BC-Business News Digest

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

â¿¿ Adds: EARNS-LAS VEGAS SANDS, EARNS-CAESARS; OBAMA APPOINTMENTS; GINGER CANDY-LEAD LAWSUIT; GM-TRADE SECRETS; EARNS-MARRIOTT

â¿¿ Updates: EARNS-FACEBOOK; EARNS-VISA; OIL PRICES; WALL STREET

TOP STORIES:

HOUSING REBOUND

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. â¿¿ Many Americans, having seen home prices rebound, are finally ready to buy. Yet they're running into an obstacle that's keeping the national housing recovery in check: There aren't enough homes for sale. The housing shortage in Grand Rapids, Mich., is fairly typical of the country. Like many other places, Grand Rapids never experienced the oversupply or the price collapse that marked the recent boom and bust. Yet it, too, was affected. Prices fell. Homeowners lost equity. And now, many remain unable or unwilling to sell just as ordinary Americans want to buy again. By Business Writer Scott Mayerowitz.

AP photos.

FEDERAL RESERVE

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Federal Reserve stands by its aggressive efforts to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. And it sends its most explicit signal to date that tax increases and spending cuts that kicked in this year are slowing the economy. "Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth," the Fed says in a statement after a two-day policy meeting. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

With:

â¿¿ FEDERAL RESERVE-COMPARING STATEMENTS â¿¿ A look at how the Fed's views have changed on the US economy and its bond purchase program.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT â¿¿ U.S. auto sales hit a six-year high in April. While Detroit's pickups led the way, sales were strong for all kinds of vehicles, from the tiny Honda Fit to the Ford Escape SUV. Buoyed by a soaring stock market, low interest rates and a revival of the housing sector, American consumers and businesses are shrugging off some mixed economic signals and replacing their aging cars and trucks. By Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin.

AP photos.

Also:

â¿¿ NISSAN-PRICE DROP â¿¿ Nissan is cutting prices on seven of its 18 models in the U.S., hoping its cars and trucks will show up in more Internet searches by shoppers.

â¿¿ GM-TRADE SECRETS â¿¿ A former General Motors engineer convicted of stealing thousands of pages of hybrid technology was sentenced Wednesday to just a year and a day in prison, far below the punishment sought by the government in a case that involved her husband and an alleged scheme to take the trade secrets to China.

EARNS-FACEBOOK

A year ago Facebook was just testing the waters of mobile advertising, causing plenty of headaches for investors ahead of its massive initial public offering. It has since eased those worries. On Wednesday the world's biggest social networking company said nearly a third of its advertising revenue came from mobile in the first three months of the year, helping to push total revenue up 38 percent to surpass Wall Street's expectations. By Barbara Ortutay and Mike Liedtke.

AP photos.

MOUNTAIN DEW-AD

NEW YORK â¿¿ PepsiCo pulled an online ad for Mountain Dew that was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women. In the 60-second spot developed by African-American rapper Tyler, The Creator, a battered white woman on crutches is urged by an officer to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men. A goat character known as Felicia is included in the lineup. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.

Also:

â¿¿ JC PENNEY-APOLOGY AD â¿¿ J.C. Penney is sorry and it wants your business back. That's the gist of its latest ad, a public "mea culpa" for ditching the sales and coupons its customers coveted.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK â¿¿ Small business owners are experiencing sticker shock now that insurers in a few states have begun filing their premium rate requests for 2014. Plans in Maryland and Rhode Island are asking for double-digit increases for the first year that the health care law will be fully effective. But owners need to take a breath and remember that these requests aren't in stone, analysts and state officials say. State insurance departments have to approve the requests, and as health insurance exchanges are set up, insurers may feel pressured to rethink their rates. The smallest companies may find that they have more options than they thought because some states will be subsidizing employees' premiums. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.

TINY MOVIE

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. â¿¿ Scientists have taken the idea of a film short down to new levels. Molecular levels. IBM says it has made the tiniest stop-motion movie ever â¿¿ a one-minute video of individual carbon monoxide molecules repeatedly rearranged to show a boy dancing, throwing a ball and bouncing on a trampoline. By Jim Fitzgerald

AP photos, video.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON â¿¿ U.S. factory activity expanded at a slower pace in April compared with March as manufacturers pulled back sharply on hiring and cut their stockpiles. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 50.7, down from 51.3 in March and the slowest pace this year. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in March as the biggest drop in government projects in more than a decade overwhelmed strength in home building. The Commerce Department says construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February. It marked the second decline in the past three months. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

ADP

WASHINGTON â¿¿ A private survey shows U.S. companies added just 119,000 jobs in April, the fewest in seven months. The report from payroll processor ADP suggests that government spending cuts and higher taxes could be starting to weigh on the job market. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

METRO UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Unemployment rates fell in nearly 90 percent of large U.S. cities in March, though most of the declines likely occurred because more Americans stopped looking for work, rather than found jobs. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

Eds: With regional glances.

