Stocks end rough quarter with more questions

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The stock market closed out a painful second quarter Wednesday and left investors with heavy losses and far more doubts about the economy than they had just months ago.

Stocks had their worst quarterly performance since the financial crisis. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, considered by many professional investors to be the best measure of the market's health, lost 11.9 percent, while the Dow Jones industrial average lost 10 percent to 9,774.02. Both indexes are at their lows for 2010.


Jobless rates drop in two-thirds of metro areas

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Unemployment rates in roughly two-thirds of the nation's largest metropolitan areas dipped in May as the gradual economic recovery spurred some hiring.

An analysis of Labor Department data released Wednesday found that jobless rates dropped in 237 of 382 areas in May from April. It rose in 118 areas and was flat in 27.

The figures aren't adjusted to account for seasonal trends, such as lifeguards hired during the summer or retail clerks let go after the holiday shopping season. So they tend to be volatile from month to month.


Mortgage applications rise 9 percent after rates fall

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Applications for mortgages rose last week as consumers refinanced their loans at the lowest rates in more than 50 years.

Overall applications increased nearly 9 percent from a week earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. But the growth in borrowing came from applications to refinance home loans and not to make new purchases.

Refinancings were up 13 percent, the highest level since May 2009. But they remain about half the level of early 2009, partly because many people who wanted and were able to refinance have already done so. Refinancing costs can total several thousand dollars


Ex-AIG exec defends risky trades before crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A former top executive of American International Group Inc. acknowledged Wednesday that his division more than tripled the amount of risky investments it insured in the three years leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown.

But Joseph Cassano, chief executive for AIG's key Financial Products division, rebuffed accusations from a special panel investigating the crisis that he relaxed standards to issue more credit default swaps.

AIG received a $182 billion taxpayer bailout â¿¿ the biggest of the federal rescues â¿¿ after it nearly collapsed and helped trigger the financial crisis.


Monsanto 3Q net income sags on weak Roundup sales

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) â¿¿ Monsanto Co., the world's biggest seed maker, said Wednesday its fiscal third-quarter net income tumbled 45 percent as it shrank its Roundup weedkiller business amid intense generic competition.

As Roundup sales have flagged, Monsanto last year said it was accelerating its long-term strategy to shift the majority of its business from chemicals and herbicides to genetically altered seeds. But the transition has been rougher than expected as growing generic competition from China drives steep declines in Roundup sales, and Monsanto has struggled to entice farmers to buy up its pricey genetically modified seed.


Boeing buys Argon for $775M as military shifts

Boeing is buying combat engineering firm Argon ST for about $775 million, reflecting a shift by defense contractors seeking to accommodate a Pentagon that now wants high-tech intelligence tools as much or more than big guns and heavy armor.

The Pentagon is cutting some big weapons meant for conventional wars out of the budget while it shops for technology better suited to fight against shadowy insurgent groups in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Argon ST Inc. is a Fairfax, Va., company that develops a variety of systems used in surveillance and combat. That includes reconnaissance equipment mounted on planes, sensors meant to warn of an approaching enemy and special sights to help troops locate snipers in urban warfare.


Celgene to buy Abraxis for $2.9B in biotech deal

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Biotechnology company Celgene said Wednesday it is expanding its array of cancer treatments with a deal to buy Abraxis BioScience Inc. for $2.9 billion in cash and stock.

Celgene Corp. said the transaction could add $1 billion to its annual sales by 2015. The company is hoping it will be able to "re-energize" sales of Abraxis' only approved drug, the breast cancer treatment Abraxane, and also win approval for Abraxane as a treatment for skin, lung, and pancreatic cancer. If that happens, the value of the deal could grow to more than $3.55 billion.

Cancer treatments are expensive and they are a major area of growth in the drug industry, which makes them a tempting target for buyers like Celgene.


Ford Motor to repay $4 billion more in debt

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Ford Motor Co., the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy protection, said Wednesday it will reduce its huge debt by another $4 billion as it continues to show signs of financial strength.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker will pay $3.8 billion in cash to a United Auto Workers trust fund that pays retiree health care bills, and it will pay out $255 million in dividends on preferred securities that had been deferred as the automaker worked its way through financial troubles. The company now will make quarterly payments on the securities, which are a combination of preferred stock and bonds.


Tesla Motors hits high gear in 2nd day of trading

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. spiked Wednesday as investors continued bidding up the stock following the electric car maker's blowout public offering. The excitement cooled late in the session, with shares paring their gains to end down slightly on the day.

In its second day of trading, Tesla shares soared 27 percent by midday to peak at $30.42 before investors took profits off the table. The stock finished 6 cents lower at $23.83 â¿¿ still 40 percent above its $17 IPO price.

Tesla's two-day run is impressive given the volatile stock market and the lackluster performance of some recent initial public offerings this year. But analysts said the gains are largely fueled by speculation about the company's potential rather than its current performance.


Unable to pass stimulus, Dems push aid for jobless

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Unable to deliver more stimulus spending for President Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress are trying at least to restore jobless benefits for 1.3 million laid-off workers.

Democrats in both the House and Senate planned to vote on bills Thursday that would extend unemployment benefits through the end of November for people who have been laid off for long stretches. House Democrats postponed a vote scheduled for Wednesday. Democratic leaders were hoping to pass the extension before Congress goes on a weeklong Independence Day recess. By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 96.28, or 1 percent, to 9,774.02.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10.53, or 1 percent, to 1,030.71, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 25.94, or 1.2 percent, to 2,109.24.

Benchmark crude for August delivery fell 31 cents to settle at $75.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price has ranged between $75 a barrel and $78 a barrel for about a month.

In other Nymex trading in July contracts, heating oil fell 3.96 cents to settle at $1.9817 a gallon and gasoline lost 1.14 cents to $2.0606 a gallon. August natural gas rose 6.8 cents to $4.616 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude fell 43 cents to settle at $75.01 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

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