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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Employers grumble about new insurance fee in health overhaul law

Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It's a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest companies, employers say. Most of that is likely to be passed on to workers.

Based on figures provided in the regulation, employer and individual health plans covering an estimated 190 million Americans could owe the per-person fee. The Obama administration says it's a temporary assessment levied for three years starting in 2014, intended to raise $25 billion.

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Italian election means new stress for eurozone

Until last weekend Europe seemed headed for a quiet Christmas and New Year's. Then Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti unexpectedly announced he was going to resign, pulling the plug on a government that had boosted confidence in the country's ability to manage its debts.

The prospect of a return to a shaky government and finances has suddenly put new strains on the leaders of the 17-strong group of European Union countries that use the euro and their efforts to bottle up the region's debt and economic crisis.

Analysts warn that after several months of calm, the eurozone could now be in for a rougher ride as 2013 begins.

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China's money changes the landscape in Australia

Tony Clift's family has plowed the rich black soil of Australia's Liverpool Plains for six generations. The thought of selling never crossed his mind until a Chinese company came to town.

Shenhua Watermark Coal offered to buy farms at unheard-of prices. The decision wasn't easy, Clift says. His pioneer ancestors settled the land in 1832. But farming is a business nowadays, and selling his 6,500 acres made business sense.

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