Business Highlights


Associated Press

Posted on May 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 30 at 7:02 AM


Americans grew gloomier about the economy in May

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans grew much gloomier about the economy in May, causing a private group's measure of consumer confidence to fall the most it has in eight months.

Worries about jobs, housing and the stock market rattled consumers, even though gas prices are falling. The latest figures suggest Americans will need to see more encouraging economic signs before their worry starts to dissipate.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 64.9 from a revised 68.7 in April. Analysts had expected the index to climb to 70.


Europeans ambivalent about euro, survey finds

LONDON (AP) — The debt crisis that has ravaged Europe for the best part of three years has exposed a dislike of the single currency but little desire to abandon it, a wide-ranging survey of public opinion found Tuesday.

Pew Research Center's survey across eight European Union countries, including five members of the 17-country eurozone, indicated that the region's financial problems have triggered full-blown fears about the future of Europe as a political project.

In Greece, the epicenter of the debt crisis, 71 percent of those polled want to keep the euro, compared with 23 percent who want to return to the drachma. Most people surveyed in Greece, which is now in its fifth year of a savage recession, think the euro has been good for them — 46 percent, compared with 26 percent who thought the euro was a bad thing.


Iran, other Mideast states hit by computer virus

LONDON (AP) — Iran and other Middle East countries have been hit with a cunning computer virus that can eavesdrop on computer users and their co-workers and filch information from nearby cellphones, cybersecurity experts said Tuesday.

Suspicion immediately fell on Israel as the culprit.

The Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab ZAO said the "Flame" virus is unprecedented in size and complexity. Researcher Roel Schouwenberg marveled at its versatility.

Computers in Iran appear to have been particularly affected, and Kaspersky's conclusion that the virus was crafted at the behest of a national government fueled speculation it could be part of an Israeli-backed campaign of electronic sabotage against the Jewish state's archenemy.


RIM hires JP Morgan, RBC to review business

TORONTO (AP) — Struggling BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion says it has hired J.P. Morgan and RBC Capital Markets to advise it and says there will be significant layoffs this year.

RIM said in a release Tuesday that the advisers have been tasked to evaluate various strategies, including opportunities to partner and license.

RIM made no mention of a sale of the company, but new Chief Executive Thorsten Heins did not rule out the idea after RIM's last earnings were released in late March. RIM also says it expects to report an operating loss for the first quarter.


Home prices rise in most major US cities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home prices rose in March from February in most major U.S. cities for the first time in seven months. The increase is the latest evidence of a slow recovery taking shape in the housing market.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index shows that prices rose in 12 of the 20 cities it tracks.

Three of the weakest markets showed signs of improvement. Prices rose in Tampa and Miami. They were unchanged in Las Vegas.


Facebook's stock falls below $30 for first time

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook's stock has fallen below $30 for the first time since its much-awaited public debut this month.

The stock fell $3.07, or 9.6 percent, to close at $28.84 on Tuesday. That's 24 percent below its debut price as a public stock. It went as low as $28.65 earlier in the day.

Facebook Inc. began trading publicly on May 18 following one of the most anticipated stock offerings in history.


Dairies pamper cows to improve production

CHILTON, Wis. (AP) — Lucky, a 7-year-old dairy cow, had been walking with a limp for several weeks when veterinarian Sara Gilbertson was called. Instead of prescribing painkillers, Gilbertson tried an unusual new therapy — a chiropractic adjustment that included a full-length spinal massage.

Gilbertson rubbed the Holstein's spine by gently squeezing it from neck to tail, pausing to apply firm pressure to one hip and readjust several vertebrae. The cow stood in calm silence, moving only enough to reach another mouthful of hay. Later, as Lucky reclined on a bed of sand, Gilbertson noted with satisfaction how relaxed and comfortable the animal seemed.

Cow comfort has become a key concern for the nation's farmers, who have known for generations that contented cows give more milk. The traditional techniques for keeping cows happy aren't complicated — feed them well, keep the temperature comfortable and give them room to move around. But some dairy farmers are turning to a new array of creative options intended to keep cows as mellow — and productive — as possible.


Sprint to shut Nextel as early as June 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint Nextel Corp. on Tuesday said it will shut down the Nextel network as early as June 30 next year, cutting off service for its walkie-talkie-like Nextel phones.

Sprint had already said the shutdown would commence next year but had not set a date. The Overland Park, Kan., phone company bought the Nextel network in 2005 and has lost money every quarter for the last four years as it's struggled with the cost of running two incompatible wireless networks.

There were 5.4 million phones active on the Nextel network at the end of March. Many Nextel customers are businesses or government agencies that issue the phones to construction crews and other mobile workers.

Sprint now faces the challenge of convincing these customers to move to the Sprint network rather than competing carriers. As part of the pitch, Sprint has added phones with a walkie-talkie-like "push-to-talk" feature.


Google, Samsung unveil new version of Chromebook

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google will try to win more converts to a computer operating system revolving around its popular Chrome Web browser with a new wave of lightweight laptops built by Samsung Electronics.

Tuesday's release of the next-generation Chromebooks will give Google and Samsung another opportunity to persuade consumers and businesses to buy an unconventional computer instead of machines running on familiar software by industry pioneers Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

Unlike most computers, Google's Chromebooks don't have a hard drive. They function like terminals dependent on an Internet connection. The laptops come with 16 gigabytes of flash memory — the kind found in smartphones, tablet computers and some iPods. Two USB ports allow external hard drives and other devices to be plugged into the machines.


Record drop in retail sales adds to Spain's woes

MADRID (AP) — A record drop in retail sales added to Spain's economic woes on Tuesday as the government struggled to boost confidence in the crippled banking industry and investors remained doubtful of the country's ability to manage its debts during a recession.

April retail sales dropped 9.8 percent from a year earlier as the country battled its second recession in three years and a 24.4 percent jobless rate that is expected to rise. It was the 22nd straight monthly decline and more than double the 3.8 percent drop posted for March, the National Statistics Institute announced.

A gloomy Bank of Spain report heaped more bad news on the government. The central bank predicted the economy will keep shrinking at least through June, after contracting 0.3 percent in the first quarter. The government has predicted a 1.7 percent contraction for the whole of 2012.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 125.86 points, or 1 percent, to close at 12,580.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up 14.60 points at 1,332.42, and the Nasdaq composite added 33.46 points to 2,870.99.

Benchmark U.S. crude ended the day down 10 cents at $90.76 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which helps set the price for oil imported into the U.S., lost 43 cents to finish at $106.68 per barrel in London.

In other futures trading, natural gas lost 13.9 cents to end at $2.429 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas has lost about 22 cents in the past two trading sessions.

Heating oil lost 2 cents to finish at $2.8088 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline added 1.36 cents to finish at $2.9065 per gallon.