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WALL STREET

Apple briefly passes Exxon as most valuable company

NEW YORK | Apple briefly surpassed Exxon as the most valuable U.S. company after an excellent quarter, though the oil company has regained the lead at the market’s close.

Apple’s stock rose as much as 8 percent, while Exxon’s fell as much as 2 percent during trading Wednesday.

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s stock closed up 4 cents at $87.22 for a market capitalization of $418 billion. Apple’s increased 6 percent to $446.66 for a market cap of about $415 billion.

Apple said Tuesday that net income in its latest quarter more than doubled, while revenue grew 73 percent.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple first topped Exxon in August, then fell back to second place. Irving, Texas-based Exxon had held the top spot since 2005.

Apple overtook Microsoft Corp., now in the No. 3 slot, in 2010.

AUTO

Nissan announces new $2 billion plant in Mexico

MEXICO CITY | Nissan Motor Co. announced Wednesday it is investing $2 billion to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico. It will be the Japanese company’s third in the country, helping it serve markets throughout the Americas.

Construction of the plant in the northern state of Aguascalientes will begin this summer and production should start by the end of next year, according to a company statement. It said an industrial park for supplier companies also will be built.

The plant is projected to have the capacity to produce 175,000 vehicles a year, focusing on “B” platform vehicles. Those include the Versa, March and Tiida. The company says that will give Nissan the ability to produce 1 million cars a year in Mexico in the midterm.

BANKS

Judge may cancel WaMu insider-trading ruling

WILMINGTON, Del. | A Delaware bankruptcy judge on Wednesday granted Washington Mutual Inc.’s request that she consider throwing out portions of a September ruling that gave some creditors permission to pursue claims of insider trading by several hedge funds, who are also WaMu creditors.

WaMu and supporting creditors argued that an agreement on its latest reorganization plan depends on Judge Mary Walrath removing language regarding the insider trading allegations from the September ruling, in which she rejected Washington Mutual’s proposed reorganization plan for a second time.

Judge Walrath said that in granting WaMu’s motion, she was not canceling her earlier ruling or saying she was inclined to do so, but only that she would consider it.

Washington Mutual announced last month that it was submitting a new plan to distribute about $7 billion to creditors after reaching an agreement with major creditors, including those who had made the insider trading allegations against the hedge funds.

CONSUMERS

J.C. Penney gets rid of hundreds of sales

NEW YORK | J.C. Penney is permanently marking down all of its merchandise by at least 40 percent so shoppers will no longer have to wait for a sale to get the lowest prices in its stores.

Penney said Wednesday that it is getting rid of the hundreds of sales it offers each year in favor of a simpler approach to pricing. On Feb. 1, the retailer is rolling out a three-tiered strategy that offers “Every Day” low pricing daily, “Monthly Value” discounts on select merchandise each month and clearance deals called “Best Price” during the first and the third Friday of each month when many shoppers get paid.

The plan, the first major move by former Apple executive Ron Johnson since he became Penney’s CEO in November, is similar to Wal-Mart’s iconic everyday low pricing strategy. The difference is that Penney’s goal isn’t to undercut competitors, but rather to offer customers more predictable pricing.

Penney’s plan comes as stores are struggling to wean Americans off of the profit-busting bargains that they have come to expect in the weak economy. The move is risky, though, because shoppers who love to bargain-hunt may be turned off by the absence of sales.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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