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Business Highlights

Associated Press Updated: March 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm
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Apple Watch moves Internet out of your pocket

Apple made its case Monday for moving the mobile Internet from your pocket to your wrist.

Time will tell if millions of consumers are willing to spend $350 on up — there's an 18-karat gold version that starts at $10,000 — for a wearable device that still requires a wirelessly connected smartphone to deliver some of its most powerful features.

But CEO Tim Cook made his case Monday that the Apple Watch is the next must-have device, able to keep people connected to the Internet and serving their information needs all day long, like no other tool has quite been able to do.

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How new changes by credit-reporting firms may affect you

The three big credit reporting agencies are making changes that could help steer some consumers clear of the credit dog house.

Data collected by the agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion on hundreds of millions of people are used to create credit scores. Those scores can determine who gets a loan and how much interest is paid on it.

The move stems from months of negotiations between the companies and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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The bull market turns 6 after rising from financial crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — In 2009 the stock market was filled with panic.

The housing market had collapsed. Lehman Brothers had gone under and General Motors was on the verge of bankruptcy reorganization. The U.S. was in a deep recession, and stocks had plunged 57 percent from their high in October 2007.

Fast forward six years, and investors are enjoying one of the longest bull markets since the 1940s.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index has more than tripled since bottoming out at 676.53 on March 9, 2009. The bull has pushed through a U.S. debt crisis, an escalating conflict in the Middle East, renewed tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Europe's stagnating economy.

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Europe's new stimulus means investors pay to borrow

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Lend a friend a thousand bucks. Then tip him $10 for the privilege.

That's not how things work in everyday life. But that's the deal in many European government bond markets these days.

Yields on some government bonds have become negative — one of the many important, and sometimes odd, effects of the 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) stimulus program that the European Central Bank launched Monday.

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GM plans $5B stock buyback, averts showdown with hedge funds

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors announced a $5 billion stock buyback as part of a plan to return more cash to investors. In return, an activist shareholder decided to drop a potentially divisive bid for a seat on the company's board.

The moves, announced Monday, are part of a deal with Harry Wilson, a former member of the government task force that restructured GM coming out of its 2009 bankruptcy.

Wilson, who represents four hedge funds which own about 2 percent of the company, had previously accused GM of hoarding cash to the detriment of shareholders and had sought an $8 billion buyback and a board seat.

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Obama's pro-trade allies fight claims about China's currency

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supporters of President Barack Obama's trade agenda are battling opponents' demands to bar China from keeping its currency value artificially low, a way to subsidize exports.

The accusations frustrate and challenge Obama's allies on several fronts.

First, they say, it's not clear that China still manipulates its currency. And even if it does, they say, the multinational trade talks now underway are the wrong venues for addressing the matter.

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CBO: Slowing costs reduce price of health care overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slowing health care costs are driving down the price tag of President Barack Obama's health overhaul, just as the Supreme Court is weighing whether to strike a key part of the law.

Estimates released Monday reduce the projected cost to taxpayers by $142 billion over the next decade. That's an 11 percent drop from previous estimates.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office cited two reasons for the decline: Health insurance premiums are rising slower than projected, and new data show there were fewer people without health insurance before the law. Fewer people without insurance means slightly fewer people will need to take advantage of the law to gain coverage, CBO said.

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Survey: Business economists support rate hike this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most business economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the second half of this year, but say uncertainty over the Fed's plans is no longer slowing U.S. economic recovery, according to a new survey.

Seventy-one percent of the 293 economists polled by the National Association of Business Economists said they expect the Federal Open Market Committee to raise the federal funds target rate this year. The rate — at which banks lend funds to each other overnight — has been near zero since the end of 2008.

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Lovin' goes only so far as McDonald's sales slide again

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's says global sales declined again in February, including a 4 percent drop in the U.S. where it is fighting to reinvigorate its image.

The world's biggest hamburger chain has been struggling to hold onto customers amid shifting tastes and intensifying competition, including a slew of places that position themselves as more wholesome alternatives. In a statement Monday, McDonald's conceded "consumer needs and preferences have changed" and that its recent performance shows it needs to evolve.

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Simon Property Group launches $16B hostile bid for Macerich

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Simon Property Group has launched a $16 billion hostile bid for Macerich Co. after saying its rival refused to discuss a combination of two of the largest U.S. mall operators.

Simon said Monday that it was offering $91 per share in cash and stock for each share of Macerich. That represents a premium of 30 percent to the closing price of the mall operator's shares on Nov. 18, before Simon disclosed that it had accumulated a nearly 4 percent stake in Macerich.

The offer is valued at about $22.4 billion, counting Macerich's debt.

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Alcoa to buy RTI Intl in $1.5B deal, expand aerospace push

Alcoa is taking another step to bolster its stake in the aerospace industry with a $1.5 billion deal to buy titanium supplier RTI International Metals.

The New York-based company said Monday that it will buy the specialty metal products company in an all-stock deal. Alcoa said the aerospace and defense industries accounted for 80 percent of Pittsburgh-based RTI's revenues last year.

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After a hit with Nerds, Sonic plans another candy-drink mix

NEW YORK (AP) — Sugar is a bad word in some circles but that isn't stopping Sonic from pouring candy into its drinks.

Last summer, Sonic Drive-In launched a line-up of Slush drinks with Nerds candy mixed in. They were so popular the chain says some people ask to get the crunchy little candies mixed into other drinks, like soda.

And given their success, CEO Cliff Hudson says Sonic is looking at adding a second candy-drink mashup this summer, although he declined to provide details.

In the meantime, the Nerds are still on menus as a drink add-in for around 30 cents.

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Rising price of heroin-overdose antidote worries advocates

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Price hikes are curtailing access to a popular form of an antidote to heroin overdoses, with costs doubling in the past year and the manufacturer's stock price rising by 70 percent since it went public.

Advocates fear the higher cost of naloxone, often sold in the U.S. under the brand name Narcan, will ultimately lead to the deaths of addicts who could have been saved if they'd had access to the drug.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 138.94 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,995.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 8.17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,079.43. The Nasdaq composite picked up 15.07 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,942.44.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 39 cents to close at $50 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.20 to close at $58.53 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.7 cent to close at $1.875 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.9 cents to close at $1.840 a gallon. Natural gas fell 16.1 cents to close at $2.678 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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