AAA  Jul. 17, 2014 5:02 PM ET
BC-Business News Digest
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Business News at 5:00 p.m.

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Adds: COAL ASH SPILL-NORTH CAROLINA, CHARITY TAX BREAKS, TRADE SECRETS-CORN, 5-HOUR ENERGY, HARD ROCK-TAHOE CASINO, OF MUTUAL INTEREST-FUND TRENDS,

Updates: NEW YORK RAIL DISPUTE, MICROSOFT-LAYOFFS, VIRTUAL CURRENCY-REGULATION, MALAYSIA-DOUBLE DISASTER, WALL STREET, OIL PRICES, TERRORISM INSURANCE

TOP STORIES:

MICROSOFT-LAYOFFS

LOS ANGELES — Microsoft announces the biggest layoffs in its history, saying it will cut 18,000 jobs as it streamlines its Nokia mobile device business to focus on using the Windows Phone operating system. The job cuts had been expected, but the extent of them was a surprise, amounting to 14 percent of the workforce. The layoffs signal a new direction for Microsoft, one that goes beyond software and services to more devices. They also address one of CEO Satya Nadella's biggest challenges: making Microsoft a faster-moving, more agile company. SENT: 860 words with photos.

With:

— MICROSOFT-LAYOFFS-NADELLA MEMO and — MICROSOFT-LAYOFFS-ELOP MEMO.

UNITED HEALTH-OVERHAUL

The nation's largest health insurer expects to play a much bigger role in the health care overhaul next year, as the federal law shifts from raising giant questions for the sector to offering growth opportunities. UnitedHealth Group says it will participate in as many as 24 of the law's individual health insurance exchanges in 2015, up from only four this year. These state-based exchanges debuted last fall as a way for customers to buy individual health insurance. By Tom Murphy. SENT: 660 words, photo.

With:

— EARNS-UNITED HEALTH — UnitedHealth Group's second-quarter earnings slip 2 percent on a rise in taxes and other expenses, but the nation's largest health insurer still trumps analyst expectations. SENT: 530 words, photo.

GM-RECALLS-CONGRESS

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers demand General Motors fire its chief lawyer and open its compensation plan to more potential victims as a Senate subcommittee delved deeper into GM's mishandling of the recall of small cars with defective ignition switches. Senators asked CEO Mary Barra how general counsel Michael Millikin still had his job given an internal report showing that GM lawyers failed to alert top executives as they settled numerous lawsuits involving crashes linked to the switch problem. By Marcy Gordon and Dee-Ann Durbin. SENT: 740 words, photos. UPCOMING: 750 words, recast for further developments from hearing.

MALAYSIA-DOUBLE DISASTER

HANOI, Vietnam — Just over five months since one of its Boeing 777 jetliners went missing, Malaysia Airlines is pitched headlong into another rare aviation disaster with the apparent shooting down of one of its planes over Ukraine. By Chris Brummitt. SENT: 740 words.

WEST-RUSSIA SANCTIONS

WASHINGTON — The United States and Europe are seeking to maintain a united front against Russia with coordinated announcements of new economic sanctions, but divisions persist over how aggressive the West should be in punishing Moscow for its threatening moves in Ukraine. The penalties announced by the White House on Wednesday were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight weapons makers and four individuals. By Julie Pace and John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 1,000 words.

With:

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil surges to near $103 a barrel after a U.S. inventories report showed a larger-than-expected drop in crude oil supplies. SENT: 230 words.

JAPAN-TOYOTA-FUEL CELLS

TOKYO — Rocket science long dismissed as too impractical and expensive for everyday cars is getting a push into the mainstream by Toyota, the world's top-selling automaker. Buoyed by its success with electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, Toyota is betting that drivers will embrace hydrogen fuel cells, an even cleaner technology that runs on the energy created by an electrochemical reaction when oxygen in the air combines with hydrogen stored as fuel. By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

