News

Business Highlights

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Stocks slip, led by energy and materials companies

Falling prices for oil and other commodities pulled U.S. stocks modestly lower on Wednesday, nudging the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slightly into the red for the year and putting it on course to snap a five-week winning streak.

Energy and mining companies led the decline, while consumer staples and utilities stocks bucked the broader downward trend. Disappointing earnings from several companies, including Nike, also weighed on the market. Oil slumped 4 per cent.

Trading was muted ahead of Friday, when markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.

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March is a good month to find deals on Japanese cars

DETROIT (AP) — If you’re in the market for a Japanese car, March is a good time to buy.

Unlike U.S., European and Korean automakers, which end their financial year on Dec. 31, Japanese companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. close their books on March 31. In order to hit their annual sales targets, Japanese automakers usually ramp up the promotions and deals in March.

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Will Americans like Blendle, the iTunes for news?

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans pay to download music. They pay for TV episodes. Will they pay a few cents for news articles to escape ads and bypass subscription requirements?

The news service Blendle launches Wednesday in the U.S. with 20 news outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek. You pay 9 cents to 49 cents to read a story (with a refund if you don’t like it).

Although Blendle has more than 100,000 paying, active users in the Netherlands and Germany, it could be a hard sell for Americans used to free stories online.

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Western US homebuyers push up sales of new homes in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuyers in the West accounted for all of February’s increase in sales of new houses, possibly signalling uncertain growth prospects for the broader real estate market heading into the spring buying season.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new-home sales rose 2 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 512,000. All of the increase came from 38.5 per cent surge in purchases in the West, which reversed a stiff 32.7 per cent decline in January that had cut into overall sales.

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Credit Suisse to cut more jobs as it steps up overhaul plan

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss bank Credit Suisse is intensifying its restructuring efforts, announcing Wednesday greater cost cuts and plans to reduce headcount by another 2,000.

The bank cited “disappointing financial results” because of a combination of a high, inflexible cost base, exposure to illiquid fixed income assets, tough market conditions and “historically low levels of client activity.”

Credit Suisse said it is now targeting cost reductions of at least 4.3 billion Swiss francs ($4.4 billion) by 2018, up from 3.5 billion francs previously. The company now plans to cut 6,000 jobs, up from its prior plans for 4,000.

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Pinnacle Foods CEO is leaving for Keurig

NEW YORK (AP) — Keurig is hiring Pinnacle Foods CEO Robert Gamgort as its next chief executive as it struggles to boost sales of its single-cup coffee machines.

Gamgort, who has been CEO of Pinnacle for nearly seven years, will join Keurig in May. He will replace current Keurig CEO Brian Kelley, who will become vice chairman of Keurig’s board.

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Starbucks to offer prepaid cards to boost rewards program

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks says it will introduce a prepaid card by the end of the year that lets people earn points for its rewards program.

The Seattle-based company plans to offer the card through Chase and says people would be able to use it wherever Visa is accepted.

It’s the latest move by Starbucks Corp. to convince people to sign up for its loyalty program by giving them more ways to earn rewards “stars” outside of its cafes.

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Regulator approves Exelon’s takeover of Pepco

NEW YORK (AP) — A regulator has approved Exelon’s nearly $7 billion takeover of rival utility Pepco, but the deal will only go through if Exelon agrees to its terms.

The District of Columbia Public Service Commission said Wednesday that Exelon has 30 days to agree to the way it wants more than $70 million in payments to be used for customer discounts and energy conservation. Exelon said it is reviewing the order.

A combination of Exelon and Pepco would create the largest electric utility company in the U.S. Exelon first offered to buy Pepco nearly two years ago.

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Feds order thousands of unsafe tractor trucks off the road

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is ordering federal and state inspectors to remove certain Volvo tractor trucks from the road because of a steering wheel defect that can cause a complete loss of control of the vehicle.

The Department of Transportation says that because about 20,000 of the trucks are missing a pin that holds the steering shaft together, the shaft can come apart while the vehicle is in use. The trucks are Volvo VNL, VNX and VNM models made between May 11, 2015 and March 8, 2016.

DOT officials say about half the vehicles have received temporary repairs or removed from the road thus far.

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Report: HealthCare.gov logged 316 cybersecurity incidents

WASHINGTON (AP) — The web portal used by millions of consumers to get health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law has logged more than 300 cybersecurity incidents and remains vulnerable to hackers, nonpartisan congressional investigators said Wednesday.

The Government Accountability Office said none of the 316 security incidents appeared to have led to the release of sensitive data on HealthCare.gov. Most of the incidents over nearly 18 months seemed to have involved electronic probing by hackers.

Although GAO said the administration is making progress, its report concluded that security flaws “will likely continue to jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity and availability of HealthCare.gov.”

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 79.98 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 17,502.59. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 13.09 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2,036.71. The Nasdaq composite index lost 52.80 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4,768.86.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.66, or 4 per cent, to close at $39.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, slid $1.32, or 3.2 per cent, to close at $40.47 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents, or 2.9 per cent, to close at $1.45 a gallon, while heating oil slipped 5 cents, or 3.8 per cent, to close at $1.20 a gallon. Natural gas declined 7 cents, or 3.7 per cent, to close at $1.79 per 1,000 cubic feet.