Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Overhead bins get bigger

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) â¿¿ Fliers can stop sharpening their elbows. Overhead bins are getting bigger.

Packed planes and a high volume of carry-ons are forcing airlines to expand the space above passenger's heads. United and Delta are the latest airlines to replace or upgrade bins so they hold more luggage. And engineers at Boeing are designing jet interiors with today's bulkier luggage in mind.

It's a chance to placate passengers who feel like they're thrown into a roller derby every time they board a plane. Because of fees on checked bags, more passengers are bringing carry-ons, which are growing in size. And with planes more crowded than ever, bins fill up before everyone has reached their seat. Travelers fight physics and one another to shove one more bag overhead. Or they're forced to check luggage at the gate.


EPA heightens scrutiny over Pennsylvania gas drilling

DIMOCK, Pa. (AP) â¿¿ Tugging on rubber gloves, a laboratory worker kneels before a gushing spigot behind Kim Grosso's house and positions an empty bottle under the clear, cold stream. The process is repeated dozens of times as bottles are filled, marked and packed into coolers.

After extensive testing, Grosso and dozens of her neighbors will know this week what may be lurking in their well water as federal regulators investigate claims of contamination in the midst of one of the nation's most productive natural gas fields.

More than three years into the gas-drilling boom that's produced thousands of new wells, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Pennsylvania are tussling over regulation of the Marcellus Shale, the vast underground rock formation that holds trillions of cubic feet of gas.


US service firms grow at fastest pace in a year

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. service companies expanded in February at the fastest pace in a year, helped by a rise in new orders and job growth.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 57.3, up from January's 56.8 and the third straight increase. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Expansion in the service sector coincides with the lowest unemployment in three years, five straight months of solid to strong job growth and rising consumer confidence.


US factory orders fell 1 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. factory orders fell in January by the most in 15 months after businesses sharply reduced orders for machinery and equipment.

The decrease was largely expected after a tax cut expired at the end of last year. Even with the decline, orders have gradually been climbing back to near pre-recession levels.

The Commerce Department said Monday that factory orders fell 1 percent in January.

That lowered overall demand for factory goods to $462.6 billion, or 37.7 percent above the recession low hit in March 2009. Demand is now just 4.6 percent below the peak set in June 2008.


Key investors sign up for Greek bond swap

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ A dozen banks, insurers and investment funds holding Greece's bonds will participate in a massive debt relief plan for the country, the group representing the private creditors said Monday as the deadline for the deal draws near.

The statement from the Institute of International Finance comes amid concern that not enough investors will voluntarily swap their Greek government bonds for new ones with a much lower face value, longer repayment deadlines and lower interest rates.

Without the debt relief, Greece won't get a second, $172 billion bailout from the other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund, and would face a messy default on its debts later this month.


Judge: NY Mets owe up to $83 million to Madoff trustee

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The New York Mets' owners must pay up to $83 million to the trustee recovering money for Bernard Madoff investors, a judge said Monday, though he expressed doubt that the trustee will succeed in proving at a trial this month that he's entitled to as much as $300 million more.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued his four-page ruling to narrow the subject of a March 19 trial in Manhattan that results from Trustee Irving Picard's effort to force the club's owners to pay as much as $1 billion into a fund established to repay thousands of investors cheated of billions of dollars during Madoff's decades-long fraud.

Last year, Rakoff had ruled that the team's owners wouldn't owe more than $386 million to other Madoff investors. He made it clear then that they would likely owe up to $83 million but said that the trustee must prove that the Mets' owners "willfully blinded" themselves to Madoff's fraud to get more.


AIG sells AIA shares to pay $6 billion off US bailout tab

HONG KONG (AP) â¿¿ American International Group Inc. is selling part of its stake in AIA Group Ltd. to raise $6 billion as it continues to repay the $182 billion government bailout that prevented the company's collapse during the 2008 financial crisis.

New York-based AIG plans to sell a "significant proportion" of its 33 percent stake in AIA, the Hong Kong listed company said Monday. AIG said in a separate statement Sunday the shares will be sold to institutional investors and proceeds will be used to pay off money owed to the U.S. Treasury.

The companies did not disclose details, but two people with knowledge of the terms of the share sale said AIG is selling about 1.7 billion AIA shares at 27.15 to 27.50 Hong Kong dollars each. That would raise HK$46.15 billion to HK$46.75 billion ($5.9 billion-$6 billion). They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal.

The price is expected to be set on Tuesday.


Abu Dhabi gets full ownership of chip manufacturer

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) â¿¿ The Abu Dhabi government on Monday agreed to acquire full control of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s former microchip manufacturing unit, though AMD will remain a key customer.

AMD is giving up its minority stake in Milpitas, Calif.-based manufacturer GlobalFoundries as part of a revised supply agreement. The deal will give Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Investment Co. total ownership of GlobalFoundries, which was spun off from AMD in 2009.

While AMD will remain one of GlobalFoundries' "strategic customers," it will now be better positioned to diversify its customer base, according to ATIC communications head Laurie Doyle Kelly.


AP sources: FBI's News Corp. probe heads to Russia

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The FBI is investigating whether a Russian billboard company once owned by media giant News Corp. bribed local officials to get sign placements approved, part of a growing probe of Rupert Murdoch's company that stems from a scandal in the U.K.

The expanding investigation of News Corp. properties â¿¿ besides the British tabloids accused of phone hacking and bribery of public officials â¿¿ is typical of a U.S. probe of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The 1977 act allows the Justice Department to levy hefty fines on U.S.-based companies for ill-gotten profits that come from bribing foreign officials.


Apple's app store reaches 25 billion downloads

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ More than 25 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's app store.

A news released from Apple on Monday said the downloads went to more than 315 million iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. The app store has more than 550,000 apps, some of which are free.

Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China, downloaded the 25 billionth app and won a $10,000 iTunes gift card.

The app store launched four years ago. Apple says the store has paid out more than $4 billion to developers.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed the day down 14.76 points to 12,962.81, or down 0.1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 dropped 5.30 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,364.33. The Nasdaq composite index fell 25.71 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,950.48.

Benchmark crude rose 2 cents to finish at $106.72 per barrel in New York. The price has been $106 per barrel or higher since Feb. 21. Brent crude rose 15 cents to end at $123.80 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, natural gas fell 13 cents to finish at $2.36 per 1,000 cubic feet, weighed down by weak demand during the mild winter. Heating oil rose 2 cents to end at $3.22 per gallon and gasoline futures fell about a cent to finish at $3.26 per gallon.

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

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