BOLIVIA-CHILD LABOR

EL ALTO, Bolivia — While most of the world is trying to diminish child labor, Bolivia is on the verge of becoming the first nation to legalize it from age 10. Congress has approved the proposal and all that's now required is President Evo Morales' signature. The bill's sponsors say lowering the minimum work age from 14 simply acknowledges a reality: Many poor families in Bolivia have no other choice than for their kids to work. The bill offers working children safeguards, they say. By Paola Flores. SENT: 720 words, photos.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — Stocks close sharply lower as traders worry about an escalation of tensions between Russia and the West following the downing of a passenger plane in eastern Ukraine. Traders were also unsettled by poor corporate earnings and a weak indicator for the housing market. By Alex Veiga. SENT: 680 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

WASHINGTON — U.S. home construction falls in June to the slowest pace in nine months, a setback to hopes that housing is regaining momentum and will boost economic growth this year. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 690 words, photo.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits falls last week, a steady decline that suggests a strengthening job market. By Josh Boak. SENT: 250 words, photo, glance.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON — Average U.S. mortgage rates declined slightly this week with rates remaining near historic lows. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan dipped to 4.13 percent, down from 4.15 percent last week. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 340 words, photo, glance.

OBAMA-LABOR FORCE

WASHINGTON — White House economists say the Great Recession is only partly to blame for the increasing number of Americans dropping out of the labor force. By Jim Kuhnhenn. SENT: 500 words.

PHILADELPHIA FED

WASHINGTON — Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region surges in July, expanding at its fastest pace in more than three years, as new orders, shipments, and hiring all rose. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 250 words, photo.

— EMIRATES-ARABTEC — The Dubai Financial Market suspends trading shares of the emirate's largest construction company, Arabtec Holding, after rumors swirled that the firm's biggest shareholder was in talks to sell off a large portion of its stake. SENT: 420 words, photo.

— CHARITY TAX BREAKS — The House passed a package of tax breaks Thursday designed to boost charitable donations by seniors, private foundations and procrastinators. SENT: 630 words.

INDUSTRY:

BRITAIN-FARNBOROUGH

Farnborough, England — Airbus beats rival Boeing in the aircraft order stakes at this year's Farnborough International Airshow, garnering nearly twice as many orders and commitments. The victory by the European aircraft manufacturer is its second in a row in the unofficial airshow competition after last year's triumph in Paris. For years, the airshow has served as a platform for a sales race between the world's two major aircraft makers. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 830 words, photos.

TERRORISM INSURANCE

WASHINGTON — The Senate votes to extend a program that would cushion the blow to insurance companies in the event of a massive terrorist attack. The program was enacted in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when insurance companies were reluctant to provide coverage for terrorist attacks. It is due to expire at the end of the year. By Stephen Ohlemacher. SENT: 720 words.

— JAPAN-NISSAN-WOMEN — Nissan's chief executive, who has long made a point of promoting women to management positions, says the Japanese prime minister's plan to boost female bosses to 30 percent by 2020 is too ambitious. SENT: 530 words, photos.

— ITALY-FIAT-VW — Italian automaker Fiat denies a German media report that it is in merger talks with Volkswagen. SENT: 340 words.

— OBAMA — With federal transportation funding about to run dry, President Barack Obama is taking new steps to boost the flow of private dollars into public works projects. Using the recently closed I-495 bridge at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware as a backdrop, Obama was set to sign paperwork creating an initiative to boost private-sector investment in the country's aging system of highways, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure. SENT: 410 words. UPCOMING: Will be led from Obama remarks scheduled for 2:10 p.m.

— MAN CITY-SPONSOR — Premier League champion Manchester City signs Nissan Motor Co. as the first global sponsor of its portfolio of clubs. The five-year deal with Nissan comes two months after City bought a stake in Japanese team Yokohama F Marinos from the car giant. SENT: 360 words.

— NEW YORK RAIL DISPUTE — Unions and managers of the nation's largest commuter railroad reach a tentative contract agreement, averting a weekend strike that stood to inconvenience hundreds of thousands of riders. SENT: 460 words.

— MYANMAR-LABOR UNREST — More than 700 workers protest in front of the South Korean Embassy in Myanmar to demand officials help them after a Korean-owned factory closed without paying their wages. SENT 260 words, photos.

— COAL ASH SPILL-NORTH CAROLINA — Federal environmental officials say Duke Energy has completed removal of large pockets of coal ash from the Dan River following a massive spill at a North Carolina power plant. SENT: 410 words.

