Business Highlights


Microsoft brings Office to iPhone, but not iPad

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as a pared-down version of Microsoft’s Office software package arrived on the iPhone, the company is holding out on extending that to the iPad and Android devices as it tries to boost sales of tablet computers running its own Windows system.

Microsoft also isn’t selling Office Mobile for iPhone separately. Instead, it comes as part of a $100-a-year Office 365 subscription, which also lets people use Office on up to five Mac and Windows computers. Microsoft made the app available through Apple’s app store.

Microsoft Corp. is treading a fine line as it tries to make its subscription more compelling, without removing an advantage that tablet computers running Microsoft’s Windows system now have — the ability to run popular Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.


Chrysler freezing pensions for 8,000 employees

Chrysler Group LLC said that it is freezing the pensions of roughly 8,000 U.S. salaried employees at the end of the year.

The U.S. automaker said it is making the move to stay in line with industry trends and to comply with Internal Revenue Service regulations.

The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company declined to detail the specifics of the IRS issue, but said it is currently in compliance. Company spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said the compliance matter is not related to underfunding of the pension.

U.S. companies in general have moved away from traditional, or “defined benefit,” pensions due to the cost. General Motors made a similar move last year when it froze traditional pension benefits for 19,000 salaried workers hired before 2001. Such pensions guarantee a specific payment to retirees.


After rocky few months, Lululemon tries to lighten up

NEW YORK (AP) — If you can hold a headstand for at least 10 minutes, communicate in Sanskrit and enjoy downing wheatgrass and tequila shots on Fridays for work-life balance, Lululemon has a job for you.

After a rocky few months, the company is seeking a new CEO. Lululemon has posted a joke-filled want ad that it says shows its “fun and irreverent” brand.

The ad comes as the Canadian company’s stock has slid 20 per cent after it announced Monday that its current CEO plans to leave. In March, Lululemon suffered a public relations nightmare after pulling too-sheer yoga pants from shelves. The company is known for its $100 yoga pants. Lululemon’s CEO, Christine Day, has said she would stay at the company until a successor is named. Under her leadership over the past five years, Lululemon has grown annual revenue from $274 million to $1.4 billion.


First flight of Airbus A350 challenges Boeing ahead of Paris Air Show

PARIS (AP) — Airbus sent a new wide-body plane into the skies that sets the stage for intensifying competition with U.S. rival Boeing.

After years of delays and a revamp that cost billions, the A350 cruised for four hours in partly cloudy skies above Toulouse in southern France. Most importantly, it then landed safely.

The flight marks a key step on the path to full certification for the jet, which can carry between 250 and 400 passengers and is the European aircraft-maker’s best hope for catching up in a long-haul market dominated by Boeing’s 777 and the 787, known as the Dreamliner.


Pork producer Smithfield Foods’ 4Q profit falls nearly 63 per cent

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc.’s profit sank nearly 63 per cent in the fourth quarter as feed costs rose and its exports to China and Russia declined.

The Smithfield, Va.-based company, whose brands include Armour, Farmland and its namesake, said it earned $29.7 million, or 21 cents per share, for the period that ended April 28. That’s down from $79.5 million, or 49 cents per share, a year ago, when its results included a $16.8 million benefit from insurance reimbursements. Revenue rose more than 3 per cent to $3.32 billion. Smithfield has been in the spotlight recently after it agreed on May 29 to a $4.72 billion takeover offer from the majority shareholder in China’s largest meat processor.


IMF report says U.S. economy on better foundation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is on sounder footing than it was a year ago but is still being restrained by government spending cuts and tax increases, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF’s annual report on the U.S. economy noted that the underlying fundamentals are gradually improving: Home prices and construction are rising, household finances have strengthened and employers are steadily adding jobs. The outlook was much more optimistic than IMF’s 2012 report.

Still, the IMF forecasts economic growth of just 1.9 per cent this year, the same as its April forecast. That would be down from 2.2 per cent in 2012. And it’s below many private economists’ expectations that the U.S. economy will grow more than 2 per cent this year.


Higher food and gas costs push up U.S. wholesale prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — A rise in food and gas costs drove a measure of wholesale prices up sharply in May. But outside those volatile categories, inflation was mild.

The Labor Department said that the producer price index rose 0.5 per cent in May from April. Gas prices rose 1.5 per cent last month, and food costs increased 0.6 per cent. The increase last month followed a 0.7 per cent decline in April and a 0.6 per cent drop in March, both of which were driven by steep declines in gas prices.

Core prices, which exclude the food and energy, rose just 0.1 per cent in May. That matches the April increase. The index measures price changes before they reach the consumer.


U.S. factory output up just 0.1 pct., signals more weakness.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories barely increased their output in May after two months of declines, a sign that manufacturing is providing little support for the economy.

The Federal Reserve said that factory production rose just 0.1 per cent in May from April. Output fell 0.4 per cent in April and 0.3 per cent in March.

Factories produced more autos, computers and wood products last month, offsetting declines in the production of furniture and primary metals. Manufacturing output has risen just 1.7 per cent in the past 12 months.


Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury debt drop in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign demand for U.S. Treasury securities fell in April for the first time in more than a year, as China and Japan both trimmed their holdings.

The Treasury Department said that total foreign holdings dropped 1.2 per cent in April from March to $5.67 trillion.

China, the largest foreign buyer of Treasury debt, reduced its holdings 0.4 per cent to $1.26 trillion. Japan, the second-largest buyer, cut its holdings 1.2 per cent to $1.1 trillion.

Even with the reductions, Treasury debt held by foreigners is up 8.6 per cent from a year ago. The gain shows overseas investors are still buying U.S. debt, despite sharp debates in Congress over reducing federal deficits.


U.S. current account deficit widens in first quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. current account trade deficit widened from January through March as Americans earned less from overseas investments.

The Commerce Department says the deficit increased 3.7 per cent in the first quarter to $106.1 billion. That’s up a revised $102.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade. It tracks not only the sale of goods and services but also investment flows and how much the U.S. must borrow from foreigners. The first-quarter deficit was equal to 2.7 per cent of the total economy, up from 2.6 per cent in the previous quarter.

For the first quarter, the deficit in goods fell $3.3 billion. The surplus in services, such as airline travel, increased $454 million. And Americans’ surplus in their overseas investments fell $5 billion.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 105.9 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 15,070.18. The S&P 500 index fell 9.63, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,626.73. The Nasdaq composite fell 21.81, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,423.56.

Benchmark oil for July delivery rose $1.16 to close at $97.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Natural gas fell 8 cents to finish at $3.73 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil added 2 cents to end at $2.96 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to finish at $2.90 a gallon.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 98 cents to end at $105.93 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.