Business Highlights

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

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Michigan governor puts renewed emphasis on blue-collar jobs

WATERTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Only a few short years ago, Michigan leaders talked excitedly about diversifying the state's economy beyond the auto industry, envisioning a Silicon Valley-style workforce that would be less dependent on manufacturing and more invested in technology and green energy.

It's the same dream shared by virtually every other governor whose state once relied on factory jobs. But it has collided with a stark reality: Car production is booming, Michigan's skilled tradesmen are getting older and there aren't enough qualified people to replace them in a labor pool that has started to shift away from industrial jobs.

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Greece planning to seek loan agreement extension

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is considering requesting an extension to its loan agreement, government officials said Tuesday, in an effort to reach a last-minute deal with the country's European creditors and avoid the danger of a euro exit.

The country would submit the request before Friday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity pending the formal announcement. They stressed the request would not be for an extension of Greece's bailout agreement, which includes strict cost-cutting measures as conditions for rescue loans.

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Did NSA plant spyware in computers shipped abroad?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Did the National Security Agency plant spyware deep in the hard drives of thousands of computers used by foreign governments, banks and other targets under surveillance abroad?

A new report from Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said its researchers identified malicious programs or worms that infected computers in multiple countries. Targets appeared to be specifically selected and included military, Islamic activists, energy companies and other businesses, as well as government personnel. Without naming the United States as the source of the malware, the report said one of the programs has elements in common with the so-called Stuxnet computer virus that the New York Times and Washington Post have said were developed by the U.S. and Israeli governments to disrupt Iranian nuclear facilities.

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After lobbying push, drugmaker resubmits women's sex pill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The makers of a twice-rejected pill designed to boost sexual desire in women are hoping a yearlong lobbying push by politicians, women's groups and consumer advocates will move their much-debated drug onto the market.

The ongoing saga of Sprout Pharmaceutical's female libido drug illustrates the complicated politics and unresolved science surrounding women's sexuality.

For decades, drugmakers have tried unsuccessfully to develop a female equivalent to Viagra, the blockbuster drug that treats men's erectile dysfunction drug by increasing blood flow. But disorders of women's sexual desire have proven resistant to drugs that act on blood flow, hormones and other simple biological functions.

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Why refinery strike has had little bite at gas pump

NEW YORK (AP) — Gasoline prices can spike for all kinds of reasons that make skeptical drivers roll their eyes: "tension" in the Middle East, a refinery suddenly shuts down for maintenance, or the annual springtime switch to summer blends of gasoline.

A refinery strike, however, would seem understandable. Yet three weeks into a walkout at 11 refineries around the country, the impact on the prices of gasoline, diesel and other fuels is barely discernable.

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Large student debt load limits young Americans' home-buying

WASHINGTON (AP) — Younger Americans are struggling to keep up with steadily-rising student debt loads, a burden that is limiting their ability to buy homes.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday that the percentage of student loans 90 days or more overdue rose to 11.3 percent in the final three months of last year, up from 11.1 percent in the previous quarter. That's the highest in a year. Total student borrowing now stands at $1.16 trillion, the most on record and 7.1 percent higher than 12 months earlier.

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New York manufacturing grows at slower pace in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Manufacturing activity in New York state expanded at a modest pace in February, held back by weaker orders and hiring.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday that its Empire State manufacturing index slipped to 7.8 this month from 10 in January. Any reading above zero indicates expansion. Orders fell to 1.2, suggesting that demand was nearly unchanged.

The survey adds to other recent signs that factory output nationwide may be slowing in the first three months of this year, after solid growth for most of last year. Many manufacturing firms are being held back by sluggish economies overseas.

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US homebuilder confidence slides in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders say sales prospects and buyer traffic fell slightly this month.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday slipped to 55 in February from 57 in January.

Despite the decline, builders remain relatively optimistic a month before the start of the spring buying season. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as positive rather than poor. Lower mortgage rates, coupled with job gains over the past year, point to stronger sales.

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Burger King, Tim Hortons parent reports loss on deal costs

NEW YORK (AP) — Burger King and Tim Hortons parent company Restaurant Brands International reported a quarterly loss Tuesday, dragged down by costs related to the deal to combine the two chains, but said key sales figures rose.

Whoppers and Timbits may not seem to have a lot in common, but Restaurant Brands sees in both chains the potential to expand well-known names outside their home markets. By striking franchising deals to open more Burger King and Tim Hortons locations around the world, the company can drive up revenue from fees without the risks that come with operating restaurants.

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Starwood CEO van Paasschen resigns; board seeks more growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Frits van Paasschen, the energetic CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., resigned Tuesday morning. No reason was given for the sudden departure, but the company said it was "by mutual agreement" with the board of directors.

Chairman of the Board Bruce W. Duncan told investors on a call Tuesday morning that "now is the right time to turn to new leadership." He said there was no disagreement over strategy but the move was made to better execute that growth plan.

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APNewsBreak: AP sources say port talks focus on arbitrator

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The labor-management standoff that is disrupting billions of dollars of international trade at West Coast seaports now centers on the future of one man who resolves workplace disputes at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

After nine months of bargaining for a new contract and weeks of partial port shutdowns, dockworkers and their employers disagree on whether they should change the system for arbitrating allegations of work slowdowns, discrimination and other conflicts.

More specifically, their quarrel is focused on the man who since 2002 has arbitrated grievances in Southern California.

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Republicans critical of Obama's 'amnesty bonuses'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of immigrants benefiting from President Barack Obama's executive actions could get a windfall from the IRS, a reversal of fortune after years of paying taxes to help fund government programs they were banned from receiving.

Armed with new Social Security numbers, many of these immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally will now be able to claim up to four years' worth of tax credits designed to benefit the working poor. For big families, that's a maximum of nearly $24,000, as long as they can document their earnings during those years.

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Taxi medallions no safe haven in wake of Uber, analyst says

Uber, the popular ride-hailing app, is hitting taxicabs where it hurts, the medallion business.

In a note to investors on Tuesday, Jefferies analyst Sean Darby said taxi medallions are no longer the "safe haven" in terms of investing that they used to be since taxi companies are facing increasing competition from Uber and similar ridesharing services.

Taxi companies make money by charging drivers for licenses to drive their taxies. The stability of the business once made medallions a safe investing bet, along the lines of gold, but Uber has upended the industry, Darby wrote in a client note.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 28.23 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,047.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 3.35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,100.34. The Nasdaq composite climbed 5.43 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,899.27.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 75 cents to close at $53.53 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.13 to close at $62.53 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 cent to close at $1.590 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.6 cents to close at $1.977 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4.5 cents to close at $2.759 per 1,000 cubic feet.