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Posted: Mar 31, 2014 1:26 AM

Updated: Mar 31, 2014 1:26 AM


Market begins the week on the upswing

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street is beginning the trading week on a positive note.

Investors were encouraged Friday by news that Americans increased their spending last month, a hopeful sign for an economy that has been slowed by months of severe winter weather. That pushed the stock market indexes higher for the first time in three days.

The gains were modest as investors continued to cut their holdings in biotechnology stocks, some of the best performing names of 2013. Instead, the stocks that advanced the most were mostly mature, large companies such as Microsoft, Exxon and Cisco Systems.

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,323. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,857. The Nasdaq composite, which includes a number of large biotech companies, rose just 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,155.


Asian stocks mostly up before tax hike, China data

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Asian stocks were mostly higher on today, one day ahead of sales tax hike in Japan and China's manufacturing data release. But South Korean stocks lost ground as North Korea conducts live-fire drills in western sea boundaries between rival Koreas.

Analysts say potential signals from Bank of Japan or government on stimulus measures are widely awaited. Economists expect that the tax hike would slow the recovery of the world's No. 3 economy.

For this week, investors are waiting to see manufacturing activity reading of China slated for tomorrow, which might confirm the slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Preliminary reading of March purchasing managers' index showed last week that China's manufacturing weakened to an eight-month low, bolstering views that Beijing will introduce pro-growth measures to boost recovery.

Benchmark crude oil fell below $101.50. The dollar inched up against the euro and the yen.


Major economic and business reports slated for release this week

UNDATED (AP) Investors are now turning their attention to this week's economic data, including the March jobs report due out Friday. Economists expect the U.S. economy, thawing from the harsh winter, created 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.6 percent.

Other reports of special interest this week will be the ISM manufacturing index for March, factory orders and construction spending for February, as well as the weekly jobless claims.

Tomorrow, automakers will release the number of vehicles they sold in March.


Another case between Apple-Samsung heads to court

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The fiercest rivalry in the world of smartphones is heading back to court this week in Silicon Valley, with Apple and Samsung accusing each other, once again, of ripping off designs and features.

The trial starting Monday will mark the latest round in a long-running series of lawsuits between the tech giants.

The latest Apple-Samsung case will be tried less than two years after a federal jury found Samsung was infringing on Apple patents. Samsung was ordered to pay about $900 million but is appealing and has been allowed to continue selling products using the technology.

In the upcoming case, Apple Inc. is accusing Samsung of infringing on five patents on newer devices, including Galaxy smartphones and tablets. In a counterclaim, Samsung says Apple stole two of its ideas to use on iPhones and iPads.


GM recalls Cruze compacts to fix front axle shafts

DETROIT (AP) General Motors is recalling 172,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars because the right front axle shaft can fracture and separate while being driven.

The recall affects cars from the 2013 and 2014 model years equipped with 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines.

If a shaft fractures, the wheels would lose power without warning and the cars would coast to a stop.

GM says it has warranty reports of several dozen shaft fractures. It is not aware of any crashes or injuries.

Dealers will replace the shafts free of charge.

The recall allows dealers to resume selling affected Cruzes. GM issued a stop sale order on the cars Thursday night.

The recall also covers about 2,500 replacement shafts used to fix manual transmission Cruzes that were recalled last September.


GM adding 971,000 vehicles to ignition recall

DETROIT (AP) General Motors is boosting by 971,000 the number of small cars being recalled worldwide for a defective ignition switch, saying cars from the model years 2008-2011 may have gotten the part as a replacement.

Of the cars being added to the recall, 824,000 were sold in the U.S.

The latest move brings the total number of cars affected to 2.6 million.

GM previously announced the recall of 1.6 million cars, only through the 2007 model year, which were built with the faulty switch. The recall involves six cars: the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky.

The ignition switches can move out of the "run" position and cause the car's engine to stall. It can also knock out power steering and power brakes, making the vehicle harder to maneuver, and disable the air bags. GM has says the defect is linked to at least 12 deaths in cars from the 2003-2007 models years. The company says it isn't aware of any fatalities connected to the defect in the 2008-2011 models.


Congress: GM twice failed to fix defect

DETROIT (AP) A new memo from the House subcommittee investigating the General Motors recalls says GM discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect but canceled them without taking action.

The memo was released Sunday, ahead of the subcommittee's Tuesday hearing on GM's recall of 2.6 million small cars for an ignition switch defect linked to 13 deaths.

According to the memo, GM engineers met early in 2005 to consider making changes to the ignition switch after reports it was moving out of position and causing cars to stall. But an engineer said the switch was "very fragile" and advised against changes, which were later canceled because they would take too long and cost too much.

Later that year, GM also approved but then canceled a change to the key design.


United Auto Workers membership grows slightly

NEW YORK (AP) A filing with the U.S. Department of Labor shows the United Auto Workers' membership grew by nearly 9,000 people last year.

UAW's membership in 2013 was 391,415, compared to 382,513 in 2012. The union has been steadily adding members since 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

The auto industry has recovered from the bottom five years ago, but the UAW still faces many challenges.

