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AP Financial News Summary at 3:11 p.m. EDT

April 24, 2006

Lay Tells of Personal Pain Over Enron

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HOUSTON (AP) _ Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay declared his innocence Monday on the witness stand, somberly saying the company’s legacy of lost jobs and wrecked retirement savings pained him even more than the loss of a loved one.

Stocks Drift on Earnings, Weak Dollar

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks drifted lower Monday as a weakening U.S. dollar and a mixed batch of first-quarter earnings reports left investors unsettled.

Sales Boost Caterpillar Profit 45 Percent

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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Caterpillar Inc. reported Monday its first-quarter profit rose 45 percent amid an ongoing sales surge, helping the maker of construction and agricultural equipment beat Wall Street estimates.

Younger Buyers Fuel Vera Bradley’s Growth

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) _ Inside a bustling warehouse, new hires at Vera Bradley Designs practice stitching paisley placemats and pink coin purses in patterns with names like Petal Pink and Chelsea Green. Nearby, others slice swatches of bold pink, blue and green quilted fabric destined to become handbags, purses and luggage.

Freddie Mac Steps Up Mortgage Purchases

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Freddie Mac took advantage of cheaper valuations in March to boost its holdings of mortgage bonds for the second month in a row.

Entertainment Groups Target TV Indecency

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LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A coalition of entertainment groups will launch a $300 million educational campaign next month to urge parents to control what their children watch on television, the groups said Monday.

American Express Sees 1Q Profit Fall

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NEW YORK (AP) _ American Express Co., which specializes in travel services and credit cards, said Monday that its net profit fell in the first quarter, reflecting the spinoff last year of its Ameriprise Financial Inc. advisory unit.

Xerox Sees 1Q Profit Decline As Sales Drop

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Xerox Corp., a maker of copiers, printers and other imaging equipment, on Monday reported a modest decline in first-quarter profit as sales dropped. Its shares dropped more than 4 percent in early trading.

Chief of CIA’s Investment Group Resigns

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The new chief of the CIA’s venture capital organization, In-Q-Tel, has resigned after just four months on the job.

Oil Prices Decline on Profit-Taking

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VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Crude oil futures retreated Monday on profit-taking after prices topped $75 a barrel last week. But underlying worries persisted after Iran _ facing a U.N. deadline to cease enriching uranium _ insisted its nuclear program was irreversible.

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