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Originally published Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 2:57 PM

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Business Highlights

Stocks slide as new doubts about Greek aid emerge

The Associated Press

Stocks slide as new doubts about Greek aid emerge

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks plunged around the world Tuesday as fears spread that Europe's attempt to contain Greece's debt crisis would fail. The euro fell to its lowest point against the dollar in a year.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 225 points to 10,926.77, its biggest drop in three months. The slide erased a 143-point gain from Monday. The Dow and broader indexes each fell more than 2 percent. Treasury prices rose on increased demand for safe investments.

Stocks have seesawed in the past week as Europe's efforts to agree on a bailout package for Greece proceeded in fits and starts.

The market's plunge wasn't a surprise to some analysts who have warned for weeks that stocks were due for a retreat.

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Greek bailout leaves markets unconvinced

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Angry Greek unionists took to the streets Tuesday to protest harsh austerity measures imposed under an international bailout to save Greece from looming bankruptcy, while financial markets were far from assured that the 110 billion euros, or $144 billion, in promised loans could douse Europe's smoldering sovereign debt crisis.

About 4,000 striking teachers and students marched in Athens to protest the cuts, carrying black flags, while some scuffled with police. Earlier, about 100 Communist Party supporters broke through the gates of the Acropolis, the city's chief ancient monument, and hung banners in Greek and English reading "Peoples of Europe Rise Up," to the bemusement of tourists allowed in despite the disruption.

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Official says unconfirmed report of oil at La. island

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - An executive with BP PLC is saying there has been an unconfirmed report of oil washing ashore on a small Louisiana island.

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BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news conference Tuesday that more than 20 boats have been dispatched to Chandeleur Island to look for the oil, but so far haven't been able to find it.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the oil washed ashore at the mouth of the Mississippi River along the Louisiana coast.

Officials are saying the weather has improved significantly in the Gulf, allowing crews to lay more containment equipment as well as repair the booms that were damaged in rough weather.

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Factory orders strengthen, home sales contracts up

WASHINGTON (AP) - A surprisingly busy month for U.S. factories and a surge in home buying are the latest signs that the economic recovery is picking up.

Orders to U.S. factories rose 1.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was much better than the 0.1 percent decline analysts had expected. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders gained 3.1 percent, the biggest increase since August 2005.

A separate report showed that more people signed contracts on previously owned homes in March than was expected. The jump was in large part the result of tax incentives that have propelled the housing market this spring.

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Pfizer, Merck top forecasts, give upbeat new ones

The world's two largest drugmakers, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co., posted big revenue jumps but lower net income for the first quarter, as they enjoyed new revenue from big rivals acquired last year but absorbed billions in severance pay and other costs.

Both companies beat Wall Street profit expectations widely and edged out revenue expectations, partly due to favorable currency exchange rates.

Pfizer said it expects health law changes including higher rebates for drugs bought through the Medicaid program to reduce revenue by about $300 million this year, $900 million in 2011 and $800 million in 2012. Merck expects the changes to cost $170 million this year and roughly $325 million next year.

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Owner of sunken oil platform had safety concerns

DALLAS (AP) - Transocean Ltd., which owned the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, eliminated bonuses for top executives last year over concerns about safety problems at the company.

The company said in a regulatory filing on April 1 that it eliminated the bonuses "to underscore the company's commitment to safety" after four workers died in accidents in 2009 "and to increase the incentive for executive officers to promote ... the avoidance of future fatal accidents."

Less than three weeks later, the company's Deepwater Horizon rig, which it leased to BP PLC, blew up and sank. Eleven workers were killed and the accident spawned a huge oil spill that is now endangering wildlife and businesses along the Gulf's coastline.

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CVS profit rises, mild flu season dents sales

NEW YORK (AP) - CVS Caremark Corp. said Tuesday its profit rose 4.5 percent in the first quarter, but said the mild cold and flu season hurt its sales.

CVS raised the low end of its profit forecast for the year, pointing to its first-quarter results and confidence about its performance for the rest of the year.

But it reduced its revenue expectations, saying total revenue will be equal or slightly lower than its 2009 results. It said that was because of the surprisingly mild flu season, which has also hurt results for CVS' competitors.

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Geithner open to adding bank tax to financial bill

WASHINGTON (AP) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he is open to including a new tax on large banks as part of a bill that would overhaul the nation's financial regulations, but he will defer to congressional leaders.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York wants to include the tax in the financial regulations bill. But the New York Democrat acknowledged Tuesday that most other senators oppose the approach, which could make the financial regulations bill harder to pass.

The bank tax, which President Barack Obama first proposed in January, would raise an estimated $90 billion over the next decade. Geithner said the tax is justified to recoup billions spent bailing out Wall Street.

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News Corp. profit down but advertising rebounds

LOS ANGELES (AP) - News Corp., the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, said Tuesday that it is benefiting from a rebound in the economy and the lingering glow of "Avatar."

News Corp. earned $839 million, or 32 cents per share, in the fiscal third quarter, which ended March 31. That marked a 69 percent plunge in net income from a year earlier, when it recorded a huge gain on the sale of its stake in a technology company. In the same period last year the company had net income of $2.7 billion, or $1.04 per share.

But News Corp.'s operating income, which doesn't include the effects of the accounting charge, grew 55 percent to $1.25 billion in the third quarter from $810 million a year earlier.

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FDA found bacteria in lots for recalled Tylenol

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ingredients used by Johnson & Johnson in some of the 40 varieties of children's cold medicines recalled last Friday were contaminated with bacteria, according to a report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Agency officials said Tuesday none of the company's finished products tested positive for the contaminants, though such testing is not exhaustive.

The FDA report, which was posted online, lists more than 20 manufacturing problems found at the McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Fort Washington, Pa., where the formulas were produced. The recalled products include children and infant formulations of Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 225.06, or 2 percent, to 10,926.77, its lowest close since April 7. The Dow was down as much as 283 points at its low of the day.

The S&P 500 index fell 28.66, or 2.4 percent, to 1,173.60. The Nasdaq composite index fell 74.49, or 3 percent, to 2,424.25. The Nasdaq's more intense drop reflected the fact that it includes smaller companies seen as riskier investments than the big names in the Dow or S&P 500.

Benchmark crude for June delivery fell $3.45, or 4 percent, to settle at $82.74 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after setting an 18-month high.

In other Nymex trading in June contracts, heating oil fell 8.56 cents to settle at $2.2595 a gallon, and gasoline lost 11.29 cents to settle at $2.3222 a gallon. Natural gas added 1.3 cents at $4.013 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was down $3.27 to settle at $85.67 on the ICE futures exchange.

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