Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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China faces conflict of law, business in iPad row

BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ Chinese officials face a choice in Apple's dispute with a local company over the iPad trademark: side with a struggling entity that a court says owns the name or ally with a global brand that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in China. Experts say that means Beijing's political priorities rather than the courts will settle the dispute if it escalates.

Shenzhen Proview Technology has asked regulators to seize iPads in China in a possible prelude to pressing Apple Inc. for a payout. There have been seizures in some cities but no sign of action by national-level authorities.

Proview has a strong case under Chinese trademark law, but that could quickly change if Beijing decides to intervene to avoid disrupting iPad sales or exports from factories in southern China where the popular tablet computers are made, legal experts say.

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Merkel optimistic Greek deal can be agreed Monday

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ Greece's hopes to finally get its bailout and dodge default next month were boosted Friday, when key European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sounded confident a deal could be agreed.

The leaders of Germany, Italy and Greece are "optimistic" the ⿬130 billion ($170 billion) rescue package can be cleared next week, a spokesman for Merkel said Friday after the three held a conference call. Hours earlier, the French prime minister warned against letting Greece default.

That means the euro currency union's main powers are now pushing toward resolving the uncertainty hanging over Greece at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.

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Franc farewell: France bids adieu to former money

PARIS (AP) â¿¿ Six centuries after the first one was minted and a decade after they went out of circulation, the last French francs were exchanged for euros, severing France's final link to its former national currency.

The franc's end comes as its replacement, the euro, suffers its worst crisis since its creation.

The Banque de France set a deadline of the close of business Friday for French savers to exchange whatever leftover franc notes they had socked away in drawers or under mattresses, whether the money was save intentionally as souvenirs or simply forgotten about.

The euro replaced the franc in wallets and purses in January 2002, but the central bank continued to accept francs in exchange for euros â¿¿ until late Friday.

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FDA raises safety concerns for Vivus diet pill

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Federal health officials say they still have safety concerns about an experimental diet pill from drugmaker Vivus Inc., as the company prepares to make a second attempt to convince experts of the drug's safety next week.

Vivus, based in Mountain View, Calif., is one of three small drugmakers racing to bring the first new prescription weight loss drug to market in more than a decade. In the past two years the Food and Drug Administration has rejected pills from all three: Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc., Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. and Vivus. All three companies are in the process of resubmitting their products.

The FDA had rejected the diet pill Qnexa in October 2010. Vivus has resubmitted the drug with additional follow-up information, hoping for a more favorable ruling.

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Consumer prices up as gas, clothing costs rise

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Consumer prices rose modestly in January on higher costs for food, gas, rent and clothing.

But economists downplayed the increase, saying inflation will likely ease in the coming months as prices for raw materials level off.

Separately, a gauge of future economic activity rose in January for the fourth straight month, adding to evidence that the economy has strengthened in the new year.

The consumer price index increased 0.2 percent last month, after a flat reading in December, the Labor Department said Friday.

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Fast vote: Congress sends payroll tax cut to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Congress swiftly approved legislation Friday renewing a payroll tax cut for 160 million American workers and jobless benefits for millions more, backing the main items on President Barack Obama's jobs agenda in a rare burst of Washington bipartisanship.

The Senate approved the $143 billion measure on a 60-36 vote minutes after the House approved it by a sweeping 293-132 vote. Obama is expected to sign it shortly after returning from a West Coast fundraising swing.

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Dutch logistics company TNT rejects UPS' $6.43 billion bid

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ United Parcel Service, the world's largest package delivery company, said Friday that it is still in talks to acquire TNT Express, even after the Dutch package delivery company rejected a $6.43 billion bid.

UPS said there is no guarantee that they will reach middle ground and make a deal. If UPS were to successfully buy TNT, it would significantly expand its business in Europe. The deal would be UPS' biggest ever.

The bid works out to ⿬9, or about $11.84, per share. That's based on TNT's 534.2 million outstanding shares. TNT's American depositary shares soared 56 percent to $12.57. UPS shares closed unchanged at $76.76.

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Campbell Soup 2Q net declines, but beats Street

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Campbell Soup Co.'s second-quarter net income fell 14 percent as it spent more on marketing and a cutback in discounting hurt sales volume.

But the results released Friday beat expectations as its soup business improved. The company's stock rose 4 percent midday trading.

The snack and soup maker said its net income for the three months that ended Jan. 29 fell to $205 million, or 64 cents per share. That compares with $239 million, or 72 cents per share, last year. Analysts expected 62 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue edged down nearly 1 percent to $2.11 billion. Analysts expected $2.12 billion.

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Gilead shares sink after study announcement

Gilead Sciences Inc.'s shares plunged Friday after the drugmaker said a promising hepatitis C treatment it acquired as part of the $11 billion Pharmasset purchase may need help from other drugs to effectively treat some patients.

The Foster City, Calif., company said some patients in a small portion of a mid-stage study relapsed after completing a treatment that combined the company's potential drug, labeled GS-7977, and ribavirin, an older medicine. Gilead executives told analysts they may have to add additional antiviral drugs to that combination or extend the length of treatment.

Company shares had climbed 47 percent over the past two months from around $37 to top $54 as Gilead worked toward completing the Pharmasset Inc. deal, which it announced in November.

The stock sank 14.3 percent, or $7.81, to close at $47 Friday while the Nasdaq exchange fell slightly.

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J&J consumer health segment recalls infant Tylenol

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Recall-plagued Johnson & Johnson is pulling all infant Tylenol off the U.S. market because some parents have had problems with redesigned bottles, introduced three months ago, that the company touted as a big safety improvement to make measuring doses easier.

Instead, 17 parents or caregivers have complained that a protective cover on the top of the bottles didn't work correctly. It's meant to limit how much of the liquid pain and fever reducer can be drawn into a plastic syringe. But when those consumers inserted the plastic syringe, it pushed the protective cover, or flow restrictor, into the bottle.

J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit, which has had about 25 product recalls since September 2009, said Friday that it is recalling all 574,000 bottles of grape-flavored, liquid Infants' Tylenol from stores nationwide.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 45.79 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 12,949.87, its highest close for the year so far. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 3.19 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,361.23, also setting a record close for 2012. The Nasdaq composite fell 8.07 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,951.78.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 93 cents on Friday to end the week at $103.24 per barrel in New York. That eclipsed the previous high for the year of $103.22 set on Jan. 4. Brent crude, an international benchmark that already has surged this year, fell by 53 cents to finish at $119.58 per barrel in London as investors locked in profits.

In other energy trading, natural gas futures jumped by 12 cents, or 4.6 percent, to finish at $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet, spurred by a government report on Thursday that said U.S. supplies declined more than expected last week.

Heating oil fell by 2 cents to end at $3.1889 per gallon. Gasoline futures fell 3 cents to finish at $3.02 per gallon.

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