Business Highlights

The Associated Press


US stocks fall as Europe doubts linger

Fear of Europe's debt problems spreading is once again playing havoc with Wall Street.

Stocks dropped Wednesday as borrowing rates climbed for Spain and Italy, a sign that investors are losing confidence in those countries' finances.

Spain's 10-year borrowing rate leapt to 6.06 percent from 5.70 percent early Tuesday. Many fear that Spain, strangled by high unemployment and a real estate collapse, could be the next nation to need a financial bailout.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down as much as 184 points before recovering about half of the loss. Still, the average has fallen for six consecutive days, its longest losing streak since last summer.


Fannie Mae earns $2.7 billion in Q1, will pay government $2.8 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported its first net income gain since it was taken over by the government during the 2008 financial crisis.

Fannie said Wednesday that it earned net income attributable to common stockholders of $2.7 billion in the January-March quarter. Instead of seeking additional aid from taxpayers, the company will pay a dividend of $2.8 billion to the Treasury Department.

That compares with the same quarter one year ago when Fannie reported a net loss of $6.5 billion.

The company was able to report the gain mostly because it had lower expenses for its losses. Two key reasons for that: the decline in home price has slowed and fewer mortgages are in serious delinquency.


US wholesale stockpiles grew 0.3 percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. wholesalers' inventories grew more slowly in March.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that wholesale stockpiles increased 0.3 percent in March from February, just one-third of the previous monthly increase. Monthly sales rose 0.5 percent in March, about half the gain from the previous month.

Growth in restocking has slowed this year from the end of last year, contributing less to economic growth in the January-March quarter.


Toyota quarterly profit quadruples on recovery

TOKYO (AP) â¿¿ Toyota's quarterly profit more than quadrupled to 121 billion yen ($1.5 billion). The automaker gave upbeat forecasts as it recovers from a sales plunge aggravated by the tsunami in Japan last year.

Japan's No. 1 automaker forecast Wednesday that profit for its business year ending March 2013 will soar to 760 billion yen. Net profit fell 30 percent to 283.6 billion yen for the just ended business year.

Still, the results were better than the company's forecast for a 200 billion yen profit, as well as the FactSet estimate at 279 billion yen.


Macy's 1Q profit jumps 38 percent

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Macy's Inc.'s first-quarter profit rose a better-than-expected 38 percent. But investors sent its shares down nearly four percent after the department store chain left its annual profit guidance for the most part unchanged.

Macy's, which has been a standout among its peers throughout the economic recovery, is the first in a series of retailers that will report first-quarter results that may provide insight into how Americans are spending. Economists have worried that Americans will cut back amid renewed fears about the U.S. jobs and housing markets and the European debt crisis.

Like many department stores, Macy's suffered during the recession. But the retailer has been able to navigate through the slow recovery better than competitors like J.C. Penney and Kohl's.


News Corp 3Q beats Street despite probe costs

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the global media conglomerate under fire for phone hacking and alleged bribery in Britain, posted a 47 percent increase in third-quarter net income thanks to strong performances at its pay TV networks and its movie studio.

The results beat analysts' expectations. The company also announced it will buy back another $6.1 billion worth of shares in the coming year, a move that should bolster the share price.

Net income in the three months to March 31 rose to $937 million, or 38 cents per share, from $639 million, or 24 cents per share, a year ago.


GlaxoSmithKline in takeover bid for Human Genome

LONDON (AP) â¿¿ GlaxoSmithKline PLC said it wants to take over U.S. drug maker Human Genome Sciences Inc. with an offer which values the company at nearly $2.6 billion.

GlaxoSmithKline, which has profit-sharing agreements with HGS on three drugs but a minimal stake in the company, said Wednesday it is offering $13 cash per share for the company. A private offer from GSK at the same price was rejected by HGS management last month.

GSK said its offer was 81 percent more than the HGS share price on April 18, before HGS disclosed the earlier private offer. HGS shares closed at $14.59 Wednesday on the Nasdaq exchange.


Bed Bath & Beyond to buy Cost Plus for $495 million

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. said Wednesday that it agreed to buy smaller home goods retailer Cost Plus Inc. for about $495 million after getting promising results from a joint effort to put a specialty food department in some Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

Bed Bath & Beyond said Wednesday that it will pay $22 for each Cost Plus share, a 22 percent premium to its closing price on Tuesday. Shares of Oakland, Calif.-based Cost Plus rose $3.94, or 21.9 percent, to close at $21.93 on Wednesday.

Cost Plus, which operates stores under the names World Market and Cost Plus World Market, currently has about 22.5 million outstanding shares, according to FactSet.


Green Mountain founder says he was caught off-guard

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The founder of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., who was ousted as chairman for a stock sale that violated company policy, said the transaction was triggered after he was caught off-guard by a swift drop in the coffee maker's stock price.

Robert Stiller, who also dumped his $50 million stake in Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., said in an interview Wednesday that he didn't expect Green Mountain's shares to fall so steeply last week. The decline forced him to sell the shares on a margin call, which happened to occur during a blackout period in which the company prohibits the sale of its stock by insiders.

Investors are subject to margin calls when they put stock up as collateral to borrow cash. When share prices take a tumble, borrowers may be required to cover the gap.


Late payments on mortgages fall in 1st-quarter

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ The percentage of U.S. homeowners behind on their mortgage payments dropped in the first three months of this year to the lowest level since 2009, according to a new report.

Some 5.78 percent of the nation's mortgage holders were behind on their payments by 60 days or more in the January-to-March quarter, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday.

That's down from 6.19 percent in the same period last year, and below the 6.01 percent delinquency rate for the last three months of 2011.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average closed down 97.03 points, or 0.8 percent, at 12,835.06. The S&P fell 9.14 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,354.58. The Nasdaq dropped 11.56, or 0.4 percent, to 2,934.71.

Benchmark U.S. oil gave up 20 cents to finish at $96.81 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for oil imported into the U.S., added 47 cents to finish at $113.20 a barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil added nearly a penny to finish at $2.9991 per gallon and gasoline rose by 2.97 cents to end at $3.0241 per gallon. Natural gas added 7.2 cents to finish at $2.465 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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