Business Highlights


US stocks close lower, ending Dow’s 10-day rally

U.S. stock markets fell Friday, ending the longest winning streak for the Dow Jones industrial average in nearly 17 years.

The Dow dropped 25.03 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 14,514.11 The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.53 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,560.70, still shy of an all-time high set in October 2007. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 9.86 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 3,249.07.

The Dow had a 10-day winning streak through Thursday, its longest since November 1996. The string of wins pushed the blue chip index up 484 points, or 3.4 per cent, to a Thursday close of 14,539.14. The index’s closing price on Feb. 28, just before the rally began, was 14,054.49.


Fund pays over $600 million to settle insider trading charges

Hedge fund CR Intrinsic Investors will pay more than $600 million in what federal regulators are calling the largest insider trading settlement ever.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the firm with insider trading in 2012, alleging that one of its portfolio managers illegally obtained confidential details about an Alzheimer’s drug trial from a doctor before the final results went public and made trades from that information.

The SEC said Friday that the fund agreed to settle the charges and the parties neither admit nor deny wrongdoing.


Gas spike drives US consumer prices up 0.7 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — A spike in gas prices drove a measure of U.S. consumer costs up in February by the most in more than three years. But outside the gain in fuel costs, inflation was mostly modest.

The consumer price index increased a seasonally adjusted 0.7 per cent last month from January, the Labor Department said Friday. It was the biggest monthly rise since June 2009.

Still, three-fourths of the increase in the index reflected a 9.1 per cent surge in gas prices. That was also the largest monthly gain since June 2009. Gas prices had fallen in the previous four months. Since last month’s increase gas prices have started to fall.


Strong auto output boosts US factory production

WASHINGTON (AP) — A strong increase in auto output boosted U.S. factory production last month, the latest sign that manufacturing is helping to drive economic growth after lagging for much of 2012.

Factory output rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 per cent in February from January, after falling 0.3 per cent in the previous month, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

The biggest gain was in autos and auto parts, where production increased 3.6 per cent after falling 4.9 per cent in January. Car sales have risen steadily this year after reaching a five-year high in 2012.


Boeing says commercial 787 flights to restart in weeks

TOKYO (AP) — Boeing said Friday that it sees commercial flights of its grounded 787 jets resuming “within weeks” even though it has not pinpointed the cause of battery overheating that grounded the planes.

Boeing Co. Chief Project Engineer Michael Sinnett outlined a fix centred on a new design for the lithium-ion battery system that has layers of safeguards to prevent overheating and measures to contain malfunctions.

The 787 fleet was grounded worldwide by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, its counterparts in Japan and other nations in January, following a battery fire in a Dreamliner parked in Boston and an overheated battery that led to an emergency landing of another 787 in Japan.


Carnival returns to profit; travellers fear mishaps

MIAMI (AP) — The world’s largest cruise line has suffered through a number of high-profile mishaps. Yet passengers continue to book vacations thanks to discounts, albeit at a slower pace.

Carnival Corp. offered more sales to attract wary passengers after an engine fire last month crippled the Carnival Triumph, leaving 4,200 people stranded for five days without working toilets or power. This week two more of its ships had mechanical problems, ruining the vacations of thousands of travellers.

Carnival Corp. said Friday that it earned $37 million, or 5 cents per share, in the quarter ended Feb. 28. That compares with a loss of $139 million, or 18 cents per share, a year earlier. But its forecast for the year came in below analyst’s predictions, and its shares fell more than 2 per cent.


Air traffic tower closures will strip safety net

CHICAGO (AP) — The planned shutdown of nearly 240 air traffic control towers across the country under federal budget cuts will strip away an extra layer of safety during takeoffs and landings, leaving pilots to manage the most critical stages of flights on their own.

The towers slated to close are at smaller airports with light traffic, and all pilots are trained to land without help by communicating among themselves on a common radio frequency. But airport directors and pilots say there is little doubt the removal of that second pair of eyes on the ground increases risk and will slow the progress that has made the U.S. air system the safest in the world.

It’s not just private pilots in small planes who stand to be affected. Many of the airports in question are served by major airlines, and the cuts could also leave towers unmanned during overnight hours at some big-city airports such as Chicago’s Midway and General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. The plans have prompted airlines to review whether the changes might pose problems for commercial service that could mean cancelling or rescheduling flights.


Ex-JPMorgan execs pressed about trading loss

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two former high-ranking executives at JPMorgan Chase faced tough questions from senators Friday about why the bank played down risks and hid losses from regulators when it was losing billions of dollars.

The hearing was held a day after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a scathing report that ascribed widespread blame for $6.2 billion in trading losses to key executives at the firm.

Douglas Braunstein, the former chief financial officer, and Ina Drew, the former chief investment officer overseeing trading strategy, were pressed to explain why bank executives gave federal examiners in April information that significantly understated losses for the first quarter of 2012.


Journalist’s lawyer: Prank doesn’t merit prison

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawyer for a Reuters editor accused of helping hackers deface a Los Angeles Times story said Friday that the journalist didn’t commit the crime, but even if he did, it was an Internet prank that shouldn’t send anyone to prison for 25 years.

Federal authorities allege that in December 2010, Matthew Keys provided hackers from the group Anonymous with login information to access the computer system of the Tribune Co., the parent company of the Times. Tribune also owns a Sacramento television station that fired Keys months earlier.

According to the Justice Department, a hacker altered a Times news story to read “Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337,” a reference to another hacking group. “Chippy 1337” claimed responsibility for defacing the website of video game publisher Eidos in 2011.

Keys was charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, as well as transmitting and attempting to transmit that information. If convicted, the New Jersey native faces a combined 25 years prison and a $500,000 fine, if sentenced to the maximum for each count. He is scheduled for arraignment April 12 in Sacramento, Calif.


Europe eases the austerity whip — a little

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Three and a half years into its government-debt crisis, there are signs that Europe is adopting a gentler approach toward austerity.

Political leaders aren’t backing away aggressively from budget cuts and higher taxes, but they are increasingly trying to temper those policies, which have stifled growth and made it harder for many countries to bring their deficits under control.

The European Union is slowing its enforcement of deficit limits until the region’s economy turns around; countries that were bailed out by their European neighbours are being given more time to repay loans, easing the pressure to cut budgets further. And financial leaders, including the head of the European Central Bank, say it’s time to place more emphasis on reviving growth.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.03 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 14,514.11. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.53 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,560.70. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 9.86 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 3,249.07.

The price of oil rose 42 cents to end at $93.45 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, gained 86 cents to finish at $109.82 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The price of natural gas rose 6 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to finish at $3.87 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to end at $3.16 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to finish at $2.94 a gallon.