Business Briefs for Monday, April 2, 2012

 Stocks see stable, impressive climb in 2012

NEW YORK — The bulls weren’t bullish enough.

The stock market just had its best first quarter in 14 years. The surge has sent Wall Street analysts, some of whose forecasts seemed too sunny three months ago, scrambling to raise their estimates for the year.

For the first three months of the year, the Dow was up 8 percent and the S&P 12 percent, in each case the best start since the great bull market of the 1990s. The Nasdaq composite index, made up of technology stocks, has had an even more remarkable run — up 19 percent for the year, its best start since 1991.

Consumer spending bump brightens outlook

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers boosted their spending in February by the most in seven months, raising expectations for stronger growth rates at the start of the year.

Americans spent more even as their income barely grew. To make up the difference, many saved less.

Consumer spending rose 0.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday. The biggest increase since July coincided with the best three-month hiring stretch in two years.

Obama: Enough oil to keep squeeze on Iran

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Friday that he was plowing ahead with potential sanctions against countries that keep buying oil from Iran, including allies of the United States, in a deepening campaign to starve Iran of money for its disputed nuclear program.

The world oil market is tight, but deep enough to keep the squeeze on Iran, Obama said.

The sanctions aim to further isolate Iran’s central bank, which processes nearly all of Iran’s oil purchases. Obama’s move clears the way for the U.S. to penalize foreign financial institutions that do oil business with Iran by barring them from having a U.S.-based affiliate or doing business here.

Tobacco companies must report chemicals

WASHINGTON — Tobacco companies will be required to report the levels of dangerous chemicals found in their cigarettes, chew and other products under the latest tightening of tobacco industry regulations.

The preliminary guidance issued Friday by the Food and Drug Administration marks the first time tobacco makers will be required to report quantities of 20 chemicals associated with cancer, lung disease and other health problems. The FDA will require companies to display the information in a consumer-friendly format by next April.

Constituents or byproducts of tobacco products that are subject to the new rule include ammonia, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.

Losses keep mounting at American Airlines

FORT WORTH, Texas — The parent company of American Airlines told a bankruptcy court that it lost $619 million last month as revenue declined from January and failed to offset costs, including fuel and labor.

Since filing for bankruptcy court protection in late November, AMR Corp. has lost $1.76 billion, including $663 million in expenses related to the Chapter 11 reorganization. That’s more than the $1.08 billion that the company lost in the first 11 months of last year.

Eurozone ups financial buffers to $1.1 trillion

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The 17 countries that use the euro have boosted their emergency funding for heavily indebted countries to €800 billion ($1.1 trillion) — an amount that falls short of what the currency union’s international partners had said is needed to calm financial markets.

Of the €800 billion limit that eurozone finance ministers agreed to on Friday, only some €500 billion ($670 billion) is still available for new bailout loans. About €300 billion ($400 billion) already has been used to bail out Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Ford CEO Mulally made $29.5 million in 2011

DEARBORN, Mich. — The pay package for Ford CEO Alan Mulally rose 11 percent last year to $29.5 million, or a little more than $5 for every vehicle sold.

Mulally earned $2 million in salary, up 43 percent from 2010, and stock awards valued at $13.9 million, up 86 percent from the prior year. But his performance bonus dropped 42 percent to $1.8 million because Ford fell short of its targets for market share and quality in some areas. Mulally also received $612,587 in perks and other compensation for things like the use of a private jet, a car and driver and security.

MasterCard, Visa warn of data breach

NEW YORK — MasterCard and Visa said Friday that they had notified issuers of its credit cards of a potential breach of the security of customer accounts. The companies did not say how many customers were affected.

Global Payments Inc., which processes credit card transactions for stores, said it had detected a breach of card data in early March. Breaches of card data can lead to identity theft and unauthorized charges.

Global Payments said it had alerted federal law enforcement and was investigating. Spokeswoman Amy Corn would not say whether cards besides Visa and MasterCard were affected.

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