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AP Executive Morning Briefing

July 26, 2006

The top business news from The Associated Press for the morning of Wednesday, July 26, 2006:

Amazon.com’s 2Q Earnings Fall 58 Percent

SEATTLE (AP) _ Amazon.com Inc. insists its hefty investment in things like free shipping and a new toy store is the right strategy for long-term growth and customer loyalty. But increasingly, some investors are wondering when they’ll begin to see the results of those expenditures.

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Matsushita Profit Rises 7 Percent

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese electronics maker Matsushita, manufacturer of Panasonic brand products, said Wednesday profit rose 7 percent in the April-June quarter on higher sales of digital audiovisual products and aggressive cost-cutting. Net income climbed to 35.83 billion yen ($308.9 million) in the company’s fiscal first quarter from 33.44 billion yen a year earlier. Sales edged up 4 percent to 2.137 trillion yen ($18.4 billion), from 2.048 trillion yen.

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Honda Quarterly Profit Jumps 29.6 Percent

TOKYO (AP) _ Profit at Honda Motor Co. jumped 29.6 percent during the quarter through June on booming sales of its fuel-efficient models in North America and Asia. Net profit at Honda grew to 143.4 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in the fiscal first quarter, up from 110.6 billion yen the same period the previous year, Japan’s No. 3 automaker said Wednesday.

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SEC Moving to Require Exec Pay Details

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Companies would have to provide more details of their executives’ pay and perks under a plan being adopted by federal regulators. And amid a widening scandal over suspect timing of stock option grants to company officials, the Securities and Exchange Commission also is writing new rules on disclosure of the dating of options.

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Poor Farmers Lose Chance in Export Markets

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ The collapse of global trade talks this week dashes hopes held by impoverished farmers across the planet of unlocking export markets for their products, ranging from African cotton to Brazilian corn and rice from Colombia and Thailand. In Brazil alone, experts said the failure to reach a World Trade Organization agreement to slash farm subsidies means Latin America’s largest country _ one of the world’s farming breadbaskets _ will be robbed of an opportunity to boost the value of its agricultural exports nearly 25 percent.

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Heat Causes Pileup of Livestock Carcasses

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) _ The state’s record-setting heat wave has killed thousands of dairy cows and other livestock, leaving farmers with piles of carcasses and creating a backup at factories that turn the dead animals into pet food. A combination of sweltering temperatures, growth in the state’s dominant $5 billion dairy industry and fewer plants to properly dispose of the animals have forced several counties to declare a state of emergency.

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Oil Prices Rise Ahead of Inventory Data

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Oil prices rose Wednesday as traders awaited the weekly report on U.S. petroleum inventories. Relief that Israeli-Hezbollah fighting has not spread kept a lid on prices in early trading, while word of more unrest in Nigeria seemed to rattle the market. Police in Nigeria said armed attackers shut down an oil flow station in Nigeria’s southern delta in an overnight raid. The facility is operated by a subsidiary of Italian oil giant Eni SpA’s Agip subsidiary, police said.

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Dow Ends Up 53 on Late-Day Rebound

NEW YORK (AP) _ A late-day rebound gave stocks a moderate advance Tuesday as sharply lower oil prices and an unexpected jump in consumer confidence soothed investors’ unease over a batch of mixed earnings. The market fluctuated through much of the session after disappointing results from UPS Inc. and 3M Co. stoked concerns about the health of corporate profits. McDonald’s Corp. and AT&T Inc. both had strong earnings, but anxiety over interest rates and geopolitical tension kept investors from extending a solid advance in the prior session.

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Hewlett-Packard to Buy Mercury Interactive

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Hewlett Packard Co. is biting off its biggest acquisition in four years with a $4.5 billion purchase of Mercury Interactive Corp., the business management software maker that has been entangled in a stock options scandal. The deal, announced Tuesday by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker, isn’t cheap. The all-cash price works out to $52 per share _ a price that Mercury’s long-slumping stock hasn’t topped for more than two years. HP’s offer represents a 33 percent premium above Mercury’s closing price of $39 in the over-the-counter market.

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Sales of Existing Homes Fall in June

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sales of existing homes fell in June for the eighth time in the past 10 months while home prices edged up at the slowest pace in more than a decade _ more signs that the housing market has slowed dramatically. The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that sales of previously owned homes and condominiums dropped 1.3 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.62 million units.

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Gold Prices

HONG KONG (AP) _ Gold closes at $618.30 an ounce in Hong Kong, down $1.40 an ounce from Tuesday.

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Japan Markets

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese stocks fell Wednesday as investors sold electronics and consumer finance issues as they digested a string of earnings reports.

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Dollar-Yen

TOKYO (AP) _ The dollar slipped against the yen Wednesday on strong inflation numbers out of Australia and renewed uncertainty over the direction of U.S. interest rates.

A service of The Associated Press. Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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