Business Highlights

By The Associated Press


Risk and reward at the dawn of civilian drone age

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The dawn of the age of aerial civilian drones is rich with possibilities for people far from the war zones where they made their devastating mark as a weapon of choice against terrorists.

The unmanned, generally small aircraft can steer water and pesticides to crops with precision, saving farmers money while reducing environmental risk. They can inspect distant bridges, pipelines and power lines, and find hurricane victims stranded on rooftops.

Drones â¿¿ some as tiny as a hummingbird â¿¿ promise everyday benefits. But the drone industry and those eager to tap its potential are running headlong into fears that the peeping-eye, go-anywhere technology will be misused.

Since January, drone-related legislation has been introduced in more than 30 states, largely in response to privacy concerns. Many of the bills would prevent police from using drones for broad public surveillance or to watch individuals without sufficient grounds to believe they were involved in crimes.


Cyprus sends rumbles through shaky banking system

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) â¿¿ This week's deal to rescue Cyprus and its banks from financial collapse has renewed fears about Europe's shaky financial system and where trouble might next appear.

Many banks across Europe have been struggling for more than three years as losses on government bonds and bad loans piled up. Some governments, meanwhile, have taken on more debt trying to prop up their lenders to the point where they have needed bailing out themselves.

In Cyprus's case, its banking sector became much bigger than the country's government could afford to rescue â¿¿ seven times the size of the country's economy. When the banks were hit by large losses and Cyprus could not afford to bail it out on its own, the country turned to the other 16 European Union countries that use the euro.


US consumer spending, income jump in February

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. consumers stepped up spending in February after their income jumped, aided by a stronger job market that offset some of the drag from higher taxes. The gains led economists to predict stronger economic growth at the start of the year.

Consumer spending rose 0.7 percent in February from January, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the biggest gain in five months and followed a revised 0.4 percent rise in January, which was double the initial estimate.

Americans were able to spend more because their income rose 1.1 percent last month. That followed huge swings in the previous two months, which reflected a rush to pay bonuses and dividends in December before taxes increased.


Unemployment fell in February in 22 US states

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16.

Nationally, the unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring.


Cleaner gas rule would mean higher price at pump

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Obama administration's newest anti-pollution plan would ping American drivers where they wince the most: at the gas pump. That makes arguments weighing the cost against the health benefits politically potent.

The proposal to reduce sulfur in gasoline and tighten auto emission standards, released Friday, would raise gasoline prices by less than a penny per gallon, the Environmental Protection Agency says. But the oil industry points to its own study putting the cost between 6 and 9 cents a gallon.

The EPA also said its proposal would add about $130 to the price of new vehicles, beginning in 2025.


UPS pays $40 million to end online pharmacies probe

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Shipping company UPS has agreed to pay $40 million to end a federal criminal probe connected to its work for online pharmacies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that the Atlanta-based company would also "take steps" to block illicit online drug dealers from using their delivery service.

The DOJ says the fine amount is the money UPS collected from suspect online pharmacies.


Portfolio manager accused in insider trading case

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A senior portfolio manager for one of the nation's largest hedge funds was arrested Friday, accused of joining an insider trading conspiracy that the government said made more than $6 million illegally for the powerhouse investment company founded by billionaire businessman Steven A. Cohen.

The arrest broadens the government's probe of trading practices at SAC Capital Advisors, which manages $15 billion.

Two weeks ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission said that two affiliates of SAC Capital would pay more than $614 million in what federal regulators called the largest insider trading settlement ever. The settlement is subject to court approval.


Sears former CEO's compensation shrank in 2012

The former CEO of Sears Holding Corp. took a pay cut of nearly 90 percent in 2012.

Louis D'Ambrosio's became CEO of Sears in February 2011 and stepped down last month due to heath issues involving his family.

In a proxy statement filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the retailer said D'Ambrosio's salary rose to $1 million last year from $930,769 in 2011. The value of his perks, like corporate housing and travel from his primary residence in Philadelphia to Chicago, shrank to $278,741 from $852,037 in 2011.

Sears gave D'Ambrosio a signing bonus of $150,000 and $8 million in stock awards in 2011 after he joined the company. But he received no bonus or stock awards in 2012.


United delays Denver-Toyko service as 787s sit

CHICAGO (AP) â¿¿ United Airlines is delaying its new Denver-Tokyo service â¿¿ again â¿¿ because its new Boeing 787 jets remain grounded.

United said Friday that service between Denver and Tokyo's Narita Airport will begin June 10. The airline had already pushed back the original March 31 start to at least May 12.

The airline said that it is still determined to use the plane on the new route.


By The Associated Press(equals)

U.S. stock, bond and commodities markets were closed Friday, March 29 in observance of Good Friday.

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

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