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Business Highlights

  • Article by: The Associated Press
  • Associated Press
  • March 4, 2014 - 4:05 PM

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Stocks surge as tensions ease in Ukraine

Stocks surged Tuesday after Russia pulled its troops back from the border of Ukraine.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 227 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 16,395. The Standard & Poor's 500 index set another record high following a slump the day before. The Nasdaq composite rose 74 points to close at 4,351.

Small-company stocks rose even more than the rest of the market as investors moved money into riskier assets. That shift also pushed the prices of bonds and gold lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.70 percent.

Traders were relieved that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine to return to their bases.

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RadioShack closing 1,100 stores as troubles grow

NEW YORK (AP) — There will soon be about 1,100 fewer places to buy batteries.

RadioShack said Tuesday that it plans to close up to roughly a fifth of its U.S. locations. The news came as the retailer reported a wider quarterly loss after a disappointing holiday season. CEO Joseph Magnacca said the closings would leave the company with more than 4,000 U.S. stores.

The closings represent just the latest setback for RadioShack, which is fighting to update its image and compete with the rise of online and discount retailers.

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White House sees jobless rate over 6 percent until 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's $3.9 trillion budget for next year suggests that the U.S. economic recovery that began in 2009 will continue to gain momentum over the next few years but that the unemployment rate won't fall to pre-recession levels of below 6 percent until 2017.

The administration projected the unemployment rate, 6.6 per cent in January, will continue to slowly decline over the next five years, stabilizing at 5.4 percent by 2018. That's down from a high of 10 percent reached during the 2008-2009 recession.

The projections are mostly in line with those made by other forecasters.

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Court: Broad protection for whistleblowers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that whistleblower protections under federal law apply broadly to employees of publicly traded companies and contractors hired by the companies.

The justices voted 6-3 in favor of two former employees of companies that administer the Fidelity family of mutual funds. The workers claimed they faced retaliation after they reported allegations of fraud affecting Fidelity funds.

The case involved the reach of a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in 2002 in response to the Enron scandal, which protects whistleblower activity. The measure was intended to protect people who expose the kind of corporate misdeeds that arose at Enron.

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Former NAACP head joins tech venture capital firm

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Just months after stepping down as head of the largest U.S. civil rights organization, former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous is changing his career from political activist to venture capitalist.

It's a switch he hopes will help further his goal of growing opportunities for blacks and Latinos in the booming tech economy.

Jealous, 41, was widely credited with improving the finances, donor base and outreach of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He will be joining entrepreneurs Mitchell Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein at their venture capital investment firm that backs information technology startups committed to making a positive social impact.

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Government ends investigation into Ford vehicles

DETROIT (AP) — The federal government is closing an investigation into 1.6 million Ford vehicles that can lose engine power after Ford agreed to a remedy.

The yearlong investigation involves Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs and Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans from the 2009 through 2013 model years.

Some of these vehicles can suddenly lose power because of material buildup in the electronic throttle bodies. While the engines don't stall, vehicle speeds can drop as low as 5 miles per hour. Three accidents and one injury have been reported.

The new software won't fix the issue, but it will allow affected vehicles to travel at least 40 miles per hour in what is known as "limp home mode." Ford also extended the warranty on the electronic throttle bodies.

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US home prices rose at solid pace in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose in January after three months of declines as a tight supply of properties likely supported prices despite slower sales.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices rose 0.9 percent in January after dipping 0.1 percent in December. Over the past 12 months, home prices have risen 12 percent, the biggest year-over-year gain in more than eight years.

Such outsize price gains might not continue much longer. Some economists say January's price gains reflect conditions several months ago, when buyers first made offers. The sales were completed in January. Since then, more homes have come on the market - dropping prices and slowing sales.

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Reports: Facebook looks to buy solar drone company

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, to step up its efforts to provide Internet access to remote parts of the world, according to reports from technology blog TechCrunch and financial news outlet CNBC.

Both websites cited anonymous sources who are familiar with the deal and put a purchase price at $60 million.

Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said Tuesday that the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. Titan Aerospace representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

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Mexico cracks down on illegal iron ore mining

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hundreds of Mexican police, soldiers and government inspectors raided 11 iron ore yards at one of the country's largest seaports, following revelations that drug cartels had been exporting ore to China.

Authorities seized almost 120,000 tons of ore as well as 124 bulldozers, backhoes, milling equipment and trucks as a result of Monday's raid on at the Pacific coast seaport of Lazaro Cardenas.

Six Chinese citizens were also found at the yards; they are being investigated to determine whether they were in the country legally.

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Geneva: Automakers cast wary eye toward Russia

GENEVA (AP) — Growing tensions over Ukraine have raised the specter of another slowdown in the European auto market, just as carmakers were beginning to count on a modest recovery from a six-year contraction.

Russia's intervention in Ukraine has raised the possibility of sanctions against the country, which has been a key growth market for recession-battered European automakers. On the first day of the Geneva Auto Show on Tuesday, executives cast a wary eye toward the crisis.

Barring a full-blown crisis over Ukraine, a modest recovery is expected but may be led by other factors, like fleet sales, and not consumer demand.

© 2014 Star Tribune