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AP Financial News Summary at 7:12 p.m. EDT

July 14, 2004

Lay Contends He Was Clueless About Fraud

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HOUSTON (AP) _ Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay describes his return to CEO just months before the energy company’s collapse in terms that make him sound like he was a student cramming for a final after letting others do the coursework.

Stocks Close Lower on Poor Retail Report

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks slumped Wednesday as a worrisome combination _ lower-than-expected retail sales and a disappointing forecast from Intel Corp. _ offset upbeat earnings news from McDonald’s Corp. and other companies.

Retail Sales Fall to 16-Month Low

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lethargic shoppers depressed sales at America’s retailers in June by the largest percentage in 16 months. Looking ahead, though, buyers are expected to show more energy.

Apple’s 3Q Profit Beats Estimates

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Apple Computer Inc. posted stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit and revenues Wednesday on heavy sales of its computers and portable music players.

United Skips Pension Payment; Unions Wary

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CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines is deferring a required quarterly payment of $72.4 million to its employee pension funds, underscoring the pensions’ vulnerability as the cash-strapped carrier seeks financing to exit bankruptcy.

Report: States’ Offshore Reliance Broad

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Until the practice began stirring controversy, 42 of 50 U.S. states used overseas call centers to answer questions from food stamp recipients, according to a report by a union affiliate opposed to offshoring.

Bank of America 2Q Profit Rises 41 Percent

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Bank of America Corp. said Wednesday its second-quarter profit soared 41 percent, easily surpassing Wall Street expectations with a boost from the results of newly-acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp.

Source: Harrah’s in Talks to Buy Caesars

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LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. is negotiating to buy gambling rival Caesars Entertainment Inc. and leapfrog ahead of the proposed merger of MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resort Group as the biggest gambling company in the world.

McDonald’s Stock Surges on Positive Report

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CHICAGO (AP) _ McDonald’s Corp.’s sales resurgence carried it to better-than-expected profits this spring, the company said Wednesday _ an announcement that sent its stock up sharply.

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