Consumer confidence slips from yearly high

Gas that costs nearly $4 a gallon seems to be a consumer confidence-killer, pushing one measure of how Americans feel in March down off a one-year high. The monthly index compiled by the Conference Board slipped to 70.2 from 71.6 in February. The small tumble demonstrates the lingering ambiguity of falling home prices, signaling a weak housing market, amid an improving job market. It's not quite the all-time low of 25.3, which the index reached in February 2009, but the measure is also nowhere near the 90 level that signals a healthy economy.

Foxconn to take stake in struggling Sharp

In another sign of Chinese manufacturing's ascent as Japan struggles, the Taiwanese giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Group -- commonly known as Foxconn -- will become the largest shareholder in Sharp, a former exemplar of Japan's electronics empire that has lately fallen on hard times. Besides giving Sharp a much-needed injection of money, the Foxconn deal will aim to help the Japanese company restore profitability to its TV manufacturing and liquid crystal display businesses.

CP Rail CEO assails Ackman's plan for change

William Ackman's pick to lead Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. would drive customers away if he employs the tactics he used to boost profitability at larger rival Canadian National Railway Co., the smaller carrier said. Canadian Pacific Chief Executive Fred Green, the man Ackman wants to replace with retired Canadian National CEO Hunter Harrison, said Harrison's policies damaged some customer relationships and the company he led is now trying to "de-Hunter" itself.

Benefits of adding Russia to WTO touted

Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization will add about $162 billion each year to economic output over the long term by improving market access and luring foreign investment, the World Bank said. The long-term gains, which incorporate the impact on the investment climate, may amount to 11 percent of gross domestic product a year, increasing incomes by as much as a quarter for 99 percent of households, the Washington-based lender said.

OECD: E.U. needs bigger financial cushion

The European Union should increase its financial firewall to about 1 trillion euros to restore market confidence in the eurozone and prevent the spread of fiscal contagion, the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, said. Gurria's comments came a day after Germany dropped its opposition to increasing the Continent's total bailout capacity to more than 690 billion euros, or about $920 billion. That could help stop the spread of the crisis to large economies like Spain's.

Even in death, Apple's Jobs adds to patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded two patents to Steve Jobs, the Apple Inc. co-founder who died five months ago. The patents were posthumously awarded to Jobs, as well as other employees of Apple, for their design of the current iMac and for the third-generation iPod Shuffle -- which was famous for its tiny size and lack of buttons. In total, the agency awarded 19 patents to the company, which is notorious for stockpiling patents. In the past, Apple has filed patents for items ranging from products that have never made it to the public to staircases used at Apple stores around the world.

FROM NEWS SERVICES