BC-Business News Digest

Business News at 5:40 p.m.

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

â¿¿ Adds: MONSTER BEVERAGE-LABELING, CELLPHONE SALES, FORECLOSURE RATES, HFR

â¿¿ Updates: WALL STREET, EARNS-MONDELEZ, EARNS-CISCO, EUROPE-HORSEMEAT

TOP STORIES:

MINIMUM WAGE

WASHINGTON â¿¿ President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage and keep boosting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living is not so novel. Ten states already have similar measures, including Washington, where workers earn at least $9.19 an hour, the highest minimum in the country. Advocates say the increase would pump more money into the economy â¿¿ helping create new jobs â¿¿ while business groups complain it would unfairly burden employers and curb demand for new workers. By Sam Hananel.

AP photos.

With:

SMALLBIZ-STATE OF THE UNION

NEW YORK â¿¿ President Obama outlined a number of initiatives to drive economic growth in his State of the Union address. Some were focused on small business and some would have a direct impact on smaller companies. Here's a look at some of the proposals and the pros and cons of putting them into effect. By Joyce M. Rosenberg.

Also:

BUDGET FIGHT

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Republicans spurn many of President Barack Obama's State of the Union proposals, including his plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and try to blame him for looming automatic spending cuts. But the GOP, still smarting from 2012 election losses, seems more willing to endure the political fallout from the sequester than Obama and his Democratic allies. By Andrew Taylor and Julie Pace.

AP photos.

â¿¿ OBAMA â¿¿ President Barack Obama pushes for a higher minimum wage at a reopened manufacturing plant because he says Americans who work full time should not be in poverty.

â¿¿ OBAMA-JOBS-GLANCE â¿¿ A look at the some of the job-creation proposals in the president's State of the Union address.

COMCAST-NBC-GENERAL ELECTRIC

LOS ANGELES â¿¿ Comcast's decision to buy General Electric's remaining 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion early represents a resounding vote of confidence in the future of TV, even as the growth of Internet video reshapes the entertainment landscape. By Business Writers Ryan Nakashima and Michael Liedtke.

AP photos.

With:

â¿¿ COMCAST-ANALYSTS CALL â¿¿ Analysts believe General Electric gave Comcast a great deal on the half of NBCUniversal that Comcast doesn't already own.

Also:

COMCAST-GE LEAVES TV

NEW YORK â¿¿ General Electric is saying goodbye to 30 Rock â¿¿ the building and the TV business born there. It's another step in GE's efforts to focus on less glamorous â¿¿ but theoretically more profitable â¿¿ ventures such as manufacturing medical imaging equipment, airplane engines and electrical generators. By Business Writer Scott Mayerowitz.

AP photo.

â¿¿ COMCAST-GE-NBCUNIVERSAL-GLANCE

â¿¿ COMCAST-GE-NBC PROFILE

â¿¿ COMCAST-GE-COMCAST PROFILE

â¿¿ COMCAST-GE-NBC TIMELINE

â¿¿ COMCAST-GE-COMCAST TIMELINE

AUTOS-DEPENDABILITY

DETROIT â¿¿ Lexus is the top brand and its parent, Toyota, is the top company in an annual survey of vehicle quality, but competitors are catching up fast. And J.D. Power says the dependability of new models is at an all-time high. By Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin.

AP photo.

With:

â¿¿ AUTOS-DEPENDABILITY-GLANCE

PRETEND COOKING

NEW YORK â¿¿ There's nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked meal â¿¿ especially if it comes out of a can or box. As more people try their hand at mimicking sophisticated recipes from cooking shows and blogs, food companies from Kraft to Campbell are rolling out meal kits to make amateur chefs feel like Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray in the kitchen. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.

AP photos.

EUROPE-WE WANT MEAT

LONDON â¿¿ First there was pink slime. Then horse. Then we learned about the product with the unappetizing moniker "desinewed meat." News that horsemeat found its way into products across Europe ostensibly made from beef has shed an unappetizing light on the global food industry, and on a system set up to satisfy the desire of millions of people to eat meat â¿¿ even if we can't afford to pay for it. By Jill Lawless and Lori Hinnant.

AP photo.

With:

â¿¿ EUROPE-HORSEMEAT â¿¿ European Union nations call for more intensive testing for a month to try to contain the scandal in which horsemeat was sold as beef.

BRAZIL-BEAUTY BOOM

RIO DE JANEIRO â¿¿ Looking good has always been serious business in Brazil. Now it's big business, too. A flush new middle class and a population strong on working adults is dropping major cash on designer shampoos, lotions and cosmetics, rapidly turning this country into a beauty industry powerhouse. By Juliana Barbassa.

AP photos.

MARKETS AND ECONOMY:

RETAIL SALES

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Americans barely spent more last month at retail businesses and restaurants after higher taxes cut their paychecks. The small increase suggests consumer spending may be weak in the January-March quarter, which could hold back economic growth. The Commerce Department says retail sales ticked up 0.1 percent in January from December, following a 0.5 percent increase in December. It's the smallest growth in three months. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photo.

