TODAY

– October 24, 2014

Stocks edge higher; Dow boosted by McDonald's

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points with a strong report from McDonald’s. The S&P was flat; the Nasdaq rose 9 points. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points with a strong report from McDonald’s. The S&P was flat; the Nasdaq rose 9 points. (AP) — Stocks edged higher Monday on Wall Street after a strong sales report from McDonald's offset concerns about the surprise resignation of Italy's prime minister. Investors also waited for developments in crucial U.S. budget talks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.75 points to 13,169.88. The index traded within a narrow range of just 56 points throughout the day. The Standard and Poor's 500 finished 0.48 point higher at 1,418.55. The Nasdaq composite ended up 8.92 points at 2,986.96.

McDonald's rose 93 cents to $89.41. A key sales figure rose in November as U.S. customers bought more breakfast offerings and limited-time Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwiches.

Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Palm Beach, Fla.-based Banyan Partners, said the company's strength was encouraging. McDonald's, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow, was trading as high as $100 at the beginning of 2012.

The pickup in McDonald's sales, he said, gave investors something positive to focus on as Italy's sudden political turmoil sent a jolt through European markets.

Hewlett-Packard rose 36 cents to $14.16 and also helped push the Dow higher. The company's stock has been battered the past two months following a weak earnings forecast and a public spat with the founder of Autonomy, a company it acquired for $10 billion last year.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has been credited with restoring confidence in the nation's economy, announced that he would step down after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party dropped its support for his government.

Italian government bond yields, a critical measure of how much the country has to pay to borrow, jumped. Concern that the European debt crisis was enveloping Italy, one of the euro region's largest economies, helped stymie markets around the world earlier in the year.

Investors were also following developments in budget talks in Washington. Tax increases and federal spending cuts start Jan. 1 unless a deal is reached to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. Economists say the measures, if implemented, could eventually push the economy back into recession.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 1 basis point to 1.62 percent.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House on Sunday while rank-and-file Republicans stepped forward with what they called pragmatic ideas to break the stalemate. The Obama-Boehner meeting was the first between just the two leaders since Election Day.

"There's a pretty good belief that the 'fiscal cliff' can be avoided," said Craig Johnson, a technical market strategist at Piper Jaffray. "Anytime somebody is talking, it's a good thing."

Other stocks making big moves:

— Priceline.com fell $33.14, or 5 percent, to $625.96 after Deutsche Bank cut its recommendation on the stock to "hold" from "buy" and lowered its price target to $710 from $800.

— Phillips 66, the refining and pipeline company, gained $1.24, or 2.4 percent, to $53.58 after saying late Friday that it was raising its quarterly dividend to 31.25 cents per share from 25 cents. The company also said it had approved the repurchase of another $1 billion in company stock, after approving the repurchase of $1 billion during the first quarter.

— Intermec, a maker of barcode printers and radio frequency identification products, jumped $1.85, or 23.2 percent, to $9.83 after it agreed to be acquired by Honeywell for about $603.4 million in cash.

— AIG fell 74 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $33.36 after the insurer said late Friday that it will take $1.3 billion in losses related to Superstorm Sandy, more than other major insurance companies have reported so far. UBS said in a client note that AIG's Sandy-related losses were above his estimate and cut his price target to $35 from $36.

