Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Shortages could slow down US auto production

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. auto industry, already stretching to meet rising demand for cars and trucks, is facing shortages of parts and materials that could limit the number of new vehicles in showrooms later this year and crimp a historic turnaround.

The most immediate problem â¿¿ a shortage of a crucial plastic resin, caused by an explosion March 31 at a plant in Germany â¿¿ could surface in a few weeks. And later this year or beyond, automakers could be confronted with an even bigger crisis, running short of parts simply because there aren't enough factories and people to make them.

No one is entirely sure how many plants or models will be affected by either problem. Automakers say they are working to avoid shortages in both cases. But it may be tough to manage the intricate chain of companies that make most of the 3,000 parts that go into every car, from tiny valves and computer chips to heavy metal castings for transmissions.


IMF: Cuts in European bank lending to drag growth

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The International Monetary Fund warned Wednesday that European banks are under pressure to preserve capital and could cut back sharply on lending over the next two years, slowing the region's growth.

The predicted credit crunch is a major reason why Europe's economy is expected to suffer a mild recession this year and barely grow in 2013, the IMF said in a report on the global financial system released Wednesday.

The 17 countries that use the euro will see their economies shrink by 0.3 percent this year, and expand by only 0.9 percent in 2013, the IMF has forecast.


EBay posts higher 1Q net income and revenue

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ EBay's first-quarter net income grew 20 percent thanks to higher revenue from its PayPal business and brisk sales at its e-commerce websites. The results beat Wall Street's expectations and investors sent the company's stock higher in after-hours trading.

EBay Inc. said Wednesday that it earned $570 million, or 44 cents per share, in the January-March period. That's up from $476 million, or 36 cents per share, a year ago.

Adjusted earnings of 55 cents per share beat Wall Street's estimates by 3 cents.

Revenue grew 29 percent to $3.28 billion from $2.55 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected lower revenue of $3.15 billion, according to FactSet.


Yum Brands posts whopping 1st-qtr profit gain

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) â¿¿ The owner of the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC chains says its first-quarter net income rose 73 percent as rebounding U.S. sales were coupled with a continued strong performance overseas.

Yum Brands Inc.'s revenue increased 13 percent to $2.74 billion in the period.

Operating profit in Yum's China operation rose 14 percent, adjusted for currency fluctuations. In the U.S., operating profit surged 27 percent as all three chains reported sales gains at established stores.


Halliburton 1Q income rises 23 percent

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Halliburton Co. said Wednesday its first-quarter profit increased 22.7 percent as the oil industry aggressively searched for new oil fields in North America.

The Houston oil services firm reported net income of $627 million, or 68 cents per share, for the first three months of the year. That compares with $511 million, or 56 cents per share, for the same part of 2011.

Revenue increased by 30 percent to $6.87 billion. Revenue in North America was a record $4.17 billion.

Excluding a $300 million charge for estimated losses related to its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Halliburton said it earned 88 cents per share.


American Express 1Q profit rises 7 percent

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ American Express says its first quarter profit rose 7 percent and beat Wall Street expectations as its customers spent more and fewer defaulted on their accounts.

The credit card issuer earned $1.25 billion, or $1.07 per share, in the first three months of the year. Revenue jumped 8 percent to $7.61 billion.

Wall Street was expecting a profit of $1.01 per share and revenue of $7.47 billion.

CEO Kenneth Chenault says customer spending rose 12 percent over the same quarter a year ago. Past-due accounts and write-offs are at historic lows.


SXC Health to buy Catalyst in deal $4 billion-plus deal

SXC Health Solutions Corp. plans to buy fellow pharmacy benefits manger Catalyst Health Solutions Inc. in a deal worth more than $4 billion, less than a month after competitor Express Scripts Inc. closed a $29.1 billion acquisition.

SXC Health said Wednesday it will pay $28 in cash and a portion of its stock valued at $53.02 per share for each share of Catalyst. That equals a purchase price of $81.02 per share, a premium of about 28 percent over Catalyst's Tuesday closing price of $63.54.

The companies valued the deal at $4.4 billion, including debt. Catalyst had about 50.2 million shares outstanding as of Feb. 1, which would equate to a total value for the deal of about $4.1 billion.


American plans to cut another 1,200 jobs

DALLAS (AP) â¿¿ American Airlines wants to eliminate 1,200 nonunion jobs as it cuts costs while under bankruptcy protection.

That pushes the company's overall job-cut target to 14,200. It announced plans in February to cut 13,000 union pilots, flight attendants and ground workers.

American, the nation's third-biggest airline, has about 73,000 workers.


Internet ad revenue hits record $31 billion in US in 2011

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Revenue from Internet advertising in the U.S. hit a record $31 billion last year, according to a study released Wednesday.

That's up 22 percent from $26 billion in 2010, the previous record.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, an industry group, conducted the quarterly study with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

About half of the ad revenue, $14.8 billion, came from the search category. Those are the text-based ads that are sold by Google and others and that are targeted to search terms and other keywords.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 82.79 points to 13,032.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 5.64 points to 1,385.14 and the Nasdaq composite index fell 11.37 points to 3,031.45.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell $1.53 to finish at $102.67 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude lost 81 cents to end at $117.97 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil gave up less than a penny to finish at $3.1182 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 3.13 cents to end at $3.2027 per gallon. Natural gas futures were unchanged at $1.9510 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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