With:

â¿¿ BUSINESS INVENTORIES â¿¿ U.S. companies restocked their store shelves and warehouses at a slower pace in December, a sign of caution as sales weakened. Slower restocking was a major drag on the economy in the final three months of last year. The Commerce Department says business inventories ticked up 0.1 percent in December from November, the smallest increase since last June.

LEW-CONFIRMATION

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Jacob Lew, President Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary, is urging Congress to avoid steep automatic spending cuts that are set to take effect on March 1, saying they threaten the broader economy. The $85 billion in cuts would impose "self-inflicted wounds to the recovery and put far too many jobs and businesses at risk," Lew said in prepared remarks Wednesday to the Senate Finance Committee. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

AP photo.

EU-US TRADE

BRUSSELS â¿¿ The European Union and the United States have agreed to pursue talks for a trans-Atlantic free trade deal. It would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and could boost economic output in the EU and the U.S., which are both struggling with slow growth, high unemployment and high levels of debt. By Don Melvin.

AP photos.

â¿¿ POSTAL PROBLEMS â¿¿ The head of the U.S. Postal Services is pleading with Congress not to thwart his plan to cut Saturday mail as a way to save money. But postal workers unions are criticizing the plan as illegal and financially questionable.

WALL STREET

NEW YORK â¿¿ The Dow is held back by a slump in McDonald's stock, leaving it short of a record. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photos.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rises closer to $98 per barrel.

FORECLOSURE RATES, HFR

LOS ANGELES â¿¿ The number of U.S. homes entering the foreclosure process fell in January to a level not seen since the peak of the housing boom, the result of a state law aimed at protecting homeowners facing foreclosure that went into effect in California, according to new data from foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. By Real Estate Writer Alex Veiga. Eds: The story may not be published, broadcast or posted online before 12:01 a.m. EST on Thursday.

EARNINGS:

â¿¿ EARNS-DEERE â¿¿ Farm and construction equipment maker Deere says its first-quarter net income rose 22 percent on growing sales of farm machinery at higher prices. AP photo.

EARNS-DUKE

NEW YORK â¿¿ Duke Energy's fourth-quarter earnings top Wall Street expectations as electric rates rose and more extreme weather increased demand for power. But results were reduced by merger costs and cost overruns at an Indiana power plant. Duke acquired Progress Energy in June, making it the nation's largest utility. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey.

â¿¿ EARNS-MONDELEZ â¿¿ Shares of Mondelez International Inc. drop in after-hours trading after the maker Oreo, Cadbury and Nabisco reported a fourth-quarter profit that fell short of Wall Street expectations.

INDUSTRY:

MONSTER BEVERAGE-LABELING

NEW YORK â¿¿ Monster Beverage Corp. is changing the labeling on its cans so that its energy drinks will no longer be considered dietary supplements, a move that changes the federal guidelines the drinks must follow. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.

â¿¿ NEW ZEALAND-COCA-COLA-DEATH â¿¿ A New Zealand food industry association rejects a coroner's call to add health warnings to soft-drink labels following the 2010 death of a woman who drank about 2 gallons of Coca-Cola a day. AP photo.

DISABLED CRUISE SHIP

HOUSTON â¿¿ Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled voyages through April aboard the Triumph, a ship that has been plagued by mechanical problems in recent weeks and was finally left powerless in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine-room fire. Carnival's announcement comes as the Triumph is being towed by two tugboats to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have told relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms. By Ramit Plushnick-Masti.

AP photos.

â¿¿ PATRIOT BANKRUPTCY-PROTEST â¿¿ Ten people are arrested at a protest outside of Peabody Energy headquarters in St. Louis, the second time in two weeks that the United Mine Workers of America organized a huge protest to draw attention to the possible loss of pension and health care benefits for about 20,000 retired miners and dependents. AP photos.

SMALL BUSINESS:

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK â¿¿ With Valentine's Day this week, love is in the air â¿¿ and it's also at the office for the millions of people who run a small business with a spouse. With Cupid set for his annual visit, several couples reveal how they balance being life and business partners. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg

AP photos.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

CYBERSECURITY

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Warning that American companies are the target of an intensive cyber-espionage campaign, President Barack Obama's top security officials on Wednesday said they are struggling to defend the nation from attacks on its private computer networks and called on Congress to pass legislation that would close regulatory gaps. By Anne Flaherty.

AP photos.

THOMSON REUTERS-JOB CUTS

NEW YORK â¿¿ News and financial information company Thomson Reuters on Wednesday said it is cutting 2,500 jobs, or about 4 percent of its workforce, this year as it tries to reduce costs and turn around its largest division. The company is eliminating the positions from its "Financial and Risk" division, which rents out trading terminals to the financial industry. It accounts for just over half of Thomson Reuters' revenue.

