Around the business world
GM narrows first quarter loss but says more work is needed: DETROIT – General Motors Corp. managed to stem the flow of red ink in the first quarter, significantly narrowing its losses as the results from a major restructuring began to take hold, but the automaker acknowleged it still has a long way to go before it returns to profitability.Merck, other drugmakers post big jumps in first-quarter profit: TRENTON – Drugmakers Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly and Co. post double-digit increases in first-quarter profit, while Schering-Plough Corp. triples its small profit of a year ago. All three pharmaceutical companies beat analysts’ expectations on net income, but Merck and Lilly came in slightly under what the analysts expected on revenue.Bank of America first-quarter profit up 14 percent: NEW YORK – Bank of America Corp. said first-quarter profit surged 14 percent as the nation’s largest retail bank was boosted by its acquisition of credit card company MBNA Corp. Meanwhile, Bank of New York Corp., which recently announced its exit from retail banking, reported that growth in its securities servicing business lifted first-quarter profit 12 percent.Chocolate maker making more: HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Hershey Co. reported a 7 percent rise in its first quarter profit as the nation’s largest candy maker posted little revenue growth. The profit narrowly missed Wall Street expectations.Airline’s losses shrinking: DALLAS – Continental Airlines Inc., one of the nation’s biggest airlines, said its first-quarter loss narrowed as higher revenue and cost cuts helped boost its results. Southwest Airlines Co., meanwhile, said first-quarter profit rose modestly as higher jet fuel costs somewhat offset strong revenue growth, driven by increased passenger traffic and expanded capacity.Da Vinci dispute settled: NEW YORK – “The Da Vinci Code,” the mega-selling thriller, does not infringe the copyrights of a book published in 2000 by another author because the books are not substantially similar, a federal appeals court says. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a five-page order this week which upheld the decision by U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels in favor of author Dan Brown.Skilling testimony wraps up: HOUSTON – Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling wrapped up lengthy testimony in his fraud and conspiracy trial Thursday, ending by denying a prosecutor’s new accusation: that he may have cheated on his taxes. He calmly denied backdating a $10,000 gift check to an ex-girlfriend to avoid paying taxes on it in 1998, and revealed to jurors that he has heard no cries of foul from the Internal Revenue Service despite repeated reviews of his tax returns. “I paid my taxes,” he said – more than $66 million from 1997 through 2004. Several other witnesses were slated to testify before his co-defendent, Enron founder Kenneth Lay, takes his turn on the witness stand as early as Monday.Info crucial to reviving economically hit areas: NEW YORK – Gathering more and better information on communities that have fallen on economic hard times is crucial to efforts to revive these areas, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday. “The development of more and better data on economically distressed communities, together with sophisticated tools for analyzing those data, is essential for continued progress in community economic development,” Bernanke said in prepared remarks delivered via satellite to an economic development summit in Los Angeles.Google expected to report another blockbuster quarter: SAN FRANCISCO – Online search engine leader Google Inc. is expected to report another huge profit increase when it will release its first-quarter results. The company’s stock has soared in the last couple weeks as more investors bet that Google will continue to be the big winner as advertisers increase their spending.