OBAMA APPOINTMENTS

WASHINGTON â¿¿ President Barack Obama acted Wednesday to fill two top regulatory posts, tapping a veteran Democratic congressman to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency at a pivotal time for the housing market and naming a top campaign fundraiser and former lobbyist to head the Federal Communications Commission.

â¿¿ TREASURY BORROWING â¿¿ The Treasury Department says it could begin decreasing the size of some of its debt auctions in coming months based on an improving deficit situation that will allow it to pay back some of the national debt this quarter.

WALL STREET

NEW YORK â¿¿ Signs of a slowing economy dragged down the stock market Wednesday. Even the prospect of continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve didn't help. Major market indexes fell by 0.9 percent, their worst decline in two weeks. Small-company stocks fell even more, 2.5 percent, as investors shunned risk. The yield on the benchmark U.S. government bond fell to its lowest of the year as investors sought safety. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photo.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil drops more than 2 percent to finish near $91 a barrel, following disappointing economic news from the world's two biggest oil-consuming nations and a large increase in U.S. crude supplies.

FINANCIAL SERVICES:

EARNS-MASTERCARD

NEW YORK â¿¿ Payments processor MasterCard Inc. says its profit and revenue rose in the first quarter as its customers spent more. Profit beat the forecasts of Wall Street analysts, though revenue missed slightly and the company's stock fell in morning trading. By Business Writer Christina Rexrode.

AP photos.

â¿¿ EARNS-VISA â¿¿ Visa says that its net income slipped nearly 2 percent in the first three months of this year from the year before, when the company benefited from an adjustment to its income tax provision. The payments processing company's latest results still trumped Wall Street's estimates.

HEALTH CARE:

MORNING-AFTER PILL

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Selling the morning-after birth control pill right next to condoms, even if limited to buyers 15 or older, marks a societal shift in the long battle over women's reproductive rights. The Obama administration weighs next steps in the politically charged issue after a stab at compromise just makes both sides madder. By Lauran Neergaard and Josh Lederman.

AP photos, graphic.

EARNS-CVS CAREMARK

CVS Caremark Corp.'s first-quarter earnings jumped 23 percent and topped analyst expectations, as an influx of generic drugs continued to help the drugstore operator and pharmacy benefits manager's profitability. By Business Writer Tom Murphy.

â¿¿ EARNS-MERCK â¿¿ Drugmaker Merck & Co. reports lower first-quarter results and cut its 2013 profit forecast by 15 cents a share. AP photo.

â¿¿ DENMARK-EARNS-NOVO NORDISK â¿¿ Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk A/S says first-quarter net profit rose 28 percent on strong sales of its diabetic drugs.

INDUSTRY:

STANDARDIZED TEST GLITCHES

INDIANAPOLIS â¿¿ The contractors who handle administration of standardized tests in several states are running into problems with the online portion of the tests. Schools in Indiana, Oklahoma and Minnesota have been forced to reschedule their tests this week because of computer issues that locked screens or kicked students offline as they tried to complete the exams. The problems have frustrated students and educators, who say there's no room for error when students, schools and teachers are held accountable for the results and companies are being paid millions of dollars to get it right. By Tom LoBianco and Tom Coyne.

AP photos planned.

â¿¿ BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY-IMC â¿¿ Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is buying the rest of IMC International Metalworking that it doesn't already own for $2.05 billion.

â¿¿ GINGER CANDY-LEAD LAWSUIT â¿¿ California has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other food retailers, alleging the store are selling lead-tainted ginger and plum candies without warning labels, as required by state law.

â¿¿ MENTALLY DISABLED WORKERS â¿¿ An Iowa jury awards a total of $240 million to 32 mentally disabled Iowa turkey processing plant workers for what government lawyers described as years of around-the-clock abuse and discrimination by the Texas company that oversaw their care, work and lodging.

â¿¿ CHINA BUS COMPANY â¿¿ BYD Automotive plans to build the first Chinese-owned vehicle manufacturing plant in the U.S. in the wind-swept high-desert Mojave Desert 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

HOTELS/CASINOS:

â¿¿ EARNS-LAS VEGAS SANDS â¿¿ Las Vegas Sands Corp. drew a record number of gamblers in Macau in the first quarter and took in more money from its Singapore casinos, helping lift net income by 15 percent to top expectations.

â¿¿ EARNS-MARRIOTT â¿¿ Marriott International Inc. says it turned a better-than-expected profit in its first quarter thanks to higher room rates and a return of events by large groups.

â¿¿ EARNS-CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT â¿¿ Casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. posted a smaller loss for its first quarter on Wednesday, but results still missed expectations as a drop in visitors dragged down revenue.

â¿¿ POKER STARS-ATLANTIC CITY â¿¿ A bid by the world's largest online poker website to buy an Atlantic City casino has gone bust. The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel says a purchase agreement with the British parent company of PokerStars has been terminated.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

EARNS-MEDIA COMPANIES

NEW YORK â¿¿ Media companies benefited from higher subscription fees for cable television networks such as TBS, Comedy Central and CNBC in the first three months of the year. Time Warner Inc., Viacom Inc. and Comcast Corp. all saw growth in their cable network businesses, thanks to fees that they charge cable and satellite TV companies for rights to carry their channels on subscribers' lineups. Those fees get passed on to individual customers. By Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun. Incorporates BC-US--Earns-Comcast, BC-US--Earns-Viacom, BC-US--Earns-Time Warner and BC-US--Earns-CBS.

