online delivery company GrubHub plans to raise up to $100 million through an initial public offering.

The Chicago company, formerly known as GrubHub Seamless Inc., connects more than 28,000 restaurants with diners in more than 600 U.S. cities. It had 3.4 million active diners at the end of the yearend.

Companies like GrubHub contract with restaurants, mostly in large metropolitan areas, and allow customers to shop online by food type, cuisine, or restaurant name to find what they want and have it delivered or prepared before pickup.

The company did not disclose how many shares would be offered in the IPO or the projected price range in a regulatory filing Friday.

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AP Sources: Woods to get new sponsor for PGA event

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour is closing on a deal for Detroit-based Quicken Loans to become title sponsor of Tiger Woods' tournament at Congressional, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people who have been told about the deal said Quicken Loans could begin its sponsorship before the next tournament, to be played June 26-29. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is not completed and has not been announced.

It would be a big boost to the Tiger Woods Foundation, which receives the net proceeds from the event currently called the AT&T National.

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Mattel to buy Canadian toy maker Mega Brands

TORONTO (AP) — Mattel Inc. has made a friendly takeover offer for Canadian toy maker Mega Brands Inc., which has the world's No. 2 line of construction sets after Lego.

The deal values the Montreal-based company at US$460 million, including debt that the American industry giant will assume or repay.

Mattel manufactures Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars among numerous other toys. The company says Mega Brands will help it expand in two of the fastest-growing product segments: construction sets and arts and crafts.

Mattel's chairman and CEO told analysts Friday that Mattel plans to keep the Mega Brands head office in Montreal and to invest in its manufacturing operations, which he said are integral to the business.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 49.06 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 16,321.71. The S&P 500 rose 5.16 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,859.45 and the Nasdaq composite lost 10.81 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,308.12.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery rose 19 cents to $102.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas gained 10 cents to $4.61 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.79 per gallon. Heating oil was flat at $3.09 per gallon. Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, rose 11 cents to $109.07 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.


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