AP photo.

DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-STYLISH HEADPHONES

ATLANTA â¿¿ Most people consume their music while on the go these days â¿¿ in cars, while jogging, in between smartphone calls or while working at a desk. But pumping your favorite tunes through common earbuds may not deliver quite the high fidelity you deserve. I took a look at a fleet of modern headphones and found a handful that could greatly improve your listening experience, with style. You'd pay much more, but the investment is worth it considering how much better music sounds. By Ron Harris.

AP photos.

EARNS-CISCO

SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ Cisco's latest quarterly report is providing further evidence that spending on technology gear is picking up despite persisting concerns about a still-shaky economy.

AP photo.

â¿¿ APPLE-MACBOOK â¿¿ Apple cuts the price of its 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops by $200 and updated its processors. It also launched new models with faster processors and more memory.

â¿¿ BRAZIL-IPHONE â¿¿ Brazil's patent authority has taken a bite out of Apple with an announcement that the iPhone name in Brazil belongs to a local company called Gradiente SA, not to the global computer giant.

â¿¿ CELLPHONE SALES â¿¿ Research firm Gartner says worldwide cellphone sales fell last year, as economic turmoil dampened shopper appetites.

INTERNATIONAL EARNINGS:

â¿¿ FRANCE-EARNS-PEUGEOT CITROEN â¿¿ Peugeot Citroen posts a record $6.7 billion loss in 2012 due to Europe's cratering car market and the rising cost of steel and other materials.

â¿¿ NETHERLANDS-EARNS-ING â¿¿ ING plans to cut 2,400 jobs in Europe over the next two years. The bailed-out Dutch bank and insurance company says fourth-quarter profit rose due to larger gains from asset sales.

â¿¿ NETHERLANDS-EARNS-HEINEKEN â¿¿ Heineken says its profit doubled in 2012 following a reappraisal of its Asian business.

â¿¿ FRANCE-EARNS-TOTAL â¿¿ French oil company Total says fourth-quarter profit edges up to $3.2 billion on high oil prices and better refining margins.

â¿¿ FRANCE-EARNS-SOCIETE GENERALE â¿¿ Societe Generale swings to a fourth-quarter loss on the cost of exiting soured loans and reversing costly foreign expansion.

INTERNATIONAL:

CAR PARTS TO CUBA

HIALEAH, Fla. â¿¿ Somewhere on the streets of Havana is a cherry-red Lada car rebuilt almost entirely with parts that arrived from Miami in a visitor's suitcases. Businessman Fabian Zakharov is tapping into a niche market: Cuban-Americans, mostly recent arrivals in this country, who frequently go back to visit relatives on the island and bring food, toiletries and car parts. By Christine Armario.

AP photos.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-BANK OF ENGLAND â¿¿ The Bank of England predicts inflation may hit 3 percent by summer, but pledges to tolerate the increase to help the economy recover.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING â¿¿ British police arrest six people in a phone hacking investigation who were allegedly involved in intercepting voice mails for the defunct News of the World tabloid.

â¿¿ SWITZERLAND-BANKS-REAL ESTATE â¿¿ Swiss banks required to hold more capital against home property mortgage risk.

â¿¿ DUBAI-FERRIS WHEEL â¿¿ Dubai's ruler has approval a $1.6 billion island development project that would be home to what's billed as the world's biggest Ferris wheel. The project reflects a renewed appetite in Dubai for extravagance as the economy rebounds from a debt-driven slump during the past three years.

â¿¿ BAHRAIN-CARRIER GROUNDED â¿¿ Debt-burdened carrier Bahrain Air grounds all flights after announcing plans to shut down operations and sell its assets.

â¿¿ GREECE-GAS PIPELINE â¿¿ Greece backs bid for Caspian natural gas route as pipeline rivalry intensifies.

â¿¿ TURKMENISTAN-UKRAINE-GAS â¿¿ Ukraine, Turkmenistan agree on a tentative gas deal, including plans for onward sales to Europe.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

ON THE MONEY-TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

A free vacation could be in the cards. Banks are competing fiercely for new credit card users â¿¿ especially those with good credit. To entice new customers, several major banks are throwing in enough frequent flier miles for two free tickets anywhere in the U.S. But before you rush out to get an American Airlines credit card because you like its new logo, make sure that the airline â¿¿ and the type of card â¿¿ best suit your vacation needs. By Scott Mayerowitz.

___

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CENTERPIECE

Best-of-breed stocks

Finding the "best of breed" is appreciated in more contexts than just the Westminster dog show. In the investing arena, best-of-breed stocks outshine their competitors, often through the strength of their brands.

MONEY & MARKETS

CENTERPIECE

Best-of-breed stocks

Finding the "best of breed" is appreciated in more contexts than just the Westminster dog show. In the investing arena, best-of-breed stocks outshine their competitors, often through the strength of their brands.

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

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