Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Investor sues Apple, wants more cash

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ With its annual meeting looming and its stock on the decline, Apple is facing a rebellion from an influential investor who wants the company to stop stockpiling cash and give it to shareholders instead.

Greenlight Capital said Thursday that it is suing Apple in a New York federal court over the company's proposal to eliminate the possibility of issuing preferred stock. David Einhorn, who heads the investment fund, said the proposal would close down one avenue for Apple to reward shareholders with more cash.

Apple is still the world's most valuable company, but its stock has lost 35 percent of its value since September, as it's become obvious that its once-rapid growth has slowed down. The company is fabulously profitable and is sitting on a huge $137 billion cash reserve. Wall Street wants the company to share more of that money with its shareholders rather than tucking it away in low-yielding bank accounts.

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NTSB: 787 battery approval should be reconsidered

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government should reassess its safety approval of the Boeing 787 lithium ion batteries, the nation's top accident investigator said Thursday, casting doubt on whether the airliner's troubles can be quickly remedied.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating last month's battery fire in a Japan Airlines 787 "Dreamliner" while it was parked in Boston. The results so far contradict some of the assumptions that were made about the battery's safety at the time the system won government approval, said the board's chairman, Deborah Hersman.

The investigation shows the fire started with multiple short-circuits in one of the battery's eight cells, she said. That created an uncontrolled chemical reaction known as "thermal runaway," which is characterized by progressively hotter temperatures. That spread the short-circuiting to the rest of the cells and caused the fire, she said.

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Retailers report strong January sales

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Sometimes, the devil is in the deals.

Americans shopped the winter clearance racks in January, resulting in strong sales during the month for retailers. But spending is expected to slow as the deals dry up, and as Americans contend with rising gas prices and a 2 percent payroll tax hike that started in January.

Overall, 20 retailers reported on Thursday that revenue at stores opened at least a year â¿¿ an indicator of a store's health â¿¿ rose an average of 5.1 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's above the trade group's 3 percent estimate. It also marks the highest reading since last August when the figure was up 6 percent.

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Poor in cages show dark side of Hong Kong boom

HONG KONG (AP) â¿¿ For many of the richest people in Hong Kong, one of Asia's wealthiest cities, home is a mansion with an expansive view from the heights of Victoria Peak. For some of the poorest, like Leung Cho-yin, home is a metal cage.

The 67-year-old former butcher pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars ($167) a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood.

The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure 1.5 square meters (16 square feet). To keep bedbugs away, Leung and his roommates put thin pads, bamboo mats, even old linoleum on their cages' wooden planks instead of mattresses.

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Humbled Toyota rolls out new Tundra pickup

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Back in 2007, Toyota trumpeted its bulked-up Tundra as a game-changer that would cut into Detroit's dominance of the U.S. pickup truck market.

"The truck that's changing it all," was the tagline from an ad that featured the beefy Tundra pulling a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep ramp.

But after six years on the market, the Tundra hasn't changed much of anything. Instead, Toyota learned that unlike car buyers, American pickup owners are still fiercely loyal to their Fords, Rams and Chevrolets. And that Detroit feverishly guards its lead in the high-margin truck business.

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US unemployment aid applications decline to 366,000

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating companies continue to hire at a modest but steady pace.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 350,500, the lowest in nearly five years. The average is low because of seasonal factors, which reduced applications sharply last month.

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US consumer debt up in December on student, auto loans

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans stepped up borrowing in December to buy cars and attend school. But they cut back sharply on credit card use, continuing a trend that could hold back growth this year.

Consumer borrowing rose $14.6 billion in December from November to a total of $2.78 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. That's the highest level on record.

The increase was driven entirely by gains in student and auto loans. Borrowing in the category that measures those loans increased $18.2 billion to $1.93 trillion. That's the biggest monthly gain since November 2001.

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US productivity fell at 2 percent rate

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. worker productivity shrank in the final three months of 2012 although the decline was caused by temporary factors.

Productivity contracted at an annual rate of 2 percent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Productivity had risen at a 3.2 percent rate in the July-September quarter.

Labor costs rose at a 4.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the fastest gain since the first quarter of 2012.

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LinkedIn's 4Q results soar past Street views

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Online professional-networking service LinkedIn's fourth-quarter performance added another line to its sterling resume as a public company.

The results announced Thursday extended LinkedIn Corp.'s uninterrupted streak of exceeding analysts' projections for both earnings and revenue. It marked the seventh consecutive quarter since LinkedIn's May 2011 IPO that the company has pulled that off, to the delight of investors.

The run of pleasant surprises is one of the reasons that LinkedIn's stock has tripled from its initial public offering price of $45. The shares surged $12.11, or nearly 10 percent, to $136.20 in extended trading after the numbers came out.

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Sprint posts big 4Q loss, revenue rises

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Sprint Nextel Corp., the country's third largest wireless carrier, on Thursday said it lost $1.3 billion in its fourth quarter, about the same as a year ago, as it revamped its network for a comeback versus bigger competitors.

The company's focus, and that of its investors, is on its long-term turnaround efforts rather than on short-term results. Sprint is selling 70 percent of itself to Japanese carrier Softbank Corp. for $20 billion. That deal is expected to close this summer, and provide long-ailing Sprint with a much-needed infusion of capital.

With Softbank's backing, Sprint has struck a deal to buy out the other shareholders of Clearwire Corp., which operates a wireless data network. That should give Sprint more space on the airwaves and allow it to offer high broadband speeds.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42 points to 13,944.05. The Standard and Poor's 500 fell three points to 1,509.39 and the Nasdaq composite dropped three points to 3,165.13.

Benchmark crude for March delivery fell 79 cents to finish at $95.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 51 cents to end at $117.24 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to finish at $3 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 13 cents to end at $3.29 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil gained 1 cent to finish at $3.20 a gallon.

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

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