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Stocks rebound from midday slump, extending modest gains for second day

NEW YORK (AP) — Volatility has been the overwhelming trait of the stock market to start the week.

Stocks notched modest gains yesterday, after a day trading that saw the Dow go from 100 higher to 110 points lower before finally finishing with an 89-point gain.

Investors were weighing encouraging earnings from Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson against a survey of U.S. homebuilders that showed the industry's confidence in the housing market remains low.

By the end of the day, all ten industry sectors in the S&P 500 increased, led by utilities. Overall, the index gained 12.37 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,842.98.

The Dow rose 89.32 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,262.56. The Nasdaq composite added 11.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,034.16.

All three indexes remain down for the month and year.


Asia shares rise, shrug off slower China growth

TOKYO (AP) — Shares rose today in Asia, led by Japan's Nikkei 225 index, as investors largely shrugged off news that China's economy slowed in the first quarter.

The Nikkei jumped 2.7 percent as Softbank Corp. shares soared more than 8 percent after Chinese e-commerce Alibaba Group Holding Co., in which it holds a 37 percent state, reported strong earnings.

The dollar gained against the yen and slipped against the euro. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to near $104 a barrel.


Major business and economic events scheduled for Wednesday:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department leads off today's economic reports with March housing starts. Home construction has fallen for the previous three months, but February's report had a ray of hope as applications for building permits had risen a solid 7.7 percent. We'll see this morning whether that's starting to show up.

We'll also get some updates from the Federal Reserve. In the morning, the central bank releases data on industrial production for last month. Factory output showed a strong rebound in February after winter storm led to a steep drop in January.

This afternoon, the Fed releases its Beige Book, a survey of regional of business conditions.

Another big bank leads off today's corporate earnings reports. Bank of America reports quarterly financial results before the market opens.

After today's close, we get numbers from American Express, Capital One, Google and IBM.


GM to ask bankruptcy court for lawsuit protection

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors plans to ask a federal bankruptcy judge to shield the company from legal claims for conduct that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy.

The automaker's strategy is in a motion filed late last night a Corpus Christi, Texas, federal court case, and in other cases across the nation that involve the defective ignition switches that have led GM to recall 2.6 million small cars.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay action on the lawsuit until the bankruptcy court rules and other federal courts decide if the case should be combined with other lawsuits. But GM says it's not asking to halt action on a motion to force GM to tell customers not to drive their cars that are being recalled.

GM has said at least 13 deaths have been linked to a switch that can unexpectedly slip out of the "run" position, shutting down the engine, knocking out power-assisted steering and power brakes, and disabling the air bags.


Yahoo's 1Q shows modest gains in ad business

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo's listless advertising sales are showing signs of life, but the company still saw a 20 percent drop in earnings in the first quarter.

The results highlight the contrasting performances of Yahoo's investment portfolio and the company's business of running ad-supported online services. Yahoo is making most of its money from its stakes in two Asian Internet companies — China's Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan.

Meanwhile, Yahoo's ad revenue remains stuck in a funk, although some segments showed modest improvement in the first quarter.

Yahoo earned $312 million, or 29 cents per share, during the first three months of this year. That compared to $390 million, or 35 cents per share, at the same time last year.

Revenue dipped 1 percent to $1.13 billion.


Intel posts lower 1Q net income, higher revenue

NEW YORK (AP) — Intel says its first-quarter earnings declined, but revenue grew as it saw improvements in its PC business and solid demand for tablet processors.

Intel reports earnings of $1.95 billion, or 38 cents per share, in the January-March quarter. That's down from 40 cents per share in the first quarter of last year but still a penny better than analysts surveyed by FactSet had predicted.

Revenue grew 1 percent to $12.8 billion.

Intel has been challenged by a shift in consumer spending away from PCs. Although Intel is the leader in making chips for PCs, it hasn't done as well selling processors for smartphones and tablets. Intel has been working to change that.


CSX 1Q profit falls 14 pct as weather slows rails

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — CSX's first-quarter results show harsh winter weather slowed the railroad, contributing to a 14 percent drop in first-quarter profit despite modest growth in the volume of freight it carried.

CSX estimates the snow and cold cost it 8 to 9 cents per share in lost revenue and increased expenses.

CSX reports net income of $398 million, or 40 cents per share, in the quarter ending March 31. That's down 5 cents per share from a year ago, but a penny better than analysts had expected according to FactSet.

The railroad's revenue grew 2 percent to just over $3 billion as it hauled 3 percent more freight. Increases in intermodal and merchandise shipments offset coal weakness.

