- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The top business news from The Associated Press for the morning of Wednesday, April 1, 2009:

Obama tries to rally world to cope with downturn

LONDON (AP) _ President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to rally the world’s top and emerging powers to help cope with a global economic downturn, saying “we can only meet this challenge together.” Obama, in England for an economic crisis summit, prodded nations to spur growth and work together on regulatory reform, and not fall into the kind of protectionism and other mistakes that helped fuel the Great Depression.

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Asian stocks rise despite gloomy numbers

HONG KONG (AP) _ Asian stock markets rose Wednesday as investors shrugged off more gloomy signs in leading regional economies _ China, Japan and South Korea _ amid the deepest global slowdown in decades. Automakers and financials helped push markets higher, with another upswing on Wall Street overnight further buoying sentiment, as the region opened the month and new quarter by adding to its recent rally. The dollar and oil prices slipped.

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Oil falls below $49 in Asia amid gloomy data

BANGKOK (AP) _ Oil prices slipped below $49 in Asian trade Wednesday as new signs of deterioration in the world’s three biggest economies _ the U.S., China and Japan _ undermined crude’s recent gains. Benchmark crude for May delivery fell $1.19 to $48.47 a barrel by late afternoon in Bangkok in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That fall nearly wiped out overnight gains when the contract rose $1.25 to settle at $49.66.

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Analysis: Dems punt hard choices on Obama budget

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress are taking only baby steps with his budget, putting off crucial decisions on his ambitious plans to expand health care, curb global warming and raise taxes on the wealthy. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and both Bushes all got far stronger assists from Congress on their first budgets. Nonetheless, Obama, is counting on votes approving budget outlines this week to give him some semblance of momentum.

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Confidence at Japanese companies at all-time low

TOKYO (AP) _ The latest probe of Japan’s ailing economy points toward a new diagnosis: split personality disorder. Pummeled by an unprecedented slump in global demand, confidence at major Japanese manufacturers has fallen to an all-time low, a key central bank survey showed Wednesday. But the worst may be over for big exporters who plan to boost output this spring amid slimmer stockpiles and nascent expectations for a recovery in overseas economies.

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Survey finds Chinese manufacturing worsening

BEIJING (AP) _ The contraction in China’s manufacturing worsened in March, data showed Wednesday, and President Hu Jintao told a state news agency that the country’s economic problems are increasing. The purchasing managers index by brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets _ based on a survey of some 400 companies _ showed manufacturing shrank for an eighth month. It fell to 44.8, down from February’s 45.1, on a scale where numbers below 50 show activity is shrinking.

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Oz Minerals, China’s Minmetals in new $1.2bn deal

SYDNEY (AP) _ Struggling Australian miner Oz Minerals has struck a new, $1.2 billion deal with China’s Minmetals to work around government national security concerns about selling foreigners a mine on a sensitive military site. The new plan unveiled Wednesday should satisfy the foreign ownership concerns and is the second deal between Australian miners and Chinese companies to move forward in as many days. A third, much bigger, proposal is still being scrutinized by regulators amid political pressure not to allow Australian assets to be sold to Chinese state-owned companies.

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Japan gives cash to jobless foreigners to go home

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan began offering money Wednesday for unemployed foreigners of Japanese ancestry to go home, mostly to Brazil and Peru, to stave off what officials said posed a serious unemployment problem. Thousands of foreigners of Japanese ancestry, who had been hired on temporary or referral contracts, have lost their jobs recently, mostly at manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and its affiliates, which are struggling to cope with a global downturn.

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GM, Chrysler race deadlines to hold off bankruptcy

DETROIT (AP) _ He doesn’t know exactly what the Obama administration wants him to cut, but Fritz Henderson, the new CEO of General Motors Corp., isn’t waiting around to find out. Cut deeper. Work harder. Move faster. That’s how he described the ailing automaker’s urgent effort to meet a June 1 deadline to fix its debt-ridden balance sheet, cut billions in costs and take other steps to transform itself into a profitable entity. It’s the same government-imposed race that Chrysler LLC is running, only GM’s smaller neighbor has to cover more distance in half the time.

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A quarter defined by historic whiplash on Wall St.

NEW YORK (AP) _ The first quarter on Wall Street was so extreme it included a bear market and a bull market all its own _ moves that sometimes take years or more. Now investors head for spring still unsure which side is in control. From the second week of the year to early March, the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than a quarter of its value, plunging from just above 9,000 to below 6,550. Retirement accounts were suddenly worth half what they were in 2007.

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Doing the worm: Tweak in `Conficker’ sparks fears

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Even if it’s not an April Fools’ joke, the latest moves by the dreaded Conficker worm are by no means an Internet Armageddon, either. The worm’s alarming outbreak entered a new phase Wednesday as clocks around the world ticked into the first day of April, the day it was scheduled to change programing.

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Honda offers buyouts, cuts pay in North America

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Honda Motor Co. is offering voluntary buyouts, cutting workers’ pay and imposing 13 non-production days at its North American plants to reduce its output this summer by 62,000 vehicles. Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke said Tuesday that the buyouts will be offered at most of the Japanese automaker’s facilities in the North America, where it employs 35,600 people. Sweetened retirement packages are also being offered, he said.

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Consumer confidence holds steady in March

NEW YORK (AP) _ Americans seem more resigned to the hardships of the recession as consumer confidence stabilized in March after falling to an all-time low in February. But economists caution that shoppers _ dealing with shrinking retirement funds, falling home values and worries about job security _ are still very gloomy and any improvement in sentiment is fragile.

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Ford, GM to cover car payments if buyer loses job

DETROIT (AP) _ Opening Day came early for employees Tuesday at Jack Kain’s Ford, Lincoln, Mercury dealership, when Ford Motor Co. announced a new program that would help buyers in the event of a job loss. “When I read it to our sales people, you would have thought we just knocked a home run,” said Jack Kain, a dealer in Versailles, Ky. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

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Japan Markets

TOKYO (AP) _ The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 242.38 points, or 3 percent, to 8,351.91.

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Dollar-Yen

TOKYO (AP) _ The dollar was trading at 98.77 yen from 99.17 late Tuesday after falling to 96-yen levels earlier this week.

A service of The Associated Press. Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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