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Originally published Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 2:55 PM

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Business Highlights

Not us: Goldman execs deny wrongdoing in crisis

The Associated Press

Not us: Goldman execs deny wrongdoing in crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) - Blistered by lawmakers for "unbridled greed," Goldman Sachs executives on Tuesday unflinchingly defended their conduct and denied the huge Wall Street investment bank helped cause the near-meltdown of the nation's financial system.

While the famous firm fights for its reputation, senators said the company's behavior leading up to the financial crisis clearly demonstrated a need for stronger regulation, and Democrats hoped to use the daylong hearing to build support for legislation now before the Senate. Republicans have so far succeeded in blocking debate, but more test votes are expected.

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Europe debt crisis spreads to Portugal

ATHENS (AP) - Ratings agency Standard & Poor's pushed Greece to the brink of a financial abyss Tuesday and downgraded Portugal's debt, too, fueling fears of a continent-wide debt meltdown in Europe.

Stocks around the world tanked when Greek bonds were lowered to junk status and investors saw that Greece's financial contagion was spreading to at least one other eurozone country.

Major European exchanges fell more than 2.5 percent, and on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average finished down more than 200 points. The euro slid more than 1 percent to nearly an eight-month low.

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Stocks pull back on Europe's deepening debt woes

NEW YORK (AP) - Investors are once again worried that debt problems in Greece and Portugal could threaten the global economic recovery.

Stocks plunged in the U.S. and Europe Tuesday after Standard & Poor's downgraded the debt of the two European countries. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 213 points to 10,991.99, its worst loss in almost three months. All the major market indexes were down about 2 percent.

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Ford turns another profit but worries hurt shares

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford Motor Co. earned $2.1 billion in the first quarter as the economic clouds parted and consumers grew confident enough to buy cars again. But the confidence didn't extend to investors, who pushed Ford's shares down Tuesday on concerns that the automaker's recovery isn't sustainable.

The profit of 50 cents per share was Ford's fourth straight positive quarter. It's an about-face from the same period last year, when Ford lost $1.4 billion, or 60 cents per share, at the height of the recession. Ford said it expects to be solidly profitable this year, a year earlier than its previous guidance.

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Consumer confidence grows as economy strengthens

NEW YORK (AP) - The best consumer confidence reading since September 2008's financial meltdown and bullish earnings reports this week from companies ranging from Whirlpool to UPS show increasing demand and a rebound gathering steam. Americans are even feeling a bit better about the job market.

The Consumer Confidence Index rose in April to 57.9, according to The Conference Board, a private research group based in New York. That's up from a revised 52.3 in March. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 53.5.

The April reading, released Tuesday, is the highest since September 2008. Still, the reading is well below the 90 that's considered healthy.

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Home price index shows 1st annual gain in 3 years

MIAMI (AP) - Home prices in February posted their first annual increase since the end of 2006, lifted by temporary tax credits for homebuyers.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday squeezed out a 0.6 percent gain. But that was half the increase analysts had expected. On a more cautionary note, 11 of the 20 cities tracked by the index showed declines from February last year.

The data underscored the fragile nature of the housing recovery. Nationally, home prices are up more than 3 percent from the bottom in May 2009, but still are 30 percent below the May 2006 peak.

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AG: Drug maker AstraZeneca to pay $520 million

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal government on Tuesday reached a $520 million settlement with pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca, resolving allegations of illegal marketing of the company's antipsychotic drug Seroquel.

At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the case a centerpiece of the federal government's crackdown on health care fraud.

AstraZeneca allegedly marketed Seroquel for off-label uses - those not approved by federal drug regulators - including insomnia and psychiatric conditions other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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Senators see privacy problem in Facebook expansion

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Four U.S. senators want Facebook to make it easier for its more than 400 million users to protect their privacy as the website develops new outlets to share personal information.

The call for simpler privacy controls came in a letter that the senators planned to send Tuesday to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Associated Press obtained a draft of the letter signed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo; Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

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Judge rejects $296M plea deal for Guidant

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal judge rejected a plea deal by Boston Scientific Corp.'s Guidant unit to pay $296 million for failing to properly disclose changes made to some implantable heart devices, saying it didn't adequately address the company's criminal conduct.

Judge Donovan Frank's ruling Tuesday faulted the deal for not putting Guidant or Boston Scientific on probation.

The plea deal filed earlier this month called for what federal prosecutors said was the largest criminal penalty assessed against a medical device company.

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'Peanuts' gang sold to Joe Boxer owner for $175M

NEW YORK (AP) - Newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps Co. is selling licensing rights for Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the "Peanuts" gang to Iconix Brand Group Inc., the licensing company that owns Joe Boxer and London Fog.

The family of the late "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz will also own part of the business too, giving it more control of and money from the comic strip's legacy.

Heirs say the deal announced Tuesday for the 60-year-old comic strip is what the artist would have wanted. Schulz worked for decades to win back the rights to his work, which many other artists like himself sold to appear in print.

By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 213.04, or 1.9 percent, to 10,991.99. It was the biggest drop for the average since it fell 268.37 on Feb. 4, also amid concerns about European debt problems.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 28.34, or 2.3 percent, to 1,183.71, while the Nasdaq composite index dropped 51.48, or 2 percent, to 2,471.47.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell $1.76 to settle at $82.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in May contracts, heating oil fell 0.68 cent to settle at $2.2303 a gallon, and gasoline dropped 1.41 cents to settle at $2.3268 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 4.6 cents to settle at $4.216 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude lost $1.05 to settle at $85.78 on the ICE futures exchange.

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