WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew more slowly in the first three months of this year. Governments spent less, and businesses cut back on investment. But consumers spent at the fastest pace in more than a year.
The result suggests that the economy will continue to expand, slowly but steadily.
The Commerce Department estimated Friday that the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in January through March, compared with a 3 percent gain in the final quarter of 2011. But growth is expected to rebound to around 3 percent for all of 2012 as stronger job growth spurs more consumer spending.
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. has tidied up North America, sweeping out old products and excess costs. But the rest of the world keeps making a mess.
The company’s net income fell 45 percent to $1.4 billion in the first quarter. Ford took a beating from plummeting European sales and weaker results in Asia and South America. It also started paying more in taxes.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans defied a veto threat and the House voted Friday to prevent federal loan costs from doubling for millions of college students. The vote gave the GOP a momentary election-year triumph on a bill that has become enmeshed in partisan battles over the economy, women’s issues and President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The measure’s 215-195 passage was largely symbolic, however, because the package is going nowhere in the Democratic-dominated Senate. Both parties agree students’ interest costs should not rise, but they are clashing along a familiar fault line over how to cover the $5.9 billion tab: Republicans want spending cuts and Democrats want higher revenues.
Friday’s vote underscored how, with Election Day just over six months away, much of Congress’ work and passion can be aimed as much at political positioning as it is at writing law. Both parties want to show they are trying to help college students and their families cope in today’s unforgiving economy and, when possible, force their opponents to cast votes that might create fodder for TV attack ads.
Procter & Gamble 3Q net income slips
NEW YORK (AP) — Procter & Gamble Co. said Friday that it is rolling back some price increases and focusing on introducing new products in developed markets as the world’s largest consumer product maker seeks to reignite market share growth.
The maker of products ranging from Bounty paper towels to Luvs diapers also lowered its guidance below expectations for the fiscal year as it its third-quarter net income dropped 16 percent, hurt by restructuring charges and continued high costs for items like diesel fuel and packaging. Shares fell 3 percent in morning trading.
Consumer product companies across the board have been raising prices to deal with higher costs for materials like pulp, fuel and packaging. P&G rival Kimberly-Clark said last week that higher prices helped boost its quarterly earnings 34 percent. But results for P&G, whose products also include Tide detergent and Olay skin cream, illustrate that even big companies that sell trusted brands can lose customers to lower-priced rivals when they raise prices.
Chevron sticks with oil. And it pays off.
NEW YORK (AP) — Chevron never bought into North America’s natural gas boom the way Big Oil peers like Exxon did.
That decision appears to be paying off.
The San Ramon, Calif., energy giant reported Friday that its first-quarter profit increased 4.2 percent as oil sold for higher prices. Meanwhile a plunge in U.S. natural gas prices contributed to an 11 percent profit decline at Exxon. ConocoPhillips, another major U.S. natural gas producer, saw its profit fall 3 percent.
Merck posts big Q1 profit jump on lower charges
Drugmaker Merck & Co. said Friday that its first-quarter profit jumped 67 percent despite lower-than-expected sales, due to lower spending on production, marketing and research as well as an arbitration charge a year ago.
The maker of Singulair for asthma and allergies said net income was $1.74 billion, or 56 cents per share, up from $1.04 billion, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items such as integration of acquired businesses, Merck would have earned $3.04 billion, or 99 cents per share, up from $2.86 billion, or 92 cents per share, in 2011’s first quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 98 cents.
Revenue was $11.73 billion, up 1.3 percent from $11.58 billion. Analysts expected $11.83 billion.
Yahoo escalates patent battle with Facebook
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo is bringing out more artillery in its patent battle with Facebook.
It is adding new allegations of intellectual property theft to its six-week-old lawsuit against Facebook. In court papers filed Friday, Yahoo Inc. now says Facebook’s online social network infringes on 12 of its Internet patents, up from 10.
Yahoo also denied allegations that it has been infringing on 10 of Facebook’s patents and accused its rival of engaging in shady behavior.
Among other things, Yahoo says Facebook violated an agreement between the two companies to notify each other of possible patent infringements before filing a court claim.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones Industrial average climbed 23.69 points to 13,228.31. The Standard & Poor’s 500 edged up 3.38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,403.36. The Nasdaq composite rose 18.59 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,069.20.
Benchmark oil rose 38 cents to end at $104.93 per barrel in New York. Brent crude fell 9 cents to finish at $119.83 per barrel in London. Heating oil lost 1.37 cents to end at $3.1807 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 2.29 cents to finish at $3.2062 per gallon.
Natural gas rose 6 cents to finish at $2.186 per 1,000 cubic feet in Friday trading.