Also:

â¿¿ EARNS-PAY TV-GLANCE â¿¿ Cable and satellite TV companies have begun releasing their earnings reports for the latest quarter. A summary of earnings reports for selected companies and what they reveal about the industry's prospects.

â¿¿ EARNS-ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY-GLANCE â¿¿ Companies providing entertainment content have begun releasing their earnings reports for the latest quarter. Here's a look at reports and related developments for selected companies.

â¿¿ T-MOBILE USA-METROPCS â¿¿ Wall Street gives T-Mobile US Inc., the newborn combination of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS, a warm welcome on its first day of trading.

â¿¿ KODAK-BANKRUPTCY â¿¿ Eastman Kodak plans to emerge from bankruptcy protection by the end of September after shedding most of the businesses that turned it into an American icon.

â¿¿ DREAMWORKS-ACQUISITION â¿¿ DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. is buying AwesomenessTV, a YouTube teen network, for about $33 million in cash as it looks to tap into the popularity of online content.

â¿¿ MOZILLA-CYBERESPIONAGE â¿¿ The maker of one of the Internet's most popular browsers is taking on one of the world's best known purveyors of surveillance software. The Mozilla Foundation â¿¿ responsible for the Firefox browser â¿¿ accuses Britain's Gamma International Ltd. of hijacking the Firefox brand to camouflage Gamma's electronic espionage products.

â¿¿ ONLINE COURSES-TEACHER TRAINING â¿¿ A leading platform for the popular "massive open online courses" offered by elite universities is moving into a new realm: the expansive field of continuing education for teachers.

â¿¿IMMIGRATION MARCHES â¿¿ Social media and text messaging have emerged as indispensable tools for advocates of a sweeping immigration overhaul, but street marches have an enduring allure.

â¿¿ TIMES-PICAYUNE-NEW PUBLICATION â¿¿ Months after cutting its print edition to three days a week, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans announces plans for a three-day-a-week tabloid called TPStreet available in stores and newsstands on days when the full paper isn't printed.

â¿¿ TABLET SALES â¿¿ A research firm says Microsoft is seeing slow sales of a version of Windows designed for thin and light tablets, even as the tablet market as a whole is growing.

INTERNATIONAL:

BANGLADESH-BUILDING COLLAPSE

JURAIN, Bangladesh â¿¿ Dozens of Bangladeshi garment workers, their bodies too battered or decomposed to be identified, are buried in a mass funeral a week after the eight-story building where they worked toppled down, killing at least 410 people and injuring thousands. By Chris Blake and Farid Hossain.

AP Photos, video.

MAY DAY RALLIES

ISTANBUL â¿¿ Workers around the world unite in anger during May Day rallies â¿¿ from fury in Europe over years of austerity measures that have cut wages, reduced benefits and eliminated many jobs altogether, to rage in Asia over relentlessly low pay, the rising cost of living and hideous working conditions that have left hundreds dead in recent months. By Mehmet Guzel and Suzan Fraser.

AP photos.

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

FRANKFURT, Germany â¿¿ Economists say the European Central Bank could cut interest rates as soon as Thursday because of fears that the euro area's economy isn't recovering â¿¿ even though top bank officials themselves caution that a cut won't do much good. Market expectations have risen in recent days of a reduction in the ECB's benchmark rate from its current record low of 0.75 percent when bank's 23-member governing council gathers to debate the issue in Bratislava, Slovakia. By Business Writer David McHugh.

AP photos.

â¿¿ FRANCE-ITALY â¿¿ Italy's new premier presses for the creation of a full-fledged European banking union and said he wants results before the EU summit next month.

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â¿¿ IRAQ-GAS DEAL â¿¿ Royal Dutch Shell says it has officially kicked off a multibillion-dollar project to tap natural gas in Iraq's south.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

ON THE MONEY-SUMMER TRAVEL SAVINGS

Summer is just around the corner and it's time to start thinking about booking a vacation. A little advance planning â¿¿ and some insider tips â¿¿ can save you and your family a lot of money. Before you start mapping out your trip, here are six questions to think about. By Scott Mayerowitz.

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CENTERPIECE

Citigroup: too big?

Citigroup's annual shareholder meeting last week was a meeting of the Mikes: Corbat, O'Neill and Mayo. All were in new roles: Mike Corbat is the new CEO; Mike O'Neill, the new chairman; and financial analyst Mike Mayo of CLSA new to attending the annual meeting. Mayo, well-known for asking tough questions, took the opportunity to press Citi's leadership for answers.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

T-Mobile closes MetroPCS acquisition

T-Mobile USA has closed its deal to acquire smaller rival MetroPCS. The combined company, called T-Mobile US, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday under the ticker symbol "TMUS."

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