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Business Highlights

Created: 05/19/2015 3:54 AM
By: By The Associated Press

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Stem cell 'Wild West' takes root amid lack of US regulation

The liquid is dark red, a mixture of fat and blood, and Dr. Mark Berman pumps it out of the patient's backside. He treats it with a chemical, runs it through a processor — and injects it into the woman's aching knees and elbows.

The "soup," he says, is rich in shape-shifting stem cells — magic bullets that, according to some doctors, can be used to treat everything from Parkinson's disease to asthma to this patient's chronic osteoarthritis.

It's quackery, critics say. But it's also a mushrooming business — and almost wholly unregulated.

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Court agrees Samsung copied Apple, but tosses some damages

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a jury's finding that Samsung illegally copied some patented features in Apple's iPhone, but it sided with Samsung on one point that could reduce the $930 million in damages the South Korean company had been ordered to pay.

The ruling, coming three years after an epic courtroom battle between two tech industry giants, could mean yet another trial over a portion of damages representing more than a third of the total award. Legal experts, however, say the rivals may be more inclined to negotiate a settlement this time around.

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Luxury fashion brands accuse Alibaba of profiting from fakes

BEIJING (AP) — The owner of fashion brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent has accused Alibaba Group in a lawsuit of profiting from sales of counterfeit goods despite the Chinese e-commerce giant's pledge to combat the trade in fakes.

The lawsuit by France's Kering SA and a group of its brands in a New York court is a setback for Alibaba's effort to assure companies and regulators it is doing enough to keep counterfeits off its online sales platforms.

The Alibaba defendants "knowingly encourage, assist, and profit from the sale of counterfeits," said the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. federal court in Manhattan.

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Endo buying Par for $8B in push for generics, higher profit

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) — Drugmaker Endo International PLC is climbing toward the top of the steadily consolidating generic medicine business with a deal to buy Par Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc. for about $8.05 billion.

The deal would enable Dublin-based Endo to leapfrog from No. 10 to No. 5 in U.S. generic drug sales barely five years after its first foray into generics.

It appears to be the latest maneuver in a battle for pricing power that pits drugmakers against payers such as insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

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US homebuilders' confidence in sales prospects ebbs

U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident about their sales prospects, a reflection of the sluggish start to this spring's home-selling season.

Even so, builders' overall sales outlook remains favorable.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday slipped to 54 this month, down two points from 56 in April.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The latest reading is up nine points from a year ago.

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Summer skies: airlines to fly record number of passengers

NEW YORK (AP) — A record number of travelers are expected to take to the skies this summer thanks to a rebounding economy.

U.S. airlines will carry 222 million passengers between June 1 and Aug. 31, topping the summer of 2007 when 217.6 million people flew, Airlines for America, the industry's trade and lobbying group, predicted Monday. That figure includes 31 million travelers on international flights, also a record.

On average, there will be 2.4 million passengers a day, 4.5 percent more than last summer.

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Ascena goes shopping, buys Ann Taylor for more than $2B

NEW YORK (AP) — The Ascena Retail Group is buying the owner of Ann Taylor and Loft in a deal valued at about $2.16 billion.

Ann Taylor will join a stable of retail clothing stores owned by Ascena, including Lane Bryant, Justice, Dress Barn and Cacique, giving the combined company annual sales of $7.3 billion.

A push for the sale of the Ann Inc. began in earnest last August when major shareholders Engine Capital LP and its partner Red Alder LLC urged the board to put the company on the block.

The retailer had suffered same-store sales declines in three of its past quarters as up-and-coming fast-casual clothing chains ate up market share.

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Justices make it easier to sue over 401(k) retirement plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday in favor of participants in employee retirement plans who object to companies' investment decisions that eat into retirement savings.

The justices revived claims by current and former employees of energy company Edison International. The employees argued that the company chose mutual funds with excessive fees.

Edison offers employees roughly 40 mutual funds to choose from in deciding how to invest. The case involved a few higher-cost funds open to the general public instead of identical investments with lower costs that are open only to institutional investors. The Edison employees contend that the company did not act in their best interests by choosing the higher-cost funds.

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JPMorgan Chase announces 2nd year of commitment to Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced plans Monday for the second year of its 5-year commitment to help Detroit address some of the challenges faced by the city which emerged in December from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Programs for 2015 include the development of a map to highlight where jobs are in the city and the skills needed to fill them.

The global financial services firm also will provide $500,000 to help 350 young people find summer jobs. A home restoration program will be expanded to provide financing for homes sold outside the Detroit Land Bank Authority online auction.

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No video to help Amtrak probe — despite NTSB recommendation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Five years ago, federal accident investigators recommended that the government require video cameras in locomotive cabs to record engineers' actions. But it didn't happen. Now, that's left a gap in unraveling last week's fatal Amtrak derailment.

It's an old story for the National Transportation Safety Board. Accidents occur, people die and there is a clamor for action. Later, when attention moves elsewhere, recommendations frequently lag for years. Some are never realized.

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Workers' group to FIFA sponsors: Qatar a blot on your brand

LONDON (AP) — Advocates for workers' rights are urging FIFA sponsors to take more responsibility for the treatment of World Cup workers in Qatar, calling the "horrific" working conditions there a blot on any company's brand.

At a news conference Monday, they singled out FIFA sponsors such as McDonalds, Visa, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Budweiser, Gazprom, KIA and Hyundai, saying they have the power to pressure both FIFA and Qatar into improving the treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Qatar, which FIFA chose to host the 2022 World Cup, has limited sports facilities and is in the middle of a major construction boom.

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US agency to hold hearing on Fiat Chrysler recall compliance

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's highway safety agency says it will hold a rare public hearing in July to determine if Fiat Chrysler failed to notify customers and fix safety problems in 20 recalls covering more than 10 million vehicles.

Among the recalls is a contentious one covering 1.56 million Jeeps with gas tanks located behind the rear axles. The biggest involves almost 3 million cars with air bag inflators that can potentially rupture and injure a car's occupants.

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Appeals court sides with Google in anti-Muslim film case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court panel should not have forced YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors, a larger group of judges ruled Monday in a victory for free speech advocates.

The 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal sided with Google, which owns YouTube, saying the previous decision by a three-member panel of the same court gave "short shrift" to the First Amendment and constituted prior restraint — a prohibition on free speech before it takes place.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,298.88. The S&P 500 index gained 6.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,129.20. The Nasdaq composite added 30.15 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,078.44.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 26 cents to close at $59.43 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 54 cents to close at $66.27 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.6 cents to close at $2.041 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.8 cents to close at $1.987 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.6 cent to close at $3.010 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



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