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Biotech drops again, pulling down market

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors are again starting to dump shares of cutting-edge drug companies and other industries that have soared over the past year.

As a result, biotech and Internet stocks tumbled again yesterday, and the broader market followed.

Biotechnology stocks have turned volatile in recent weeks as regulators scrutinize the cost of their drugs and investors worry their earnings won't justify lofty stock prices. Investors are also worried that high-growth companies like Twitter and Facebook have become too expensive.

On Thursday, the Nasdaq composite, which is weighted heavily toward tech and biotech companies, had its worst day since November 2011. The index dropped 130 points, or 3.1 percent, to 4,054. It's now down 7 percent from its recent high reached March 5.

Other major indexes also fell yesterday, but not as much.

The S&P 500 dropped 39 points, or 2.1 percent, to close at 1,838, and the Dow Jones industrial average lost 267 points, or 1.6 percent, to 16,170.


Tech sell-off sends Asian stock markets lower

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were lower today as investors dumped technology stocks and a drop in U.S. jobless claims failed to boost investor confidence.

The falls in Asia came after an overnight plunge in the Nasdaq Composite.

The drop in the tech-laden Nasdaq index spooked technology investors in Asia as jitters spread that Internet and related stocks are over-valued.

Jitters over technology companies overshadowed other upbeat economic reports. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in almost seven years, suggesting improvement in the U.S. labor market.

Analysts say next week's first quarter economic growth data from China will be the key indicator investors are looking for as it could give hints about further stimulus announcements from Beijing.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell but remains above $103 a barrel.

The dollar gained against the yen and fell against the euro.


Major business and economic news today

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department will release the Producer Price Index for March today.

Also, the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs are meeting in Washington.

Before the market opens, two big banks will report quarterly financial results: JPMorgan and Wells Fargo.


Kathleen Sebelius resigning from top HHS post

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from the Obama administration.

The move comes just a week after the close of the rocky enrollment period for President Barack Obama's health care law. Website failures marred the opening weeks of the six-month enrollment period, but the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling more than 7 million people in health insurance plans.

Sebelius' resignation could set the stage for a contentious election-year confirmation hearing for whomever Obama nominates to replace her. Sebelius has served as HHS secretary since the start of the Obama administration.

The official was not authorized to discuss Sebelius' resignation ahead of the formal announcement and requested anonymity.


China's inflation edges up to 2.4 percent

BEIJING (AP) — China's consumer inflation edged up in March as food prices rose despite signs the world's second-largest economy is slowing.

Government data Friday showed consumer prices rose 2.4 percent, up from February's 2 percent. The increase was driven by a 4.1 percent rise in politically sensitive food costs.

Producer prices, measured as goods leave the factory, fell by 2.3 percent in a sign of weakening economic growth. It was their 25th straight month of decline.

Consumer inflation still is well below the official target for the year of 3.5 percent, leaving Beijing room to stimulate the slowing economy with interest rate cuts or other measures if necessary.

Trade data this week showed China's imports shrank 11.3 percent in March in a sign of weak domestic demand.


Cover Oregon narrows exchange future to 2 options

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Officials with Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange say they've narrowed the options for the site's future to two: Hook up to the federal exchange, or stay with the current technology and hire a new contractor to fix it.

Cover Oregon's interim chief information officer Alex Pettit told board members Thursday that transferring technology from another state is too expensive for the exchange "within its existing resources."

Earlier this month, Maryland chose to replace its glitch-filled exchange with technology from Connecticut at an estimated cost of $40 million to $50 million.

In Oregon, an analysis found the least expensive fix for the state's health exchange would be linking it to the federally run marketplace, at a cost of $4 million to $6 million.

The board also accepted the resignation of interim executive director Bruce Goldberg effective immediately.


PG&E offers $250K reward in California grid attack

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is offering a $250,000 reward for information about an attack nearly a year ago on phone lines and the power grid in Silicon Valley.

PG&E announced the reward on Thursday in San Francisco.

The attack on April 16, just a day after the Boston Marathon bombings, involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service, and firing shots into a PG&E substation.

Millions of people in Santa Clara County were asked to conserve energy after power lines were damaged.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff called the incident an act of terrorism.

But FBI spokesman Peter Lee says the investigation is ongoing and the agency has no indications to back that up.


Amazon's Bezos outlines grocery, drone plans

NEW YORK (AP) — CEO Jeff Bezos' annual letter to shareholders offers a glimpse into Amazon's internal workings and what it is aiming for in the future, including expanded same-day grocery delivery and drone delivery.

In Bezos annual letter to shareholders, he outlined Amazon's offerings, including its fresh grocery business called Prime Fresh, which it has offered for five years in Seattle and expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Bezos said the goal is to expand to more cities over time.

And the company says its Prime Air unmanned drone team is testing fifth- and sixth-generation aerial vehicles and in the design phase on generations seven and eight.

Shares of Inc. fell $14.79, or 4.5 percent, to close at $317.01 amid a broader market sell-off.


Regulator seeks more information in Safeway sale

PLEASANTON, Calif. (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission is asking for more information about the pending sale of Safeway Inc.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company announced in March that it will be acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Albertsons and several other supermarket chains. The deal is worth about $7.64 billion in cash, and pending other transactions could top more than $9 billion.

Safeway has said it expects to complete the deal in the fourth quarter, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.

The company says it has received a second request from the FTC for information and documents. This could extend the waiting period imposed under antitrust law.

Safeway said that both companies involved are cooperating with the FTC.

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