Update on the latest in business:


Associated Press

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 4:02 AM


Stocks dip after manufacturing growth slows

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have started the month of April on a weak note, edging lower Monday.

The main catalyst was a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing growth last month. The Institute for Supply Management's index of factory activity showed continued growth in March, but it was slower than February and below what economists had forecast.

Stocks started falling shortly after the report came out at 10 a.m. and stayed lower the rest of the day. The Dow closed down 5.69 points, at 14,573. The S&P 500 dropped 7 points to 1,562, while the Nasdaq fell nearly one percent, losing 28 points to 3,239.


Most Asian stock markets up, but Nikkei falls

BANGKOK (AP) — A slowdown in U.S. factory activity kept gains modest in Asian stock markets today while Japan's Nikkei slipped as the yen rose against the dollar.

The Institute for Supply Management says U.S. manufacturing expanded more slowly in March than February, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. Still, sentiment remained fairly resilient following the release Monday of reports showing that manufacturing picked up in China and that business sentiment improved in Japan last

Benchmark crude oil fell below $97 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.


Major business events and economic events scheduled for Tuesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government provides a fresh read on the manufacturing sector this morning, when the Commerce Department releases February numbers on factory orders.

In January, the total dropped 2 percent, mostly because as a result of steep declines in aircraft and defense orders. But the orders items considered core capital goods surged seven percent, suggesting businesses are confident about their prospects.

Also today, automakers announce their sales figures for March. Auto sales have been a strong point for the economy.


Camry battles spruced-up rivals in midsize market

DETROIT (AP) — For nearly two decades, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord have ruled the mid-sized car market.

Nobody accused them of being stylish or fast. But the cars rarely broke down, and they held their value better than competitors. For drivers who wanted a family car, Camry and Accord got the job done and were good enough to become two of the best-selling cars of all time.

But now the dominance is starting to slip. Cars like the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Kia Optima have cut into sales of the Camry and Accord by offering combinations of sleeker designs, luxury-car features and better gas mileage.

The competition has shaken up the biggest segment of the U.S. auto market. The completely redesigned vehicles have made midsize cars appealing to a broader audience, from young families to downsizing baby boomers to people who want the look and feel of luxury but don't want the cost. Midsize cars accounted for almost 25 percent of the total industry in February, up from 22 percent at the end of 2007. Automakers report March sales today.


Judge rules Stockton, Calif., to enter bankruptcy

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Stockton, Calif., has become the most populous city in the nation to enter bankruptcy.

A federal judge has accepted the city's bankruptcy application. The move will likely allow the city to avoid repaying its debts in full.

Lawyers for the creditors argued that the city had not cut enough spending or sought a tax increase to avoid bankruptcy.

Attorneys for the city countered that the city's budget and services had been cut to the bone.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein says complex legal questions remain, and he's not sure "whether spiked pensions can be reeled back in."


Argentina defends payment plan; analysts trash it

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina says its plan for paying $1.4 billion in defaulted debt is fully within the spirit of U.S. court rulings.

But Wall Street analysts say the offer, a mix of new bonds to be paid out over the next 25 years, looks nothing like the letter of the law as the appellate court sees it. They say it boils down to just one-sixth of what Argentina was told to hand over in cash.

Many experts looking over the weekend at what President Cristina Fernandez's government filed with the court at midnight Friday said a new default by Argentina is now much more likely.

And some are predicting that if Argentina loses, it will try to take its money out of U.S. banks, rather than submit to U.S. justice.


Delay seen in health law feature for small firms

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is proposing a one-year delay in a feature of the new health care law intended to give workers at small companies health plan choices similar to what employees of large businesses enjoy.

Starting Jan. 1 small companies with up to 100 workers will be able to buy coverage through new health insurance marketplaces called exchanges. These exchanges are the small business version of new markets also opening up for individuals.

As originally envisioned, employees would have been the ones to pick their plans. But now, for the first year, the employer will choose for the entire company.

Officials say the transition period is needed to smooth the introduction of the program.


CMS softens Medicare Advantage funding changes

UNDATED (AP) — Medicare Advantage customers may not see the drastic 2014 benefit cuts or premium hikes that insurers have been warning about after all.

Experts say the popular, privately run versions of the government's Medicare programs likely won't have to make big changes to their plans to adjust to government funding next year.

Health insurers had warned about those changes after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in February that it expected the cost it pays per person to fall more than 2 percent next year. CMS said Monday after markets closed that it now expects that rate to climb more than 3 percent.

Dan Mendelson, president of the market analysis firm Avalere Health, says the revised rate will help give Medicare Advantage plans more stability.


Vt. is first state to post health insurance rates

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont has become the first state to let people without health insurance see how much they would pay to get coverage through the federal health overhaul beginning next year.

The state released proposed rates Monday. Examples show that a family of four with an annual income of $32,000 would pay $45 a month out of pocket. A single person making $40,000 would pay $317 a month.

Vermont's rates aren't expected to affect other states'. Andy Hyman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says more states are expected to release theirs over the next month or so.

Vermont embraced the federal health overhaul from the outset and hopes to go further. The state is setting up what would become the nation's first single-payer health care system, to be implemented in 2017.


Boeing conducts another test flight of 787 jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing is conducting another test flight of its 787 passenger jet over the West Coast.

The company said Monday's flight is designed to test system upgrades and not to certify changes in the plane's batteries.

Airlines have 50 of the planes, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner. But they're still grounded after two of them overheated. Boeing is trying to assure regulators that after some design changes, the batteries are safe. Boeing expects to make at least one battery-test flight.

After Monday's 2-hour flight from the Seattle area to Moses Lake, Wash., Boeing plans to fly the test plane back to Seattle.


Salty remarks: NYC subway ads warn about sodium

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City subway riders have been cautioned about smoking, sugar and teen pregnancy. Now they're getting a new message: Pass on the salt.

The city Department of Health launched an ad campaign Monday urging passengers to scrutinize the salt in packaged foods. It shows two loaves of bread, zooms in on the "sodium" line in their nutrition labels and warns "too much salt can lead to heart attack and stroke."

The city has pressed food manufacturers to reduce salt. Other healthy-eating campaigns and regulations during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure have targeted artificial trans fats, sugary drinks and smoking.

Sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

There has been some scientific debate in recent years over how dangerous dietary salt is.