Business Highlights


EU fines Microsoft $733 million for breaking Web browser pact

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The European Union has fined Microsoft €561 million ($733 million) for breaking a pledge to offer personal computer users a choice of Internet browsers when they install the company’s flagship Windows operating system.

The penalty imposed by the EU’s executive arm, the Commission, is a first for Brussels: no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before.

In 2009, Microsoft Corp. struck a broad settlement with the Commission to resolve disputes over the company’s abuse of the dominance of Windows.


US stocks edge up following Dow’s record day

NEW YORK (AP) — After barrelling through a record the day before, the Dow Jones industrial average meandered slightly higher on Wednesday.

The Dow edged up 42.47 points, or 0.3 per cent, to close at 14,296.24. An encouraging job-market report helped nudge the stock market up and pushed bond prices lower.

On Tuesday, the Dow blew past the previous all-time high it hit more than five years ago. The index of 30 big corporations has more than doubled since hitting a low during the financial crisis in March 2009.


Former GM executive tapped for Toyota board

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota has tapped a former executive at U.S. rival General Motors to join its board, the first time in the Japanese automaker’s 76-year history that it is appointing directors from outside the company.

The appointment of Mark Hogan, effective April 1, underlines efforts at Toyota Motor Corp. to become more internationally minded, transparent and nimble in regional markets as it recovers from difficult years, including a massive recall fiasco in the U.S.

Under changes announced Wednesday by President Akio Toyoda, Toyota will set up a new division to oversee North American, European and Japanese markets and another for emerging markets.


Chavez death brings uncertainty, hope to oil patch

HOUSTON (AP) — Following Tuesday’s death of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela faces near-term political uncertainty that could bring further turmoil to its oil industry.

The country’s oil exports fell by nearly half during Chavez’s 14 years as president and that kind of decline is not easily reversed. It will take years of investment to turn around the country’s beleaguered oil sector.

But whoever emerges as the next leader of Venezuela, an OPEC member that sits on the world’s second-largest oil reserves, will have a powerful economic incentive to make that a top priority.


Fed survey: US economy growing throughout country

WASHINGTON (AP) — Strong auto sales, better hiring and a continued housing recovery helped the U.S. economy grow in January and February throughout the country, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve.

The survey noted that 10 of the Fed’s 12 banking districts reported moderate or modest growth, while the Boston and Chicago districts reported slow growth.

Consumer spending increased in most regions, although spending growth slowed in many districts and much of the gains were driven by auto sales. Many districts said consumers pulled back slightly elsewhere after seeing taxes rise and gas prices increase. Some also expressed concerns about federal spending cuts that started on March 1.


US factory orders that signal investment surge

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. orders for machinery and other factory goods that signal business investment surged in January, indicating confidence in the economy.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for so-called core capital goods, which also include equipment and computers, rose 7.2 per cent from December. It was the biggest gain in more than a year and higher than the initial 6.3 per cent increase estimated by the government last week.

Total factory orders fell 2 per cent in January from December. But the decline was mostly due to a steep drop in volatile aircraft and defence orders that was also reported last week.


Private survey shows steady job gains in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey shows U.S. businesses added a solid number of jobs in February, indicating higher taxes and looming government spending cuts have yet to slow hiring.

Employers added 198,000 jobs in February, according to data released Wednesday by payroll processor ADP. And the survey revised January’s hiring figures to show companies added 215,000 jobs that month, 23,000 more than what had initially been reported.

The figure suggests that the government’s February jobs report, to be issued Friday, may come in above economists’ forecasts. Analysts expect it will show the economy added 152,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 per cent from 7.9 per cent in January.


Staples 4Q hit by charges, forecast misses view

NEW YORK (AP) — Costs related to Staples Inc.’s turnaround plan helped drag down the office supplier’s fourth-quarter net income by 72 per cent. Its quarterly revenue and financial outlook for the year missed Wall Street’s expectations.

Staples, which has 1,547 stores in the U.S. and 339 stores in Canada, is the largest office supply retailer, a sector hit hard by the recession and slow to recover.

Its earnings report comes two weeks after Office Depot Inc. and OfficeMax said they would combine to better compete against their larger rival as well as Internet retailers like and discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.


Exxon Mobil predicts lower production this year

DALLAS (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. expects production to decline by about 1 per cent this year due to weaker output of natural gas, then rise in the next few years as new projects start up.

The oil and gas giant expects annual production to rise by 2 per cent to 3 per cent per year through 2017. It plans to spend $190 billion on exploration and development over the next five years.

The company gave the forecast Wednesday at its annual meeting with analysts in New York.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average edged up 42.47 points, or 0.3 per cent, to close at 14,296.24. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.67 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,541.46. The Nasdaq slipped 1.77, less than 0.1 per cent, to 3,222.36.

Benchmark oil for April delivery fell 39 cents to finish at $90.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, fell 55 cents to end at $111.06 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline dropped 2 cents to finish at $3.12 a gallon. Heating oil rose less than a cent to end at $2.98 a gallon. Natural gas lost 6 cents to finish at $3.47 per 1,000 cubic feet.