Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Obama offers mortgage relief on Western trip

LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ President Barack Obama is offering mortgage relief to struggling homeowners in hard-hit Nevada and around the country â¿¿ saying he can't wait for an "increasingly dysfunctional Congress" to act.

The president said Monday that "where they won't act, I will." He made the comments in remarks prepared for a stop in Las Vegas as he began a three-day Western trip.

His new housing initiative would allow homeowners with federally backed mortgages who are still current on their payments to refinance no matter how much their home value has dropped. It's recognition that measures the administration has taken so far haven't done as much as had hoped on housing.

Obama said he'll go around Congress to take executive action wherever possible, with Republican lawmakers prepared to block his initiatives.


The IPO market, an engine of job growth, stalls

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Two companies with quirky names, Ubiquiti Networks and Zeltiq Aesthetics, made their public debuts earlier this month with listings on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Each company's stock went up modestly on the first day of trading.

Ubiquiti pocketed $106 million for the day, and Zeltiq made $91 million. They were the most successful stock debuts of the past two months. Then again, they were the only stock debuts of the past two months.

The market for initial public offerings, or IPOs, is suffering through a drought of Texas proportions. Companies thinking of going public are deciding it's just too risky.

The stock market lost nearly 20 percent of its value in a month this past summer. Swings of 200 points for the Dow Jones industrial average continue to be commonplace. Getting the timing wrong for a coming-out party can mean missing out on millions of dollars.

A dried-up IPO market matters because stock debuts aren't just a chance for tech whizzes to become overnight billionaires and ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Companies use the cash they raise to grow â¿¿ and that means hiring people.


Netflix loses 800,000 US subscribers in tough third quarter

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Netflix's video subscription service lost 800,000 customers in the third quarter â¿¿ its biggest exodus ever â¿¿ even as its earnings rose 65 percent.

The losses were larger than management had warned they would be. The unwelcome surprise, contained in financial results reported Monday, was compounded by a forecast calling for millions of Netflix Inc.'s DVD-by-mail subscribers to cancel the service in reaction to dramatic price increase that took effect last month.

Netflix lost its luster among consumers and investors by raising prices as much as 60 percent in the U.S. and bungling an attempt to spin off its DVD-by-mail rental service.

The company, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., ended September with 23.8 million U.S. subscribers, down about 800,000 from June. Netflix had predicted it would lose about 600,000 U.S. subscribers in a forecast released last month.


Government job losses a growing drag on recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Conservative Republicans have long clamored for government downsizing. They're starting to get it â¿¿ by default.

Crippled by plunging tax revenues, state and local governments have shed over a half million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. And, after adding jobs early in the downturn, the federal government is now cutting them as well.

States cut 49,000 jobs over the past year and localities 210,000, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics. There are 30,000 fewer federal workers now than a year ago â¿¿ including 5,300 Postal Service jobs canceled last month.

By contrast, private-sector jobs have increased by 1.6 million over the past 12 months. But the state, local and federal job losses have become a drag on efforts to nudge the nation's unemployment rate down from its painfully high 9.1 percent.


Caterpillar third-quarter profit soars, raises year view

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Strong demand for machinery drove up Caterpillar's profit 44 percent in the third quarter and the company expects even stronger sales next year.

The world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment earned $1.14 billion, or $1.71 per share, in the third quarter, compared with $792 million, or $1.22 per share, a year earlier. Revenue surged 41 percent to $15.72 billion.

Excluding its $7.6 billion acquisition of surface mining equipment maker Bucyrus International Inc., Caterpillar earned $1.93 per share on revenue of $14.58 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet Research were expecting a profit of $1.63 per share on $14.84 billion in sales.


Peabody Energy, ArcelorMittal acquire coal company

LUXEMBOURG (AP) ⿿ Peabody Energy Corp and Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal say they have acquired controlling interest in an Australian coal company for a price reportedly in excess of $5 billion (⿬3.62 billion).

Peabody â¿¿ the U.S.-based world's largest private-sector coal company â¿¿ and ArcelorMittal â¿¿ the world's largest steelmaker â¿¿ said Monday they now control nearly 60 percent of the shares of Macarthur Coal Ltd, and will appoint representatives to the Macarthur board.

Macarthur is a major producer of pulverized coal, which is coveted by steel producers.

PEAMCoal Pty Ltd, the holding company now controlling 59.85 percent of the Macarthur shares, is 60 percent owned by Peabody and 40 percent owned by ArcelorMittal.


Mattel buying Thomas the Tank Engine's parent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ Mattel has agreed to buy the company behind Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder for $680 million in cash, the toy maker's biggest acquisition in a decade.

The owner of Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher Price toys announced Monday that it is buying Hit Entertainment from a consortium led by private equity firm Apax Partners.

Mattel Inc. already markets many Thomas & Friends die-cast and plastic toys under a license that extends until 2014. Global sales of those toys are more than $150 million.

Mattel said the deal will help combine its own global marketing and distribution capabilities with Hit Entertainment's global programing and licensing expertise, said Robert A. Eckert, said Mattel CEO.


Insurer Cigna to buy HealthSpring for $3.8 billion

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) â¿¿ Cigna Corp. will buy fellow health insurer HealthSpring Inc. in a $3.8 billion deal as it becomes the latest managed-care company to snap up a bigger share of the fast-growing Medicare Advantage market.

Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Conn., also said Monday it raised its earnings expectations for 2011 and moved up its third-quarter earnings report to Friday from Nov. 3.

Cigna's acquisition is the latest in a series of deals made by health insurers to expand their Medicare Advantage businesses, which are growing at a faster rate than commercial insurance as baby boomers become eligible for them. In addition, big insurers like Cigna have reported strong results in recent quarters, and analysts have speculated that companies would start exploring acquisitions.


Oracle to buy RightNow for $1.5 billion

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Software company Oracle Corp. said Monday that it is buying RightNow Technologies Inc. for about $1.5 billion so it can offer a broader range of software and services that help businesses manage customer service.

Oracle is offering $43 per share for the tech service company from Bozeman, Mont. That is a 19.6 percent premium over RightNow's closing price of $35.96 on Friday.

RightNow's board has agreed to the deal, which is subject to shareholder approval. The company says it will stay in Bozeman.

Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., expects to complete the deal by late this year or early next.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 104.83 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,913.62. The Nasdaq composite rose 61.98, or 2.4 percent, to 2,699.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15.94 points, or 1.29 percent, to 1,254.19.

Benchmark crude rose $3.87, or 4.4 percent, to finish at $91.27 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose $1.89 to end at $111.45 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose 3.83 cents to finish at $3.0542 per gallon and gasoline futures increased 1.21 cents to end at $2.6703 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2.5 cents to finish the day at $3.604 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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