Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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B&N, Microsoft team up on Nook, college businesses

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Books and bits united Monday as Microsoft provided an infusion of money to help Barnes & Noble compete with top electronic bookseller Amazon. In exchange, Microsoft gets a long-desired foothold in the business of e-books and college textbooks.

Microsoft Corp.'s $300 million investment gets the software giant a 17.6 percent stake in a subsidiary for bookseller Barnes & Noble's e-book and college textbook businesses.

The agreement highlights the importance of electronic bookstores as traditional booksellers and technology companies jockey for position in the increasingly competitive market. E-books are believed to account for some 20 percent of book sales in the U.S., though no definitive numbers exist.

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Energy Transfer Partners to buy Sunoco for $5.3 billion

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Energy Transfer Partners is buying Sunoco in a $5.3 billion deal that creates one of the more diverse pipeline companies in the country.

The acquisition includes nearly 8,000 miles of pipeline, as well as 4,900 gas stations in 24 Eastern states. Those stations will keep the Sunoco brand name and its diamond-and-arrow logo. The deal also includes a refinery business that Sunoco is trying to sell.

Energy Transfer is primarily a natural gas pipeline company. Sunoco's pipeline network will allow the Dallas company to expand into moving crude oil and refined petroleum products from the Great Lakes and Northeast to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Sunoco's pipelines have been in high demand recently thanks to a boom in drilling for gas and oil in U.S. shale formations.

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US consumer spending growth slowed in March, income rose

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans increased their spending more slowly in March, suggesting some are worried their paychecks aren't growing fast enough.

The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending increased just 0.3 percent last month after a 0.9 percent gain in February.

Income grew 0.4 percent following a 0.3 percent gain in February. But after-tax income when adjusted for inflation increased just 0.2 percent in March. The gain followed two months of declines.

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Delta buys a refinery in bid to cut its fuel bill

Delta Air Lines said on Monday that it will buy a refinery near Philadelphia in the hope of slicing $300 million a year from its jet fuel bill.

Delta said a subsidiary will buy the refinery in Trainer, Pa., from Phillips 66, a refining company being spun off from ConocoPhillips. Delta is paying $150 million, including $30 million in job-creation assistance it expects to get from the state of Pennsylvania.

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Stubborn inflation, weak lending weigh on eurozone

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) â¿¿ Europe got more downbeat economic news Monday as inflation remained higher than expected and European Central Bank data showed only anemic growth in lending credit to businesses â¿¿ despite its massive infusion of cheap money into the financial system.

Inflation in the 17 countries that use the euro fell to an annual 2.6 percent in April, down from 2.7 percent in March but higher than the 2.5 percent expected by market analysts.

Rising prices have been a consistent headache for the ECB â¿¿ the chief monetary authority for the 17-country eurozone. The annual rate has remained well above the central bank's goal of just under 2 percent, a target that it now says won't be reached until early 2013.

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AB InBev profit jumps 75 percent thanks to lower costs

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ The world's biggest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV said Monday its first-quarter net profit jumped 75 percent thanks to lower financing costs and taxes as well as higher beer sales.

Net profit rose to $1.69 billion for January through March, compared with $964 million a year earlier, including a sharp drop in financing costs and declining taxes. AB InBev's chief financial officer, Filipe Dutra, said the company was benefiting from growing profits in countries like Brazil, where the tax rate is lower than in Europe and the U.S.

Revenue meanwhile increased 3.7 percent to $9.33 billion, as strong sales in Latin America and Asia offset falling sales in Europe.

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Humana reports 21 percent drop in 1Q profit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) â¿¿ Humana Inc. said Monday that its first-quarter profit fell 21 percent as the health insurer paid out more in claims and beefed up spending to handle expected growth in its lucrative Medicare Advantage membership.

The company, based in Louisville, nudged up its earnings expectations for the full year to a range of $7.55 to $7.75 per share, up from its prior forecast of $7.50 to $7.70 per share.

But the first-quarter results and the increased forecast fell short of Wall Street expectations.

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Hologic to buy Gen-Probe for about $3.72 billion

BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) â¿¿ Medical device maker Hologic Inc. has agreed to buy diagnostic test maker Gen-Probe Inc. for about $3.72 billion in an all-cash deal, expanding its portfolio of tools for detecting diseases.

Hologic said Monday that it will pay $82.75 for each share of Gen-Probe, a 20 percent premium over Gen-Probe's closing stock price of $68.71 on Friday. Its shares climbed almost 19 percent in morning trading.

The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies but still must be approved by Gen-Probe shareholders.

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Global unemployment to keep rising, UN says

GENEVA (AP) â¿¿ Global unemployment will hit 202 million this year, or 6.1 percent, as debt-driven austerity measures hammer job markets and threaten to drive Europe into recession, the U.N. labor agency predicted Monday.

In a gloomy forecast, the International Labor Organization predicted unemployment, which stood at 196 million at the end of 2011, would edge up further in 2013, with the long-term unemployed and young people hit particularly hard.

With 50 million jobs vanished since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, the Geneva-based ILO's report said, "the global employment situation is alarming and shows no signs of recovery in the near future" despite signs of economic growth in some regions.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 14.68 points to close at 13,213.63. The Nasdaq composite fell 22.84 points to 3,046.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 5.45 points to close at 1,397.91.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 6 cents to end at $104.87 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil imported into the U.S., lost 36 cents to end at $119.47 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil was flat, finishing at $3.1834 per gallon, while gasoline futures fell by 2.18 cents to end at $3.1844 per gallon. Natural gas futures rose 9.9 cents to end the day at $2.285 per 1,000 cubic feet, the highest since March 21.

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