CSX says it expects modest profit growth this year.


FDA OKs Merck tablet to reduce grass allergies

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) — Merck & Co. says the Food and Drug Administration has approved its new tablet for grass allergies, Grastek, for patients five to 65 years old.

Meant as an alternative to weekly allergy shots, the tablet dissolves under the tongue. Taken daily for a few years, it gradually reduces sensitivity to common grasses, instead of temporarily relieving symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. And it's best to start taking Grastek three months before grass pollen season begins.

The drug can cause severe allergic reactions and shouldn't be used by patients with severe asthma.

Merck will market the tablet in North America. Its partner, ALK-Abello, sells it in Europe as Grazas.

Merck says Grastek will be available in U.S. pharmacies in late April.


Judge blocks Massachusetts ban on painkiller

BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge has blocked Massachusetts from banning the powerful new painkiller Zohydro.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday after pharmaceutical company, Zogenix, argued in a lawsuit that the ban issued by Gov. Deval Patrick is unconstitutional. The judge says Massachusetts appears to have overstepped its authority in banning a federally approved medication.

The San Diego-based drugmaker is hailing the ruling.

Patrick says he's disappointed and the state will look for other ways to combat its drug abuse problem. The state argued Zohydro would exacerbate illegal drug use because it can be easily crushed, then snorted or injected to create an immediate and potentially lethal high.

The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws says the Massachusetts ban is believed to be the first attempt by a state to block a federally approved drug.


Detroit strikes 2nd deal with its other retirees

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit pension fund that covers all retirees except former police officers and firefighters says it has reached a tentative agreement with the bankrupt city.

Tina Bassett, a spokeswoman for the city's general pension fund, says retirees would see a 4.5 percent cut and their cost-of-living payments would be eliminated under a deal reached late Tuesday.

Hours earlier, a group representing retired police and firefighters announced that it had reached its own deal to preserve pension benefits but trim cost-of-living payments.

Together, the agreements would cover all of Detroit's retired public workers. They would still need the approval of the more than 20,000 retirees and the thousands of active workers who qualify for a future pension. The bankruptcy judge would also have to approve.


Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A trade group for wireless providers says the country's biggest smartphone makers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the devices to try to deter rampant theft.

CTIA-The Wireless Association says that under a "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," the providers agree to install a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft tool on smartphones sold in the U.S. after July 2015.

The wireless industry has said putting a permanent "kill switch" on phones has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have demanded that the wireless industry create kill switches. They say CTIA's plan still falls short of effectively ending smartphone theft because the measures will rely on consumers to seek out and turn on the technology.


China's growth slows to 7.4 percent

BEIJING (AP) — China's economic growth slowed to 7.4 percent in the first quarter, the slowest since the third quarter of 2012.

The figure reported Wednesday by the government is down from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent. It comes in below the full-year official growth target of 7.5 percent announced last month.

Beijing is trying to guide China to slower, more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption rather than trade and investment following a decade of explosive expansion.

The latest growth figures add to weaker-than-expected trade and other data that have raised the possibility of politically dangerous job losses.

Weaker growth also could hurt Asian economies and others for which China is a top market for commodities and industrial components.


US declines to name China a currency manipulator

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is raising concerns about the value of China's currency, but continues to avoid accusing Beijing of manipulating it.

The administration is also expressing concern about South Korea's actions in currency markets and about countries that use the euro and have wide trade surpluses.

The Treasury Department says China's currency, the renminbi, has appreciated but not as fast or as much as needed. Treasury reaches that conclusion in its twice-yearly report on whether nations are manipulating currencies to gain trade advantages.

China has announced a modest easing of exchange-rate controls, which have been criticized by Washington and other nations.

The issue has been a point of conflict because a weaker Chinese renminbi makes Chinese goods cheaper for Americans and U.S. goods costlier in China.


Ga. judge won't stop new Vidalia onion rule

REIDSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia judge says he won't stop the state agriculture commissioner from enforcing a new regulation aimed at stopping unripe Vidalia onions from reaching store shelves.

Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart has ruled against one of Georgia's most prominent Vidalia onion growers, who argued Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black should be stopped from enforcing the new rule because an Atlanta judge struck it down last month. Black says the regulation is still in effect while state attorneys file an appeal.

Farmer Delbert Bland says he still plans to ship onions today despite the rule, which says no Vidalia onions can be packed for shipping before the last full week of April. Other farmers support the regulation as a means of protecting the reputation and quality of Vidalia onions.

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