- - Monday, June 18, 2012

J.C. Penney Co. says Michael Francis, the former Target Corp. executive brought in to redefine the brand, is leaving the company. The department store operator gave no reason for his immediate departure.

J.C. Penney hired Mr. Francis in October as president to redefine the Plano, Texas, company’s brand and boost its sagging sales.

J.C. Penney has hired a number of big-name executives to help transform everything about the retailer. The riskiest move was the elimination of hundreds of sales events in favor of more predictable low prices, but shoppers have not embraced the change.

Shares of J.C. Penney fell nearly 6 percent in after-hours trading Monday on the news


U.S. stocks meander as Europe debt crisis festers

NEW YORK — Crisis-weary investors scoffed Monday at what had appeared to be a hopeful turn in the European debt crisis: a victory for pro-Europe parties in a Greek election. U.S. stocks were little changed, and borrowing costs for Spain surged to alarming levels.

Investors appeared fed up with policymakers’ inability to resolve a crisis that has bedeviled markets for more than three years. Leaders of the most-developed countries are meeting in Mexico to discuss the crisis and the slowing global economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 25.28 points, or 0.2 percent, in closing trade, hitting 12,741.89 points.

The S&P 500 rose a modest 1.94 points (0.14 percent) to 1,344.78. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq rose 22.53 points (0.78 percent) to 2,895.32.


High Court: Drugmakers don’t owe for overtime

NEW YORK — The Supreme Court has ruled that sales representatives for pharmaceutical companies do not qualify for overtime pay under federal law, a big victory for the drug industry.

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the court’s conservative majority concluded that the roughly 90,000 people who try to persuade doctors to prescribe certain drugs to their patients are not covered by the federal law governing overtime pay.

Many sales jobs are exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But unlike typical salesmen who often work on commission, drug firm’s sales representatives cannot seal a deal with doctors. Federal law, in fact, forbids any binding agreement by a doctor to prescribe a specific drug.

Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said that the drug sales reps’ “end goal was not merely to make physicians aware of the medically appropriate uses of a particular drug.”

“Rather, it was to convince physicians actually to prescribe the drug in appropriate cases.”he wrote.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined with Justice Alito.


In crowded online music field, new Songza soars

LOS ANGELES — Songza, a new online radio service, is leapfrogging Pandora as the most popular free music app for Apple devices.

But it immediately faces a struggle to survive in a business saddled with high royalty rates for artists.

The New York-based startup aims to rewrite the songbook on how an online radio service should be run. One key difference: It has no mood-killing ads.

The commercial-free aspect appeals to people who have to pay $36 a year to avoid ads on Pandora, or $4 a month to Slacker, another online radio service.

The feature helped Songza get downloaded 1.15 million times in the 10 days after June 7, when it updated its iPhone app and offered an iPad-optimized version.


U.S. builder confidence ticks up to 5-year high

Confidence among U.S. builders ticked up this month to a five-year high, an indication that the housing market is slowly improving.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose in June to 29, the highest reading since May 2007. It increased from a reading of 28 last month, which was revised down one point from its initial figure.

The index, which was released Monday, has risen in seven of the past nine months, suggesting builders are starting to see the seeds of a recovery taking shape after years of stagnation.


FDA focuses on side effects of experimental cancer drug

The toxic side effects of an experimental cancer drug from Onyx Pharmaceuticals may outweigh its benefits for patients with a type of blood cancer, federal health regulators said Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration warned that patients in a company study of the drug had a high rate of heart and lung side effects, some of which were fatal. The FDA posted its review of Carfilzomib online ahead of a meeting Wednesday, during which its panel of cancer experts will recommend whether the drug should be approved.

Despite the negative tone of the review, some analysts said they expect the FDA’s panel of outside experts to take a more favorable view. FDA panels are mainly made up of practicing physicians from leading universities and hospitals.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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