Dues collected, which are the union's main source of income, have fallen more than 40 percent since 2006. And membership is a fraction what it was in 1979, when the UAW had 1.5 million members.

The union also failed in February to rally enough support to organize Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., even with the passive support of Volkswagen's management.


Neighbors bicker in Pa. over forced gas drilling

NEW BEDFORD, Pa. (AP) An old law has started a new battle over shale oil and gas in Pennsylvania. At issue is whether a company can force people who don't want drilling under their land to accept it.

Houston-based Hilcorp seeks to use a 1961 state law to drill under the property of four holdout landowners an hour north of Pittsburgh, near the Ohio border. The concept known as "forced pooling" means that the people who don't sign leases get bundled in with those who do, to make drilling more efficient.

The company says that invoking the old law insures that everyone is compensated for the minerals they own.

Two hearings that had been planned for this week were postponed to allow more time for residents to get information.


Studies find new drugs greatly lower cholesterol

WASHINGTON (AP) A new group of experimental medicines can dramatically lower cholesterol, raising hopes of a fresh option for people who can't tolerate or don't get enough help from Lipitor and other statin drugs that have been used for this for decades.

The first large studies of the new drugs were presented Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington.

They are aimed at more than 70 million Americans and millions more worldwide who have high LDL or "bad" cholesterol, a major risk for heart disease.

One of these drugs, Amgen's evolocumab (ev-oh-LOKE-you-mab), cut cholesterol by 55 to 66 percent compared to a fake drug in some studies. The company plans to seek federal approval for it this year.


Cuban lawmakers OK key foreign investment law

HAVANA (AP) Cuban lawmakers have approved a law aimed at making Cuba more attractive to foreign investors.

Meeting in an extraordinary session, parliament replaced a 1995 foreign investment law that has lured less overseas capital than the island's Communist leaders had hoped.

Foreign media were not given access to the closed-door meeting. But some details of the legislation emerged in official media in recent days.

Among other things, it would cut taxes on profits by about half, to 15 percent, and make companies exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation. An exception would affect companies that exploit natural resources, such as nickel or fossil fuels. They could pay taxes as high as 50 percent.

Meanwhile, many foreigners doing business with the island would be exempt from paying personal income tax.

The changes are seen as vital for the island's struggling economy.

Cuba's GDP expanded 2.7 percent last year, below targets and weak for a developing nation. Government officials say the economy needs 5 to 7 percent annual growth to develop properly.


American farmers confront 'big data' revolution

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Farmers from across the nation gathered in Washington this month for their annual trek to seek action on the most important matters in American agriculture.

But this time, a new issue emerged: growing unease about how the largest seed companies are gathering vast amount of data from sensors on tractors, combines and other farm equipment. The sensors measure soil conditions, seeding rates, crop yields and many other variables.

Seed companies want to harness the data to help farmers grow more food with the same amount of land. But some farmers worry that the information could be hacked or exploited by corporations or government agencies. And they are serving notice that Congress might need to become involved in yet another debate over electronic security and privacy.


Greek parliament passes reform bill

ATHENS, Greece (AP) The Greek Parliament has passed an omnibus reform bill early Monday containing the latest measures agreed upon between Greece and international lenders, with the slim government majority holding despite suffering new defections.

The government wanted to have the bill approved before an informal meeting of European Union finance ministers and central bankers in Athens on Tuesday and Wednesday. The meeting is expected to give the green light to the disbursement of a further bailout aid to the debt-ridden country. This will not happen immediately because it requires the agreement of all 18 parliaments in the Eurozone.

The 300-member parliament passed the bill in two roll call votes the first by a 152-135 margin and the second by a 151-136 margin.


Students' jobs pay off tuition at 7 work colleges

CRAFTSBURY, Vt. (AP) Many college graduates spend years working off tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. But at seven work colleges around the country, students must work on campus as part of their studies at jobs like landscaping, cooking and public relations to pay off at least some of their tuition.

Officials say that not only makes college more affordable, it also gives students real-life experience and teaches responsibility and teamwork.

With rising college costs and a national student loan debt of more than $1 trillion, "earning while learning" is becoming more appealing for some students.

The institutions are Sterling College in Vermont, Alice Llyod College and Berea College, in Kentucky; Blackburn College in Illinois; Missouri's College of the Ozarks; Ecclesia College in Arizona and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.


'Noah' rises to top of box office with $44M debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) After weathering a sea of controversy, "Noah" arrived in first place at the weekend box office.

Paramount's biblical epic starring Russell Crowe in the titular role opened with $44 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The imaginative take on the tale of Noah's Ark by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately portrayed and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials saying that "artistic license has been taken" in telling the story.

Lionsgate's teen science-fiction thriller "Divergent" starring Shailene Woodley earned $26.5 million in its second weekend.

Disney's globe-trotting Muppet sequel "Muppets Most Wanted" featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais came in third place with $11.4 million in its second weekend.

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