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Written on 10/24/2014, 10:07 am by Business Journal staff
Assemblymember Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) is hosting an Ebola symposium in Fresno next week with information about the virus's outbreak and emergency...
Written on 10/24/2014, 9:05 am by ANN SANNER, Associated Press
(AP) — Pesky. Illegal. Effective? Lawn signs touting local and statewide candidates are in full bloom along highways, street corners and other public spaces. It's the sign of the season. And despite legal restrictions, the markers can sprout invasively. Campaigns hope voters see them as a signal of the community's support for the candidate or issue. But repeat exposure can rub some the wrong way. "They just mushroom," said Elizabeth Lessner, a central Ohio restaurateur. "It used to be they put one sign on the corner, and now there's 50." Lessner is one of the Columbus Sign Ninjas, a group that sprang up in the perennial battleground state to take down campaign clutter from public spaces. State and local sign laws can vary. Ohio, like other states, prohibits such advertising from being placed in the public right of way — which would include interstates and state routes. Officials don't want signs to obstruct drivers' views or present safety hazards. The ninja members use social media to report signs and occasionally call out campaigns seen as big offenders. Some candidates have apologized on the group's Facebook page, which boasts nearly 300 members, for their sign placement. Karen Thomas, a Columbus resident and ninja member, has been uprooting stray signs since 2008. Her first take came after she passed multiple markers near the interstate exit for a mall. Thomas recalled, "If I want them to go away, I'm going to have to pull over and pick them up." So she did. And she continues to snatch signs when she runs errands, carefully avoiding vehicles that whiz by her. "I don't lollygag," said Thomas, a corporate financial consultant. It's not just residents who get irked by the signage. In Providence, Rhode Island, large signs for his opponent led to a complaint from Republican mayoral candidate Dan Harrop. Harrop told the city solicitor's office this week that signs for independent candidate Buddy Cianci far exceed the size allowed by city ordinances. The city agreed and cited at least one homeowner. Signs are a fast, cheap and easy way to grow name recognition and increase a candidate's visibility in a neighborhood. They've been around since the infancy of the country's democracy, said Benjamin Bates, a professor of communication studies at Ohio University. Candidates and their supporters will place signs near the roadways because they hope more voters will see them. "It's sort of the principle that any publicity is good publicity," Bates said. Ben Donahower, a Pennsylvania-based political consultant who sells lawn signs, said he advises campaigns to place signs on private property. That means supporters have names and faces. "Any candidate can go out and spend a day putting out a bunch of signs along a highway," Donahower said. "It's a different scenario to talk to somebody and say, 'Do I have your vote?' They say yes. 'Can I put a yard sign out in your yard?' They say yes." Still, even if irritatingly placed in a public space, Bates said, "you'll definitely remember the name on the sign. Or at least that's what the campaign hopes."
Written on 10/24/2014, 9:00 am by MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March. Still, the agency warned it's not clear whether any of these will work against the deadly virus that has already killed over 4,800 people this year in West Africa. Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny from the U.N. health agency told reporters that those doses could be available in 2015 if early tests proved that the two leading experimental vaccines are safe and provoke enough of an immune response to protect people from being infected with Ebola. Trials of those two most advanced vaccines —one developed by GlaxoSmithKline in cooperation with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the other developed by the Canadian Public Health Agency — have already begun in the U.S., U.K. and Mali. "The vaccine is not the magic bullet. But when ready, they may be a good part of the effort to turn the tide of this epidemic," Kieny said. If early data from the ongoing tests are promising, larger trials testing the vaccines in West Africa could begin as soon as December, Kieny said; previously the trials weren't starting until January. GSK said it might be able to make about 1 million doses of their vaccine per month by the end of 2015, assuming that some logistical and regulatory hurdles can be overcome. Kieny also said five other possible Ebola vaccines should start being tested in March, but she gave no details about who is making them or where, or where those five vaccines would be tested. In an indication of how the rising spread of Ebola is upending many attempts to halt this year's outbreak, Kieny said plans were changing "week to week" as governments, health agencies and donor countries tried to speed up efforts to fight the deadly virus. Kieny said even if the Ebola outbreak was slowing down by the time many vaccine doses were available, it would still be useful to start a stockpile for future Ebola outbreaks. She said some details about getting the vaccines to West Africa had yet to be worked out, including who would pay for immunization campaigns — which weren't planned to start before June at the earliest. Kieny said the charity Doctors Without Borders pledged to create a vaccine fund and other organizations, including the World Bank, might help buy the vaccines. She also acknowledged that, given the speed at which these experimental vaccines are being rolled out, "there will certainly not be as much known in terms of their safety as would be normal." Kieny said Britain had proposed creating a fund that would offload liability from pharmaceutical companies in case any bad side effects emerge from the shots. In Brussels on Friday, the European Union and its 28 member nations managed to create a 1 billion-euro ($1.26 billion) fund to fight the Ebola outbreak. Britain's contribution of 205 million pounds ($329 million) was the largest among the EU nations. "Helping West Africa to cope with the crisis is the most effective way to prevent a serious outbreak of the disease elsewhere," the EU leaders said at the end of a two-day summit. "The scale of the epidemic is a threat not only to the economy and the stability of the affected countries, but also to the region as a whole. " In Beijing, China's president pledged to provide $81 million in aid to help fight Ebola. __ Raf Casert and Mike Corder in Brussels and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, 
