Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Avon Products rejects Coty's $10 billion offer

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Coty came calling, but Avon slammed the door.

Struggling direct cosmetics seller Avon Products Inc. on Monday rejected a $10 billion buyout offer from Coty Inc., a smaller beauty products maker looking to capitalize on Avon's business woes.

It is the largest takeover offer by far from New York-based Coty Inc., which has snapped up smaller beauty brands like OPI nail polish and Philosophy Inc. skin care, in the past two years.

The $23.25-per-share bid also underscores the weakness at Avon, which has been beset by a foreign bribery investigation, weakening sales and a leadership vacuum.

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Data breach put 1.5 million numbers at risk

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A company that processes credit card transactions said Monday that as many as 1.5 million card numbers were compromised in a data breach early last month.

The CEO of the company, Global Payments Inc., said the matter was "absolutely contained," but Visa dropped the company from its list of approved third parties that process transactions between stores and banks.

The breach was revealed Friday when Visa and MasterCard said they had notified issuers of its credit cards. On Monday, American Express said it may have been affected, and Discover promised to reissue cards where appropriate.

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US factory output rises, but construction falls

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. factories stepped up hiring and production in March, the latest evidence that manufacturing is growing at a healthy pace and fueling the recovery.

But a separate report on construction spending showed that building activity declined in February for the second straight month, disappointing economists.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its index of manufacturing activity rose to 53.4 in March. That's up from 52.4 in the previous month. Readings above 50 indicate the sector is expanding.

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Euro unemployment spikes to record 10.8 percent

LONDON (AP) â¿¿ Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro hit a new high since the currency was introduced in 1999, official figures showed Monday, adding to fears that the region is in recession.

Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, said unemployment in the eurozone rose to 10.8 percent in February from 10.7 percent the previous month. The number of unemployed totaled 17.1 million, nearly 1.5 million higher than in the same month a year ago. Of the 17 countries in the eurozone, seven countries had unemployment rates above 10 per cent.

The figures stand in marked contrast to the U.S. â¿¿ with an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent â¿¿ which has recorded solid increases in the number of people finding work over the past few months.

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Construction spending fell 1.1 percent in February

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. builders trimmed activity for a second straight month in February, pushing construction spending down by the largest amount in seven months. There was widespread weakness with spending on home building, office construction and government projects all dropping.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that construction spending fell 1.1 percent in February after a drop of 0.8 percent in January which was revised down from an initial estimate of a decline of 0.1 percent.

With the back-to-back declines, construction spending fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $808.9 billion in February, just 6.1 percent above a low hit in March 2011 and about one-third lower than the high hit during the housing boom.

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GM adds week to Volt plant's usual summer closure

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ General Motors Co. will suspend production of the Chevrolet Volt for an extra week this summer as it tries to control the electric car's inventory.

But the company says sales picked up in March to a record of more than 2,000, and it may cancel the extra week if sales stay strong.

Most auto factories close for two weeks starting in early July to get updated for the new model year. GM added a third week at the Volt factory that straddles the border between Detroit and the small enclave of Hamtramck. The plant was already planned to close from March 19 through April 23 to reduce the supply of Volts on dealer lots. About 1,300 workers at the factory have been idled.

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Express Scripts' $29.1 billion deal for Medco closes

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Express Scripts Inc. said Monday that it completed its $29.1 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc., creating the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the country by far.

The closing came after the Federal Trade Commission voted to close its investigation into the deal, clearing the last hurdle in its path. Express Scripts shares rose $2.29, or 4.3 percent, to $56.47 in premarket trading.

The deal creates a pharmacy benefits manager, or PBM, so large that it will handle the prescriptions of about 135 million people, or more than one in three Americans.

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AFA Foods files for Chapter 11, citing 'pink slime'

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Ground beef processor AFA Foods said Monday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and selling its assets after the public outcry over the beef filler known as "pink slime" derailed its efforts to save its already struggling business.

A spokesman said in an email that the company does not rely on the filler made from boneless lean beef trimmings and uses it only based on customer specifications. But he said the controversy over the ammonia-treated filler has dramatically reduced demand for all ground beef products.

AFA Foods, based in King of Prussia, Pa., processes more than 500 million pounds of ground beef products a year. It distributes to retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Safeway Inc. and BJ's Wholesale Club. Fast-food chain customers include Burger King, Jack in the Box and Wendy's.

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Pinnacle Airlines files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Pinnacle Airlines Corp., a regional carrier that flies under contract for Delta, United and US Airways, has filed for bankruptcy protection to deal with its mounting debt.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based airline said late Sunday that its current business model isn't sustainable. It had tried for months to combine its operating subsidiaries to save money and recover from lost business as major airlines cutback on flying in response to higher fuel costs. In its filing Sunday, it lists $1.42 billion in debt and $1.54 billion in assets. It ended the third quarter â¿¿ the most recent quarter for which financial results are available â¿¿ with just $81.8 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Pinnacle, which mostly flies between major airports in the East, has been hurt by rising costs and problems integrating its airline units â¿¿ Pinnacle, Colgan Air and Mesaba Aviation, which it bought in 2010. It plans to wind down the United Express flights it operates for United Continental Holdings Inc. It will continue Delta Connection flights for Delta Air Lines Inc. It's already in the process of winding down its service with US Airways.

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Groupon restatement sparks more worries

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Groupon's announcement that its revenue and earnings were lower than what it reported in February is sparking fresh worries about the young company's business model.

The online deals company said late Friday that it had to revise its previously issued fourth-quarter results to increase the money it set aside for refunds to customers. A big reason is that it's now selling more deals like vacation packages and Botox procedures that are expensive and have higher return rates.

Investors responded by selling Groupon's stock on Monday, and its shares fell 17 percent. Some analysts wonder whether Groupon, which began trading publicly less than five months ago, will be able to move past its growing pains.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average added 52.45 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 13,264.49. It hasn't closed that high since the last day of 2007. The Nasdaq composite average gained 28.13, or 0.9 percent, to 3,119.70. The S&P 500 closed up 10.57 points, or 0.8 percent, at 1,419.04. That was its highest close since May 19, 2008.

Benchmark U.S. crude increased Monday by $2.21 to $105.23 per barrel in New York. It was the biggest gain since Feb. 21. Brent crude rose by $2.55 cents to $125.43 per barrel in London.

Natural gas futures gained 2.6 cents to $2.15 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other energy trading, heating oil added 8 cents to $3.25 per gallon and gasoline futures increased by 7.41 cents to $3.3822 per gallon.

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

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