Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Americans step up credit card use sharply in May

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans put more on their credit cards in May than in any single month since November 2007, one month before the Great Recession began.

But overall credit card use is still well below where it was just before the downturn. Economists say May's increase was likely a temporary response to weaker hiring and poor wage growth and not a sign of sustained confidence in the economy.

Consumer borrowing rose by $17.1 billion in May from April, the Federal Reserve said Monday. The gain drove total borrowing to a seasonally adjusted $2.57 trillion, nearly matching the all-time high reached in July 2008.

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WellPoint buying Amerigroup for about $4.46 billion

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) â¿¿ WellPoint Inc., the nation's second-largest health insurer, will get a bigger chunk of the expanding market of people covered by Medicaid with its $4.46 billion acquisition of a provider of the program for needy and disabled Americans.

WellPoint said that it will spend $92 per share in cash for Amerigroup Corp., which runs Medicaid coverage in 13 states, including Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey.

Medicaid, which is state- and federally funded, represents a growth opportunity for WellPoint and other big U.S. insurers. States are starting to move residents who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, the federally funded program for people over age 65 and the disabled, into managed-care programs that coordinate care.

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Campbell Soup seeks to freshen up with Bolthouse

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Campbell Soup Co., the world's biggest soup maker, is looking to court a new generation of consumers with baby carrots, premium juices and refrigerated salad dressings.

The Camden, N.J.-based company said Monday that it will buy natural foods maker Bolthouse Farms in a $1.55 billion cash deal from private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC. Campbell says Bolthouse's line of juices and carrots will help it feed Americans' growing appetite for fresher foods.

Campbell, which is best known for its canned soups, is looking to strengthen its presence in the refrigerated sections of supermarkets. Most of its products, which include Goldfish crackers, Pepperidge Farm baked goods and Prego pasta sauces, are now found in the center aisles, where products with longer shelf lives are sold.

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Alcoa Inc. posts 2Q net loss in slowing economy

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. opened the second-quarter earnings season Monday by posting a $2 million loss. Revenue dropped 9 percent mainly because of weak prices for aluminum in the slowing global economy.

Alcoa posted break-even earnings per share. That compared with 28 cents per share and net income of $322 million a year ago.

The results included one-time items of $63 million. Excluding those Alcoa earned $61 million, or 6 cents a share.

Revenue totaled $5.96 billion, compared with $6.59 billion a year ago.

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FDA unveils safety measures for opioid painkillers

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Drugmakers that market powerful painkiller medications will be required to fund training programs to help U.S. doctors and other health professionals safely prescribe the drugs, which are blamed for thousands of fatal overdoses each year.

The safety plan released by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday is designed to reduce misuse and abuse of long-acting opioid pain relievers, which include forms of morphine, methadone and oxycodone. The agency's plan mainly involves educating doctors and patients about appropriate use of the drugs.

The FDA has issued a number of warnings on prescription pain relievers in recent years but with little effect. Inappropriate use of the drugs caused nearly 425,000 emergency department visits in 2009, according to government figures. The drugs were blamed for 15,600 deaths that year, up from 14,800 in 2008.

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Malware deadline passes, very few knocked offline

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ If you're reading this online, you're fine. The day that was supposed to see thousands of people knocked off the Internet has arrived, but only a few people were affected.

Thousands of Internet users across the U.S. and beyond waited too long or simply didn't believe warnings that they would lose access to the Internet just after midnight because of malware that took over computers around the world more than a year ago.

At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, the FBI turned off Internet servers that were functioning as a temporary safety net to keep infected computers online for the past eight months. A court order the agency had gotten to keep the servers running expired, and was not renewed.

FBI officials have been tracking the number of computers they believe still may be infected by the malware. As of Sunday night, there were about 41,800 in the U.S., down from 45,600 on July 4. Worldwide, the total is roughly 211,000 infected. An estimated 2.3 billion people around the world use the Internet, according to Internet World Stats.

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New law gives US companies a break on pensions

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A new law will let companies contribute billions of dollars less to their workers' pension funds, raising concerns about weakening the plans that millions of Americans count on for retirement.

But with many companies already freezing or getting rid of pension plans, many critics are reluctant to force the issue.

Some expect the changes, passed by Congress last month and signed Friday by President Barack Obama, to have little impact on the nation's enormous $1.9 trillion in estimated pension fund assets. And it is more important, they suggest, to avoid giving employers a new reason to limit or jettison remaining pension benefits by forcing them to contribute more than they say they can manage.

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Government agency proposes simpler mortgage forms

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government proposed rules Monday to help Americans understand the costs and risks of getting a mortgage.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled redesigned forms that mortgage borrowers would get after applying for a loan but before closing on the house. The forms would be available three days before closing.

The proposal aims to prevent costly surprises and help people understand the true cost of a loan. It also increases protections for consumers who take out higher-cost mortgages.

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Intel takes stake in ASML

AMSTERDAM (AP) â¿¿ ASML Holding NV, the world's largest supplier of equipment to computer chip manufacturers, says Intel Corp. will take a 15 percent stake in the company to help fund research into new technologies, and other large ASML customers may also do the same.

In an emailed statement Monday, ASML said it may issue up to ⿬4.19 billion ($5.15 billion) worth of new shares ⿿ a 25 percent expansion.

Intel said in a statement it will hold a total of 15 percent of ASML's issued shares, and the total equity investment will be ⿬2.5 billion ($3.07 billion).

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Windows 8 computers to go on sale in October

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Computers running on the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system will go on sale in October.

Microsoft Corp. announced the time frame for Windows 8's mass-market release Monday in Toronto. A specific sales date in October wasn't provided.

Most industry analysts expected Windows 8 would go on sale in the fall to ensure that the machines running on the operating system would be available for the holiday shopping season. Consumers and businesses who don't want to buy new computers will be able to buy Windows 8 and upgrade their systems.

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Patriot Coal files for bankruptcy reorganization

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Patriot Coal Corp. is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure its business as it deals with reduced demand for coal and rising costs.

Patriot says it will continue shipping and mining operations, and has received a commitment for $802 million debt financing from Citigroup Global Markets, Barclays Bank, and Merrill Lynch. The St. Louis company is filing for reorganization in the Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York.

Coal-mining companies have struggled recently because U.S. demand and prices for coal are down, partly because of low prices for natural gas. Patriot says weak economic conditions in the U.S. and overseas have also hurt its business. It also says environmental regulations have driven its costs higher.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 36.18 points at 12,736.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.22 points to 1,352.46 and the Nasdaq composite index fell 5.56 points to 2,931.77.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.54 to end the day at $85.99 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which comes from the North Sea and sets the price for oil imported into the U.S., added $2.13 to finish at $100.32 per barrel in London.

In other futures trading, heating oil rose 4 cents to end at $2.75 per gallon and wholesale gasoline rose by 4 cents to finish at $2.76 per gallon. Natural gas rose 11 cents to finish at $2.88 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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