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Business Highlights

AutoZone 3Q net income climbs on brisk parts sales

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ AutoZone Inc. said Tuesday that strong sales of automotive replacement parts and several new store openings helped drive net income up 17 percent in its fiscal third quarter.

Replacement auto parts makers like AutoZone have thrived during the recession as penny-pinching drivers opt to repair their existing cars on their own instead of buying new ones. The company said the third-quarter results mark its 15th straight quarter of double-digit growth in earnings per share.

While new vehicle sales have begun to recover in recent months, they remain below pre-recession levels and consumers are still taking a do-it-yourself approach to many of their repairs.

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Merck shareholders ask about dividend, stock price

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Shareholders of drugmaker Merck & Co. peppered its CEO at their annual meeting Tuesday with questions about what the company will do to boost its lagging stock price, raise dividends and improve performance.

The questions came after Chief Executive Richard T. Clark's upbeat presentation about progress in integrating Schering-Plough Corp.

Merck bought its New Jersey neighbor last fall, vaulting from eighth to second in the global pharmaceutical industry by revenue â¿¿ now about $40 billion a year â¿¿ behind No. 1 Pfizer Inc.

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NYC mayor announces $22M fund for tech startups

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a message for computer geeks everywhere: Forget sunny Silicon Valley and launch your company here.

Bloomberg made his pitch Tuesday at a gathering of technology entrepreneurs, announcing the creation of a city-sponsored $22 million venture fund that will invest in promising tech companies headquartered in New York.

The city's Economic Development Corporation will invest $3 million in the fund while FirstMark Capital, a New York-based venture capital fund will provide up to $19 million more.

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