Business Highlights

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ ___

Yelp shares surge 63 percent in stock market debut

Yelp's stock opened to five-star reviews from investors on Friday, soaring 63 percent even though the company has yet to prove it can make money from its online recommendations.

After Yelp's initial public offering priced at $15, the shares gained $9.52 to close at $24.52 in their trading debut. In an indication of the strong investor interest in the eight-year-old reviews site, the IPO sold above its targeted range of $12 to $14 per share.

It's the biggest first-day gain for an Internet IPO since online real estate service Zillow Inc. surged 79 percent in its stock market debut last July. Yelp's gain wasn't the biggest for an IPO so far this year, though. Those bragging rights still belong to Proto Labs Inc., a Maple Plain, Minn.-based provider of customized parts. Proto Labs' shares soared 81 percent in their first day of trading a week ago.


Feel cheated? Small claims court brings big wins

If you feel cheated by a big company and complaining gets you nowhere, what can you do? A handful of recent cases suggest that consumers can, if they're motivated enough, win against big companies in small claims courts.

These "David versus Goliath" battles were won against the likes of AT&T, Honda and others, without resorting to lawyers. The plaintiffs paid minor filing fees, gathered their own research and presented arguments in quick hearings that resemble the average "Judge Judy" episode.

And now, thanks to the Internet, these victors are connecting with other consumers in hopes of helping them replicate their successes. If the practice catches on, it could amount to a big bucks difference in payouts by these giant corporations.


German court dismisses Apple, Samsung lawsuits

BERLIN (AP) â¿¿ A German court has dismissed patent lawsuits by technology giants Apple and Samsung against each other in the two companies' battle over the market for smartphones and tablet devices.

Mannheim state court spokesman Joachim Bock said judges dismissed both cases involving alleged patent infringements of the companies' respective slide-to-lock technology on mobile devices.

Samsung Electronics welcomed Friday's dismissal of Apple's case against the firm, but it vowed to appeal the dismissal of its lawsuit against Apple. It also said a separate case regarding four alleged patent infringements is still pending with the Mannheim court.


Citigroup says Parsons to step down as chairman

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Richard Parsons, who was named chairman of Citigroup in 2009 just after the bank accepted $45 billion in federal bailouts, will step down from the position, the bank said Friday.

The bank said Michael O'Neill, a Citi board member and the former CEO of Bank of Hawaii Corp., was expected to succeed Parsons. The Citi board will elect a chairman at the bank's annual shareholder meeting in April.

Parsons, 63, a former CEO of Time Warner, has a reputation as a skilled negotiator, diplomat and crisis manager and is one of the most prominent black executives in corporate America.


APPA: Annual pet spending reaches all-time high

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Americans spent $50.96 billion on their pets in 2011.

That's an all-time high and the first time in history more than $50 billion has gone to the dogs, cats, canaries, guppies and the like, the American Pet Products Association said in a report issued Thursday.

Food and vet costs accounted for about 65 percent of the spending. But it was a service category â¿¿ one that includes grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet-sitting and day care â¿¿ that grew more than any other, rising 7.9 percent from $3.51 billion in 2010 to $3.79 billion in 2011.


Union Pacific CEO to take medical leave

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) â¿¿ Union Pacific said Friday that chief executive Jim Young will take a medical leave of absence to be treated for pancreatic cancer. He will remain chairman of the railroad's board while on leave.

Young, 59, was elected CEO and president of the nation's largest railroad in 2006 and became chairman the following year.

John Koraleski, Union Pacific's executive vice president for marketing and sales, will serve as acting president and CEO.


GM to suspend production of Chevrolet Volt

DALLAS (AP) â¿¿ General Motors is suspending production of its Chevrolet Volt electric car for five weeks amid disappointing sales.

A GM spokesman said Friday that the company will shut down production of the Volt from March 19 until April 23, idling 1,300 workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

GM sold 7,671 Volts last year, below its original goal of 10,000 cars. The company stopped publicly announcing sales targets last year. It sold 1,023 Volts in February and 603 in January.


Sara Lee spinoff to distribute $4.6 billion in stock

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (AP) â¿¿ Food company Sara Lee Corp. said Friday that its shareholders will get stock valued at up to $4.55 billion when it spins off its international coffee and tea business later this year.

The coffee and tea business, which includes brands such as Senseo and Pickwick Teas, will also move its Netherlands headquarters from Utrecht to Amsterdam in the second half of the year in part to be close to key Western European markets.


Spanish deficit tests Europe's fiscal treaty

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ The leaders of 25 European countries on Friday signed a new treaty designed to limit government overspending, but their good intentions were immediately put to the test when Spain said it would miss deficit targets this year to spare itself from austerity overload.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government's deficit will be 5.8 percent of economic output this year instead of the 4.4 percent earlier promised to the EU.

By signing the new treaty, known as the fiscal compact, the EU leaders hope to achieve closer political and economic integration and longer-term confidence in Europe's finances. But the economic reality in the region â¿¿ record unemployment and a slide back into recession â¿¿ suggests the leaders need to reconsider their focus on austerity and seek ways to boost growth.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 2.73 points to close at 12,977.57. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.78 points to 2,976.19. The broader S&P 500 index fell 4.46 points to 1,369.63.

U.S. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude, which is used to price much of the oil produced in the Midwest, fell by $2.14 to finish at $106.70 per barrel on Friday in New York. Brent crude, imported by many U.S. refineries to make gasoline, fell by $2.55 to end at $123.65 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 7 cents to finish at $3.20 per gallon and gasoline futures fell 8 cents to end at $3.27 per gallon. Natural gas futures rose 2 cents to finish at $2.48 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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