CANDICE CHOI, AP Business Writers
(AP) — Procter & Gamble plans to remove its batteries and make Duracell a stand-alone company. The world's largest consumer products maker, which acquired Duracell in 2005, has been trimming its product lineup to focus on its top performers. After it finishes jettisoning more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two, P&G said it will be left with about 70 to 80 brands.If a split-off of Duracell occurs, P&G said its shareholders would have the option of exchanging some, none or all of their P&G shares for shares of the new Duracell company.Jon Moeller, the company's chief financial officer, said during a call with reporters that Duracell is an "attractive" business that generates about $2 billion a year in sales. But he said P&G wants to focus on products that are "even more attractive."P&G also makes Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Olay skin care.The Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, said Friday it prefers a spinoff of Duracell, but that it's considering a sale or other options for Duracell.The decision to sell or discontinue 90 to 100 brands — many of them smaller, regional products — comes as Procter & Gamble fights to boost sluggish sales. In the latest quarter, for instance, the company said sales volume declined in its beauty, hair and personal care unit. Volume also fell in its grooming unit, with blades and razors declining in developed markets.Under pressure to boost its performance, the company brought back A.G. Lafley as its CEO last year.Lafley has said the company's expansive portfolio is the result of a natural evolution of multinational companies, which have a tendency to create or acquire brands over time. But P&G had already been trying to slim down in recent years, including the sale of food brands including Jif peanut butter, Folgers coffee and Pringles chips.Looking ahead, P&G said it now expects sales in 2015 to be flat to up to low-single digits. It previously forecast growth in the low single digits.It stood by its guidance for core earnings per share to grow in the mid-single-digit range.For the quarter ended Sept. 30, it earned $1.99 billion, or 69 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned $1.07 per share. That matched the consensus of analysts surveyed by FactSet.Revenue slipped to $20.79 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $20.76 billion.Shares of P&G climbed $1.52, or 1.8 percent, to $84.75 in premarket trading about 90 minutes ahead of the market open.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:55 am by MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
 (AP) — Amazon's trademark smile icon is becoming more of a grimace. The world's largest online retailer reported a wider third-quarter loss than analysts expected and gave a disappointing holiday forecast. Investors are increasingly irked by Amazon's strategy of investing heavily in new products and services to spur revenue growth while reporting quarter after quarter of losses or thin profit. The stock price tumbled 7 percent to $291 in morning trading Friday. That's on top of the 22 percent decline the stock has already suffered this year. Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak said the company had to be "selective" in taking on new projects. For years, Amazon's strategy has been spending the money it makes to grow and expand into new areas. It launched a smartphone, the Fire, this summer and has been offering a set-top video-streaming device, a streaming video service and several tablets and e-book readers. The company has also been investing in services for its $99-a-year loyalty program, Prime. It has added a grocery delivery services and music streaming for Prime members as well as offering original TV shows such as the critically acclaimed "Transparent" starring Jeffrey Tambor. But all of those initiatives cost money and time to develop. And not all of them have been hits. The company's splashy launch of its Fire phone was quickly followed by mediocre reviews and a steep price cut to entice buyers. Amazon said it took a charge of $170 million related to "inventory evaluation and supplier commitment costs" for the Fire, although it did not give further details. Amazon has about $83 million of Fire phone inventory at the end of the quarter. So investors are increasingly signaling that Amazon needs to work harder at turning a profit. "The market was looking for more in terms of revenue and operating income and the fourth-quarter outlook," said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. "It's going to be a competitive landscape for retailers this holiday season and retailers will compete aggressively for consumers." In a conference call with analysts, Szkutak said the company is focused on "using its capital wisely so that over time we get good returns on invested capital." But he agreed the company needed to choose new projects carefully. "We certainly have been in several years now of what I will call in investment mode," he said. "There's still lots of opportunity in front of us but we know that we have to be very selective about which opportunities we pursue. " Net loss for the quarter was $437 million, or 95 cents per share, far steeper than the loss of 76 cents per share analysts were expecting, according to FactSet. Revenue jumped 20 percent to $20.6 billion, but that fell short of expectations as well. Amazon.com Inc. said it expects holiday quarter revenue of $27.3 billion and $30.3 billion, below analyst expectations of $30.9 billion. That's an increase of 7 percent to 18 percent — slower growth than the prior-year holiday quarter when sales rose 20 percent. Szkutak said the stronger dollar will hurt fourth quarter revenue by about 2.5 percentage points. The holiday period is crucial because retailers make a chunk of their annual profit, about 20 percent, in November and December. Overall, the National Retail Federation expects sales during the period to be up 4 percent to $617 billion. