By The Associated Press
Top business story in 2012: Sluggish global economy
This would be the year when the global economy finally regained its vigor. At least that's what many had hoped.
It didn't happen.
The three largest economies - the United States, China and Japan - struggled again in 2012. The 17 countries that use the euro endured a third painful year in their financial crisis and slid into recession. Emerging economies slowed.
The achingly slow global economic recovery was chosen as the top business story of the year by business editors at The Associated Press.
Signs suggest better economy if 'cliff' is averted
WASHINGTON (AP) - Fresh signs of a strengthening U.S. economy on Friday suggested that if Congress and the White House can avert the "fiscal cliff," the economic recovery might finally accelerate in 2013.
Consumers spent and earned more in November. And for a second straight month, U.S. companies increased their orders for a category of manufactured goods that reflects investment plans.
In light of the latest figures, some analysts said the economy could end up growing faster in the current October-December quarter - and next year - than they previously thought.
Stocks sink after Republicans cancel budget vote
NEW YORK (AP) - Investors sent Washington a reminder Friday that Wall Street is a power player in talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Stocks fell sharply after House Republicans called off a vote on tax rates and left federal budget talks in disarray 10 days before sweeping tax increases and government spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost as much as 189 points before closing down 120.88 points, or 0.9 percent, at 13,190.84.
It's all-hands-on-deck for final retail push
FREEPORT, Maine (AP) - With the final retail push under way, L.L. Bean CEO Chris McCormick is playing Santa's helper against a backdrop of conveyor belts and beeping front-end loaders as he boxes up slippers and shirts. But there's little time to reflect on the holiday cheer those gifts will bring because he's busy concentrating to make sure no shipments go astray.
At L.L. Bean, top executives are abandoning their desks to work in the shipping department and to answer customers' phone calls as part of an annual all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure last-minute purchases arrive at their destinations before Christmas.
This season the deadline for orders with guaranteed Christmas delivery was the latest ever, with L.L. Bean offering free shipping as late as noon Friday.
AP IMPACT: Big Pharma cashes in on HGH abuse
A federal crackdown on illicit foreign supplies of human growth hormone has failed to stop rampant misuse, and instead has driven record sales of the drug by some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, an Associated Press investigation shows.
The crackdown, which began in 2006, reduced the illegal flow of unregulated supplies from China, India and Mexico.
But since then, Big Pharma has been satisfying the needs of U.S. users and abusers, including many who take the drug in the false hope of delaying the effects of aging.
From 2005 to 2011, inflation-adjusted sales of HGH were up 69 percent, according to an AP analysis of pharmaceutical company data collected by the research firm IMS Health. Sales of the average prescription drug rose just 12 percent in the same period.
Boehner on averting fiscal cliff: 'God only knows'
WASHINGTON (AP) - Stocks fell, congressional leaders squabbled and the fiscal cliff drew closer.
"How we get there, God only knows," said House Speaker John Boehner, referring Friday to the increasingly complicated attempts to beat the Jan. 1 deadline and head off the perilous combination of across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts that threaten to send the economy into recession.
Progress was invisible one day after House Republican rebels thwarted Boehner's plan to prevent tax increases for all but the nation's million-dollar earners. And while neither House is expected to meet again until after Christmas, officials in both parties said there was still time to prevent the changes from kicking in with the new year.
GE to buy aviation unit of Italy's Avio for $4.3 billion
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) - Industrial conglomerate General Electric plans to buy the aviation business of Italian manufacturer Avio for $4.3 billion to grow its jet propulsion business and strengthen its supply chain.
The Fairfield, Conn., company said Friday that it wants to build its supply chain as it ramps up engine production. The deal also gives GE a chance to offer Avio products outside the aviation industry, in power generation, oil and marine products.
GE will buy Avio S.p.A.'s aviation business from European private equity firm Cinven and the Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica.
Walgreen fiscal 1Q profit sinks nearly 26 percent
Walgreen's fiscal first-quarter earnings sank nearly 26 percent as costs tied to a couple of big deals and Superstorm Sandy helped put a bigger-than-expected dent in the drugstore chain's performance.
CEO Greg Wasson told analysts he saw the quarter as a "turning point" for the Deerfield, Ill., company, which has been working to recapture customers it lost during a contract dispute with Express Scripts Holding Co. But investors didn't buy that message, at least initially, as the stock fell deeper than broader market declines in Friday trading.
Walgreen Co. spent $4 billion in cash earlier this year to buy a stake in Alliance Boots, a Swiss company that runs the largest drugstore chain in the United Kingdom. It also spent $438 million on a drugstore chain focused on the mid-South under the USA Drug, Super D Drug and Med-X names.
Planned News Corp spin-off lost $2 billion in fiscal 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said Friday that the news and publishing unit it plans to spin off next year posted a $2 billion net loss in the fiscal year through June, mainly due to one-time charges and restructuring costs in its newspaper division.
The details of the split were revealed Friday in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It confirmed investors' suspicions that the spun-off company - to be known as News Corp. - will be smaller and less profitable than the TV and movie business that will form Fox Group Inc.
The "new" News Corp. posted $8.7 billion in revenue last fiscal year, about a quarter of the company's total. Charges amounted to $2.8 billion, mainly due to declines in the value of newspapers and a drop in advertising at its in-store flyer business. The charges included restructuring costs of $156 million, most of which came from shutting down The News of the World, the tabloid at the heart of a phone hacking scandal in Britain.
Hostess expects to split up snack cakes in sale
NEW YORK (AP) - Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Devil Dogs are likely to return to shelves in coming months, but probably not under the same owners.
Hostess Brands Inc. said in bankruptcy court Friday that it's narrowing down the bids it received for its brands and expects to sell off its snack cakes and bread to separate buyers. The testimony came from an investment banker for Hostess, which is in the process of liquidating.
A likely suitor has emerged for the namesake Hostess brand, which includes Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, along with Dolly Madison cakes, which includes Coffee Cakes and Zingers, said Joshua Scherer of Perella Weinberg Partners. He said another viable bid was made for Drake's cakes, which includes Devil Dogs, Funny Bones and Yodels. That bidder also wants to buy the Drake's plant in Wayne, N.J., which Scherer said is the country's only kosher bakery plant.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average lost as much as 189 points before closing down 120.88 points, or 0.9 percent, at 13,190.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13.54 points to 1,430.15. The Nasdaq composite index declined 29.38 to 3,021.01.
Benchmark crude for February delivery fell $1.47 to finish at $88.66 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell $1.23 to end at $108.97 per barrel in London.
Natural gas lost a penny to finish at $3.45 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 4 cents to end at $3.02 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to finish at $2.73 a gallon.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.