Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Stock prices reduced US household wealth in Q2

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans' wealth dipped about 0.5 percent in the April-June quarter as a drop in stock prices more than offset a gain in home values.

Yet since June, a resurgent stock market has jumped about 7 percent, more than reversing last quarter's 3 percent drop in stock prices. And it's brought many Americans closer to regaining the wealth they lost to the recession â¿¿ if they managed to keep their home and have invested in stocks.

Rising wealth could give many people and businesses the confidence to step up spending and boost U.S. economic growth and job creation. That's a key goal of the bond-buying plan the Federal Reserve unveiled last week. The Fed hopes to drive interest rates down and stock prices up.


Oil drop reflects reality of global economy

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Reality returned to the oil market this week.

Oil has fallen 7 percent since last Friday, when the price briefly topped $100 for the first time in 4 months. The sharp drop was expected and overdue, many analysts say.

Traders had driven oil prices up by 30 percent since late June in anticipation of new measures from the world's central banks to boost economic growth. This week they woke up to some cold hard facts: there's no easy fix for the global economy, demand for oil is slowing and there's plenty of supply.


Panetta talks computer hacking issues with Chinese

BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ Despite several years of escalating diplomacy and warnings, the U.S. is making little headway in its efforts to tamp down aggressive Chinese cyberattacks against American companies and the government.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is wrapping up three days of meetings with military and civilian leaders, said he has brought the issue up at every session and come away with little more than agreements to talk again.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity analysts say the computer-based attacks emanating from China continue unabated, and in fact are expanding and focusing more intently on critical American oil, gas and other energy companies.


New Maps app is rare Apple flub

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ With a touch of geek whimsy, Google Maps famously warns anyone who seeks walking directions to Mordor â¿¿the land of evil in "The Lord of the Rings"â¿¿ to use caution. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," it says. Apple is finding this week that creating an alternative to Google Maps isn't a simple walk, either.

Apple released an update to its iPhone and iPad operating system on Wednesday that replaces Google Maps with Apple's own application. Early upgraders are reporting that the new maps are less detailed, look weird and misplace landmarks. It's shaping up to be a rare setback for Apple.

The most-hyped feature of the new app is a "Flyby" mode that shows three-dimensional renderings of buildings and other features. It presents a convincing depiction of the canyons of Manhattan, but has a hard time rendering bridges and highway overpasses, which tend to look wobbly or partly collapsed.


US economy hobbled by weak hiring, manufacturing

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A trio of reports Thursday offered a reminder that the U.S. economy is struggling to grow and add jobs.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week stayed near a level that signals only weak hiring in September. Manufacturing shrank for a fifth straight month in the Philadelphia region, a sign that weaker global growth has hurt demand for American-made goods. And a measure of future economy activity declined for the second time in three months.

The data followed a poor month of hiring in August and the Federal Reserve's move last week to launch new stimulus measures to give the hobbled recovery a jolt.


Census data another sign economy has bottomed out

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ More young adults are leaving their parents' homes to take a chance with college or a job. Across the nation, people are on the move again after putting their lives on hold and staying put. Once-sharp declines in births are leveling off, and poverty is slowing.

A new snapshot of census data provides sociological backup for what economic indicators were already suggesting: that the nation is in a tentative, fragile recovery.

The new 2011 census figures released Thursday show progress in an economic recovery that technically began in mid-2009. The annual survey, supplemented with unpublished government figures as of March 2012, covers a year in which unemployment fell modestly from 9.6 percent to 8.9 percent.


Starbucks turns up heat on coffee brewer market

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Starbucks Corp. is turning up the heat on the single-serve coffee market, and someone might get burned.

The Seattle-based company says it will start selling its new single-serve brewer online this week for $199. The machine will be rolled out in its ubiquitous cafes next month.

The arrival of the Verismo, which was announced earlier this year, comes amid intensifying competition in the piping hot market for single-serve brewers and the coffee pods they use.

The sector is currently dominated by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., which pioneered the market after its acquisition of the Keurig brand machine in 2006. But this month, the company's patent on its K-cup technology expired, which spawned copycat versions of coffee pods for Keurig machines.


Exxon spends $1.6 billion on North Dakota field

Exxon Mobil Corp. will spend $1.6 billion to boost its holdings in the massive Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana by 50 percent.

Exxon said Thursday it will buy all of the Bakken shale assets held by Denbury Resources Inc. for $1.6 billion in cash. Denbury will also receive Exxon's interest in two fields in Wyoming and Texas.

Exxon will acquire 196,000 acres, boosting its holdings in the region to almost 600,000 acres. The acreage acquired is expected to produce 15,000 barrels of oil and other hydrocarbons per day in the second half of this year. Exxon can increase production with new drilling in the future.


Stock buybacks rise after 2 quarters of declines

BOSTON (AP) â¿¿ America's biggest corporations dipped into their flush cash reserves to reward shareholders by spending more to buy back their stock in the second quarter.

Share repurchases by companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index totaled nearly $112 billion from April through June, S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Thursday. That's up about one-third from $84 billion in the first three months of the year.

Repurchases are attractive options now for companies to put their cash reserves to work. Cash holdings have risen steadily since the financial crisis, climbing to a record $1.03 trillion among S&P 500 companies during last year's fourth quarter. Cash slipped to $985 billion in the latest quarter due to increased spending on mergers and acquisitions, but reserves remain historically high, said Howard Silverblatt, an S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst.


Rate on 30-year mortgage falls to record 3.49 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage touched its record low this week and the rate on 15-year mortgage hit a new record.

The declines followed the Federal Reserve announcement last week that it would buy bonds to try to push mortgage rates lower and stimulate the housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.49 percent from 3.55 percent last week. That matched the lowest rate since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 18.97 points to 13,596.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.79 of a point to close at 1,460.26. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 6.66 points to 3,175.96.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 11 cents to finish at $91.87 per barrel. Brent crude, which is used by refiners to make much of the gasoline that is sold in the U.S., rose $1.84 to end at $110.03 per barrel.

Natural gas rose 4 cents to finish at $2.80 per thousand cubic feet. Heating oil rose 5 cents to end at $3.10 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 8 cents to finish at $2.90 per gallon.

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

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