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company was focused on making the holidays "easier and more stress free" than ever. The company has hired 80,000 seasonal workers and has expanded its Sunday shipping service. It now has more than 50 distribution centers in the U.S., up from 40 last year. And in July it announced it was opening eight smaller sorting centers for a total of 15 by the end of the year.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:54 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Evenflo is recalling more than 202,000 rear-facing infant seats because the buckles can become difficult to unlatch. The recall affects Embrace 35/9999 models with an AmSafe QT1 buckle. Documents posted by U.S. safety regulators say that if the buckles don't release easily, it may be difficult to get a child out of the seat in an emergency. The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not all Embrace 35 models are covered by the recall. For others, the company will provide replacement buckles if requested by customers. Affected model numbers include 30711365, 31511040, 31511323, 31511400, 3151198, 3151953, 31521138, 46811205, 46811237, 48111200, 48111215, 48111215A, 48111218, 48111234, 48111235, 48111235A, 48111462, 48411391, 48411391D, 48411392, 48411504, 48411504D, 52911307A, 52921040, 55311138, 55311238, and 55311292. The seats were made at various times from December 2011 through May of 2013. Owners with questions can call Evenflo at (800) 490-7591.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:52 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — UPS is expecting an 11 percent jump in December shipments as the holiday shopping season heats up. The company recently is hiring up to 95,000 people to handle the tremendous volume this year, way up from the 55,000 seasonal workers it hired in 2013. Major U.S. shipping companies were caught off guard last year after an increasing number of Americans bought gifts online and shipped them last minute. Membership for Amazon.com spiked in the weeks before the holidays because of its free-shipping benefits, and traditional retailers who saw their sales take a hit followed suit with their own free-shipping programs. UPS was forced to hire an additional 30,000 people just to keep up, but it was too late and some deliveries did not make it until after Christmas. UPS is doing everything it can to stay ahead of the rush this year, and Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn said Friday that the company is confident that it will operate at the highest level. UPS also reported third-quarter earnings of $1.32 per share on revenue of $14.29 billion. That exceeded the expectations of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research, who predicted earnings of $1.28 per share on revenue of $14.2 billion. The stock rose $1.22 to $101.70 before the market open. UPS delivered 1.1 billion packages worldwide in the quarter, a 6.9 percent increase from the prior-year period. The company's daily packages in the U.S. also climbed 6.9 percent thanks to increased demand from business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers. International export shipments rose 9.4 percent on strong growth in Asia and Europe. In addition, United Parcel Service Inc. maintained its guidance for 2014 adjusted earnings between $4.90 and $5 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict $4.95 per share.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:51 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Queen Elizabeth II has sent her first tweet — though she kept things traditional, signing off with "Elizabeth R." The 88-year-old monarch tried her hand at Twitter as she opened a new gallery in central London's Science Museum Friday, taking off a glove to press an iPad screen as some 600 guests looked on. The message, "I hope people will enjoy visiting" the exhibition, was sent instantly through the official British monarchy account on the social media website. "Elizabeth R" is how the queen signs official documents. The "R'' stands for "regina", the Latin for queen. The message appeared to be typed ahead of time, and officials wouldn't say if the queen personally wrote it. "We're not going to go into the details," a Buckingham Palace spokesman said. The queen does not have a personal Twitter account. Most members of the royal family do not tweet personally — they are represented by official accounts managed by spokespeople. There are exceptions: Prince Andrew — the queen's second son — and his daughter Princess Beatrice both tweet in a personal capacity. The gallery, called "Information Age," explores the technological breakthroughs that have changed communication. The queen was the first monarch to send an email, in 1976 when the technology was in its infancy.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:49 am by YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press
