Buffett trims consumer-products holdings

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s cash swelled in the second quarter to its highest level in a year as Chairman Warren Buffett pared bets on consumer-products stocks. Cash advanced 7.5 percent to $40.7 billion in the three months ended June 30, the Omaha, Neb.-based company said in a regulatory filing. Buffett has cited challenges at consumer-products firms in Berkshire's $86.2 billion stock portfolio, including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods. The billionaire has used his cash to build the largest stakes in firms including Wells Fargo & Co. and to expand Berkshire through acquisitions.

Investors piling into Wal-Mart

The world's largest retailer is attracting investors who see its shares as a safe haven amid a slowing global economy and volatile growth stocks. With U.S. same-store sales improving after nine straight quarters of declines, investors are betting consumers will continue seeking deals at Wal-Mart and have driven the shares up 24 percent this year. Late last month Wal-Mart briefly became the world's third most valuable company before slipping back into fourth place.

MasterCard appeals fees ruling in EU

MasterCard Inc. is asking the European Union's highest court to overturn an EU decision that the company's cross-border card fees breach antitrust rules. MasterCard filed its appeal at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg in a case that may affect the future of card payment systems in Europe. MasterCard told a lower EU court in a hearing last year that it can't operate without the fees it charges on credit-card payments. The company lost its first appeal and has now taken its fight to the top EU court.

Guitar maker settles environmental case

Gibson Guitar Corp. will pay $350,000 and improve import controls in exchange for the U.S. deferring prosecution of environmental crimes, the Department of Justice announced. The case involved allegations that Gibson, a marquee name, illegally imported protected hardwoods from Madagascar and India. The Justice Department maintained Gibson was aware that it was purchasing illegally cut endangered woods.

Banks hit lending high note

Banks are lending the most since the recession ended in June 2009, supporting an economy weighed down by 8.3 percent unemployment. Borrowing by consumers and businesses rose in the week ending July 25 to $7.1 trillion, within 2.9 percent of its October 2008 peak, according to Federal Reserve data. New lending for autos jumped to $134.3 billion in the first four months of the year, up 56 percent from the same period in 2009, according to credit bureau Equifax.

Wire services