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Originally published Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:26 PM

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Business Highlights

Stocks plunge; Dow has record drop, then recovers

The Associated Press

Stocks plunge; Dow has record drop, then recovers

NEW YORK (AP) - The stock market had one of its most turbulent days in history as the Dow Jones industrials fell to a loss of almost 1,000 points in less than half an hour on fears that Greece's debt problems could halt the global economic recovery.

The market's plunge came less than 90 minutes before the end of trading. The Dow's drop was its largest loss ever during the course of a trading day, but it recovered to a loss of 347 at the close. All the major indexes lost more than 3 percent.

There were reports that the sudden drop was caused by a trader who mistyped an order to sell a large block of stock. The drop in that stock's price was enough to trigger "sell" orders across the market.

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Shoppers hand retailers solid spring

NEW YORK (AP) - Americans gave retailers a respectable spring selling season, resulting in a slew of stores raising their earnings outlooks.

Though April shopping fell off from March's blistering pace, the full spring picture shows consumers more willing to buy higher-priced merchandise and pay full price. Those are encouraging signs for the economy, but the path to recovery is still expected to be rocky.

Overall revenue at stores open at least a year rose 0.8 percent in April, compared with a 2.7 percent decline a year ago, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers Index of 30 retailers. That followed a 9 percent gain in March, the largest percentage gain since March 1999.

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Productivity growth ebbs; hiring outlook uncertain

WASHINGTON (AP) - Companies are reaching a point where they can no longer squeeze more work out of leaner staffs, normally a sign that a hiring rebound could be near. But the growing European debt crisis is unsettling the global economy, and may affect employers' hiring plans.

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U.S. productivity grew at an annual rate of 3.6 percent in the first quarter, down sharply from the previous three quarters. Analysts predict productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, will slow even further.

The job market is showing gradual improvement, according to a second Labor report. Applications for unemployment benefits dropped for a third straight week, decreasing by 7,000 to 444,000.

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Europe faces debt contagion fear

LONDON (AP) - As Europe works to douse its government debt crisis the flames just keep spreading, with the euro and U.S. stocks sinking Thursday along with confidence that politicians and central bankers can act fast enough to save the continent from an economic tailspin.

Lawmakers approved drastic austerity cuts Thursday needed to secure international rescue loans worth 110 billion euros, or about $140 billion. Europe's top central banker downplayed the risks of contagion - but ratings agency Moody's rattled markets by warning that banks in Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Britain could all be hurt by a widening debt crisis.

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BP brings in the big box to deal with oil disaster

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (AP) - Workers gathered to begin lowering a giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the sea Thursday in a risky and untested bid to capture most of the gushing crude and avert a wider environmental disaster.

The 100-ton containment vessel is designed to collect as much as 85 percent of the oil spewing into the Gulf and funnel it up to a tanker. It could take several hours to lower it into place by crane, after which a steel pipe will be installed between the top of the box and the tanker. The whole structure could be operating by Sunday.

The technology has been used a few times in shallow waters, but never at such extreme depths - 5,000 feet down, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine.

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Geithner, Paulson make case for overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) - The two leading architects of the financial bailout made the case Thursday that Congress must give regulators more power to curb risk-taking on Wall Street.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a special panel investigating the financial crisis that the government should have acted more aggressively ahead of the crisis. He used his testimony to push for the Obama administration's financial regulatory overhaul, which has reached a critical point in the Senate.

His predecessor, Henry Paulson, also told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that a reworking of the regulatory system was needed. But Paulson, who led the Bush administration's response to the crisis in 2008, cautioned that overly stringent regulation could stifle innovation.

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DirecTV 1Q profit almost triples as revenue rises

DirecTV Inc., the nation's largest satellite TV provider, reported Thursday that its net income nearly tripled after it added new video customers principally at the expense of rival cable companies. But growth appears to be slowing.

The El Segundo, Calif., company added 100,000 net U.S. customers in the quarter, down from last year's 460,000, which was inflated by long holdouts to subscription TV service finally signing up as the country switched to digital broadcasting from analog.

DirecTV, rival satellite TV company Dish Network Corp. and phone companies offering video service have been chipping away at cable's two-thirds share of the subscription TV market.

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Calif. AG sues former pension officials for fraud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued two former officials of CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund, for fraud, alleging a system of kickbacks in exchange for outside firms winning a piece of the fund's lucrative investment portfolio.

The lawsuit, announced Thursday, is the product of an investigation into the role of so-called placement agents, the middlemen hired by money-management firms to help them win business with investors.

The alleged kickback scheme raises questions about whether CalPERS board members and investment officers had the best interests of the state's pensioners at heart when they made investment decisions for the fund.

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Oil settles near $77 as stock market plummets

NEW YORK (AP) - Oil prices on Thursday dropped to levels not seen since February, as the stock market plummeted.

Benchmark crude lost $2.86 to settle at $77.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil hit $73.71 on Feb. 16 and has lost almost $10 a barrel since Monday.

Crude was lower at midday and the price slide picked up speed as the stock market tanked. Investors flew to safer havens in gold and bonds. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged almost a thousand points, about 9 percent, before recovering some ground. The Dow closed down about 348 points, or 3.2 percent. NASDAQ and the S&P 500 posted similar percentage losses.

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Treasury prices skyrocket as stocks plunge

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Interest rates plummeted in the bond market Thursday as stocks swooned on the latest worries about Europe's debt crisis.

Traders barreled into Treasurys as the Dow Jones industrial average took a spectacular plunge of nearly 1,000 points in early afternoon trading. Stocks quickly recovered the worst of their losses but the Dow still ended the day down 348 points.

The losses were made worse by computer-driven trading, and were driven by worries that Greece's debt crisis would spread.

By The Associated Press

The Dow closed down 347.80, or 3.2 percent, at 10,520 after earlier falling almost 1,000 points. That was its biggest point loss since February 2009.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the index most closely watched by market pros, fell 37.75, or 3.2 percent, to 1,128.15. The Nasdaq composite index lost 82.65, or 3.4 percent, and closed at 2,319.64.

Benchmark crude lost $2.86 to settle at $77.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline fell 6.41 cents to settle at $2.1563 per gallon after losing more than 10 cents on Wednesday and about 11 cents on Tuesday.

In other Nymex trading in June contracts, heating oil fell 7.08 cents to settle at $2.1137 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude gave up $2.78 to settle at $79.83 on the ICE futures exchange.

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