— TRADE SECRETS-CORN — Prosecutors alleging seven employees of a Chinese agriculture biotechnology company conspired to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed corn companies now say the loss to the companies is likely more than $500 million. SENT: 610 words.

— 5-HOUR ENERGY — The Oregon attorney general has sued the makers and marketers of 5-Hour Energy, alleging they engaged in deceptive advertising. SENT: 140 words.

— HARD ROCK-TAHOE CASINO — The managers of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas have announced plans to open one at Lake Tahoe this winter after a $60 million renovation of the former Horizon Casino Resort at Stateline. SENT: 490 words.

EARNINGS:

EARNS-GOOGLE

Google Inc. reports quarterly financial results after the market closes. SENT: 280 words. UPCOMING: longer version by 6:30 p.m.

— EARNS-MORGAN STANLEY — Morgan Stanley says its quarterly profit more than doubled, thanks to strong results from its investment banking and money-management units. SENT: 320 words, photo.

— EARNS-PHILIP MORRIS — Philip Morris International's second-quarter profit declines 13 percent, stung by foreign exchange rates for the U.S. dollar. But its adjusted profit and revenue topped Wall Street's view. SENT: 270 words.

— SWITZERLAND-EARNS-NOVARTIS — Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG posts a 3 percent rise in second-quarter profits, reflecting what it described as solid growth and an increased focus on core products. SENT: 310 words, photo.

— EARNS-CAPTIAL ONE — Capital One Financial Corp. reports quarterly financial results after the market closes. SENT: 160 words. UPCOMING: final version by 6:30 p.m.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

VIRTUAL CURRENCY-REGULATION

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York regulators propose establishing rules for firms involved in receiving, transmitting and storing virtual currency, as well as retail conversions. The proposal by the Department of Financial Services would establish a so-called "BitLicense." By Michael Virtanen. SENT: 660 words.

— FACEBOOK-BUY BUTTON — Facebook is testing a "Buy" button in its latest effort to help businesses drive sales through the world's biggest online social network. SENT: 140 words.

INTERNATIONAL:

AUSTRALIA-CARBON TAX

SYDNEY — Australia's government repeals a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation's worst greenhouse gas polluters, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison for the lawmakers who imposed it. By Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 680 words, photos.

RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin laments the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, saying they will stalemate bilateral relations and hurt not only Russian but also American businesses. Russia's benchmark MICEX was down 2.6 percent in early afternoon trading upon news of the sanctions while Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5 percent down. By Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 760 words, photos.

With:

— JAPAN-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS — For Japan, the ramping up of sanctions by the West against Russia can be summed up in a familiar phrase: It's complicated. The tug-of-war over Ukraine threatens to derail Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's moves toward rapprochement with Russia. Yet Japan must toe the line on sanctions: It cannot spurn its main ally the U.S., nor European partners. SENT: 620 words, photos.

— TURKEY-ECONOMY — Turkey's central bank cuts its main interest rate by a further half percentage point as it continues to lower borrowing rates following a big increase earlier this year to support the country's currency. SENT: 140 words.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

OF MUTUAL INTEREST-FUND TRENDS

NEW YORK — Experts say bonds are less attractive than stocks. Whatever.

Investors are continuing to pour money into bond mutual funds despite the warnings from Wall Street. So far, those investors have looked smart for doing so. Bond funds have delivered solid returns despite dour predictions. That, plus some other trends from around the mutual fund industry. By Stan Choe. SENT: 860 words.

MONEY & MARKETS:

CENTERPIECE

Top of the charts

Technology is the top-performing sector of the Standard & Poor's 500 index over the last 12 months with a return of more than 26 percent. Some investors may have grown more cautious following a report this week from the Federal Reserve stating that the stocks of smaller companies in the biotechnology and social media sectors appear to be overvalued. Here are several top-rated technology funds with solid long-term returns. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

---------

MONEY & MARKETS EXTRA

For the week ending Saturday, July 19, 2014

CENTERPIECE

Mid-year fund flows

International stock mutual funds have taken in more money so far this year than any of the other broad fund categories tracked by Morningstar. They took in $67.5 billion compared with a $9.5 billion intake of U.S. stock funds. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

Mattel shares plunge

Shares of Mattel plunge as the world's biggest toy company reported a 61 percent profit decline in the second-quarter. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.

Associated Press
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