(AP) — Disney executives call their next film "a love letter to Japanese culture." No wonder: This nation can't get enough of animation, especially Disney's. Walt Disney Animation Studios is practically bending backward to woo Japanese moviegoers after the stupendous success of "Frozen." The fifth-highest-grossing movie of all time made more than $250 million of its total in Japan alone, nearly a third of its overseas numbers and more than five times what it made in France, according to Box Office Mojo. "Frozen" is third of all time in Japan, behind "Titanic" and Japanese animation classic "Spirited Away," delivering success that even Disney executives acknowledge was surprising. Following "Frozen" into theaters in the country that is the birthplace of manga and Hello Kitty is "Big Hero 6," which stars a Japanese whiz kid as its hero, aptly named Hiro. Disney shows its love for Japan by setting the story in a picturesque town that's a cross between Tokyo and San Francisco, San Fransokyo, complete with cable cars and futuristic trains. "Big Hero 6" opened the Tokyo Film Festival on Thursday night — the first Disney animation film to have its global premiere in Japan. It opens at theaters around the world in November and December. Its directors, Don Hall of "Winnie the Pooh" and Chris Williams of "Bolt," did a lot of research and tapped Japanese sources to help make San Fransokyo authentic, down to signposts, manhole covers and faces of passersby. Williams said the world they created was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, the animation legend who won an Oscar for "Spirited Away." Hall said the mouth-less face of Baymax, the inflatable marshmallow-like robot, was inspired by a bell he saw at a Japanese temple. "I saw a smile," Hall told reporters recently while in town for the Tokyo Film Festival. "I thought it would be the perfect face for Baymax." The rubbery Baymax, designed to be a health care robot by Hiro's older brother Tadashi, becomes a companion for Hiro, and an embodiment not only of Tadashi's charming and loving persona but also of his message of peace, even after Tadashi dies in an explosion. Despite Tadashi's intentions to devote Baymax to healing and cuddling, Hiro adds some of his own more conventional robotic-design touches, such as a powerful fist, metallic ware and sky-soaring rockets, as Hiro embarks on his mission of solving the mystery of Tadashi's death. It's a safe bet that Japanese are enamored of all things Disney — and that they are willing to spend. Disneyland and DisneySea parks, outside Tokyo, had 31 million visitors last year, up 14 percent from the previous year, nearly all Japanese. Each spent an average of about $100, or 10,000 yen, on admission tickets, eating out and goods purchases. Mickey Mouse is so popular here the rodent's image is sold as traditional festival dolls, is a mascot wearing the blue uniform of the World Cup soccer team and is a familiar pattern on fashionable clothing in collaboration with design brands. But can the new film duplicate the success of "Frozen"? It might take a super-Hiro. "Big Hero 6" features fantastic music by Henry Jackman but not a potential smash single like "Let It Go." It also lacks fairy-tale princesses, which were a big part of the "Frozen" merchandising frenzy. The new film is about brotherly love and a little boy's perennial fantasy, a loyal robot friend. But even in robot-innovator Japan, Disney half-heartedly showed a fluffy stuffed doll in Baymax's likeness. It wasn't even inflatable. Roy Conli, who also produced "Frozen," was unfazed, emphasizing "Big Hero 6" was "a love letter to Japanese culture." "We hope that Japan loves it," he said.
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:45 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — John Steinbeck's heirs say a literary agency is wrongly cutting them out of negotiations over movie deals for the late Nobel Prize-winning author's books. Steinbeck's surviving son, Thomas Steinbeck, and the wife of another son, Nancy Steinbeck, filed a petition Oct. 10 with the California Labor Commission claiming the RSWG Literary Agency and agent Geoffrey Sanford were negotiating Hollywood deals without consulting them. They also allege that the agency isn't licensed in California to negotiate deals and that none of its agents are lawyers with active licenses. The petition alleges that only a licensed agency or an active lawyer can license Steinbeck's works to others. The petition says that Thomas Steinbeck first became aware through news media that that his father's books "East of Eden" and "The Grapes of Wrath" were being considered for new movie treatment. The petition says that Thomas Steinbeck "either owns or controls" 66.6 percent of domestic rights to his father's works. It's the latest chapter in a 14-year legal tussle over control of Steinbeck's works. The agency's lawyer told the Monterey Herald (http://tinyurl.com/njrgqkn ) that Thomas Steinbeck and Nancy Steinbeck gave up control over Steinbeck's works as part of a 1983 legal settlement. The lawyer also said the agency is licensed to practice in California. The lawyer further said that the family of Steinbeck's third wife controls the works. The fight began after the author's death in 1968. Steinbeck left control of his work to his third wife Elaine Steinbeck even though copyright law at time stated rights went to his children, his two sons from a previous marriage. The parties agreed to a settlement in 1983 that left control with Elaine Steinbeck and gave the children a cut of any proceeds. The fight flared anew when Elaine died in 2003 and left control of the works to her children from a previous marriage. Two federal courts upheld those terms.

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Written on 10/24/2014, 8:49 am by YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press
(AP) — Disney executives call their...
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:45 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — John Steinbeck's heirs say a...
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:43 am by HAVEN DALEY, Associated Press
(AP) — A Silicon Valley startup has...
Written on 10/23/2014, 12:46 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — A Silicon Valley company is...

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Written on 10/24/2014, 9:05 am by ANN SANNER, Associated Press
(AP) — Pesky. Illegal. Effective? Lawn...
Written on 10/24/2014, 9:00 am by MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — The World Health Organization...
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, 
CANDICE CHOI, AP Business Writers
(AP) — Procter & Gamble plans to...
Written on 10/24/2014, 8:55 am by MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
 (AP) — Amazon's trademark smile...