Business Highlights

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AP survey: China’s lending bubble a global threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just as the global economy has all but recovered from debt-fueled crises in the United States and Europe, economists have a new worry: China. They see a lending bubble there that threatens global growth unless Beijing defuses it.

That’s the view that emerges from an Associated Press survey this month of 30 economists. Still, the economists remain optimistic that Beijing’s high-stakes drive to reform its economy — the world’s second-largest — will bolster Chinese banks, ease the lending bubble and benefit U.S. exporters in the long run.

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Pfizer still pursuing AstraZeneca after 2nd rebuff

LONDON (AP) — AstraZeneca PLC has twice spurned Pfizer’s Inc.’s takeover efforts, but the maker of Viagra and Lipitor is hoping the third time may prove to be the charm.

Pfizer said Monday that a proposed $100 billion acquisition may make sense for shareholders of both companies and that it is considering its next steps in its pursuit.

Pfizer, the world’s second-biggest drugmaker by revenue, said acquiring No. 8 AstraZeneca would strengthen research programs and potentially produce drugs sooner in Pfizer’s priority areas, particularly cancer, heart disease, pain and immune disorders. Pressure on Pfizer for a deal also may be coming from a desire to save big money on taxes on the piles of cash it earned and keeps overseas.

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Orchestrating Alstom follows long French tradition

PARIS (AP) — France’s Socialist leader summoned three CEOs to the presidential palace Monday to orchestrate the sale of Alstom, an engineering firm and treasure of French industry, in the government’s latest effort to bring globalization to heel.

President Francois Hollande’s jump into the talks on a proposed merger with either General Electric or Siemens is part of a long tradition of French state interference in corporate life in the name of protecting national security and keeping jobs and companies in the country.

This government has scuttled Yahoo’s attempt to buy a videosharing website, gotten into a spat with an American CEO over the work habits of workers and tried unsuccessfully to stack the deck in the sale of a mobile phone company.

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Google: Driverless cars are mastering city streets

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google says that cars it has programmed to drive themselves have started to master the navigation of city streets and the challenges they bring, from jaywalkers to weaving bicyclists — a critical milestone for any commercially available self-driving car technology.

Despite the progress over the past year, the cars have plenty of learning to do before 2017, when the Silicon Valley tech giant hopes to get the technology to the public.

None of the traditional automakers has been so bullish. Instead, they have rolled out features incrementally, including technology that brakes and accelerates in stop-and-go traffic or keeps cars in their lanes.

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Fed likely to reiterate flexible policy on rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen has made one thing clear: The Fed will keep all options open in deciding when to raise interest rates from record lows.

Gone are the benchmarks that her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, used to try to guide investors. In a speech this month, Yellen said the Fed “must respond to significant unexpected twists and turns the economy may take.”

The Fed will likely repeat that theme on Wednesday, when it ends a policy meeting. It is expected to echo what Yellen has said before: That even after the job market strengthens and the Fed starts raising rates, it will likely keep rates unusually low to support a still-subpar economy.

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Advertisers back away from NBA’s LA Clippers

NEW YORK (AP) — Advertisers are backing away from the Los Angeles Clippers after racist comments attributed to the NBA team’s owner.

Used car dealership chain CarMax, airline Virgin America and the Chumash Casino Resort said Monday that they are ending their sponsorships of the Clippers in the wake of comments allegedly made by Donald Sterling. Two other sponsors, Kia Motors America and Red Bull, said they are suspending their advertising and sponsorship activities with the team. Another sponsor, insurer State Farm, said it will be “taking a pause” in its relationship with the organization.

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Contracts to buy US homes up, 1st time since June

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the first increase since June and a sign that the housing market might pick up after a sluggish start to the year.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.4 per cent to 97.4 last month. Still, the index remains 7.9 per cent below its level a year ago.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.

The gain partly reflects a recovery from the harsh winter. Snowstorms and freezing temperatures kept many potential buyers away from open houses in January and February.

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Toyota moving US base from California to Texas

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas in a bid to improve communication between units now spread over several states.

Toyota will break ground this year on a new environmentally friendly headquarters in Plano, Texas, about 25 miles north of Dallas. Small groups of employees will start moving to temporary office space there this year, but most will not move until late 2016 or early 2017 when a new headquarters is completed.

The new campus will bring together approximately 4,000 employees from sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and finance currently in California and Kentucky.

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BofA suspends plans to raise dividend, buy shares

NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America is suspending a long-awaited dividend increase and stock buyback program after discovering an error in a financial report it gave to the Federal Reserve.

The bank said Monday that the error was related to how it valued securities obtained in its acquisition of Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis in 2009. As a result, the bank slightly overstated the amount of capital it held and other financial ratios it reported last month as part of its earnings release and its annual financial checkup with the Federal Reserve.

Those ratios are a crucial measure of a bank’s health and help investors and regulators determine how much of a financial cushion it has to help it survive another financial crisis.

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Frontier Airlines now charging for carry-on bags

NEW YORK (AP) — Passengers beware: More airline fees are on their way.

Frontier Airlines says its passengers will now have to pay extra to place carry-on bags in the overhead bin or for advance seat assignments.

The move comes as the Denver-based airline tries to transform itself into a fee-dependent airline, similar to Spirit Airlines or Allegiant Air — the only other U.S. carriers to charge such fees. Frontier says that in exchange for these new fees, it is lowering its base fare by an average of 12 per cent.

It is the latest airline to promise to change the way we fly by offering cheap base fares but then adding on a bevy of additional fees.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 87.28 points, or 0.5 per cent, to close at 16,448.74. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.03 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,869.43. The Nasdaq edged down 1.16 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 4,074.40.

U.S. crude for June delivery rose 24 cents to close at $100.84 a barrel in New York. Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to close at $2.986 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3.6 cents to close at $2.945 a gallon. Natural gas rose 14 cents to close at $4.79 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.46, or 1.3 per cent, to close at $108.12 in London.

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