RIM seeking inquiry into BlackBerry report

TORONTO - The maker of the BlackBerry said Friday that it wants U.S. and Canadian regulators to investigate a "false and misleading" report by a financial analyst that claims the company's new smartphone is being returned in unusually high numbers.

Thorsten Heins, CEO of Research In Motion Ltd., said returns of the new BlackBerry Z10 are in line with industry norms. Heins said Thursday's report from research and investment firm Detwiler Fenton has to be challenged because it is either a complete misreading of the data or a willful manipulation.

Anne Buckley, chief compliance officer with Detwiler Fenton, said the firm is confident in its research methodology and welcomed any regulatory inquiry.

Verizon extending upgrade waiting period

Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone carrier, said Friday that it is extending the time it takes to earn a subsidized phone upgrade from 20 months on contract to 24 months.

The move will save Verizon money, since it subsidizes each new smartphone by as much as $400 to get the price down to $199 or lower. With less frequent phone upgrades, it will pay out less in subsidies. The change takes effect with contracts expiring in January.


Starbucks will reduce prices in groceries, stores

Starbucks Corp., the world's largest coffee-shop operator, will lower prices for its Starbucks and Seattle's Best brand packaged coffees sold in U.S. supermarket and retail stores next month.

Prices will decrease 10 percent to $8.99 from $9.99 for a 12-ounce bag of Starbucks coffee beginning May 10. Seattle's Best prices will drop 13 percent to $6.99 from $7.99. Prices won't change for Starbucks Via instant coffee, K-Cups and Verismo pods.

Judge lets Penney sell some Stewart designs

NEW YORK - J.C. Penney can sell some goods designed by Martha Stewart that were destined for shelves this spring - for now, until a lawsuit is fully decided, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled Friday.

Rival department store chain Macy's Inc. had sought to bar J.C. Penney Co. from selling some items designed by Martha Stewart under the name JCP Everyday. Macy's has an exclusive deal with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to sell some items. Macy's said it plans to appeal the ruling.


Earnings up, revenues dip at JPMorgan, Wells Fargo

NEW YORK - JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, bellwethers for the banking industry, reported record earnings Friday, but those numbers masked slight but troubling declines in revenue.

The earnings gains came largely from slashing expenses and related measures. JPMorgan socked away less to cover potential lawsuits and released some money set aside for bad loans. Wells cut back on office space.

March sales fell 0.4%; taxes, weak hiring cited

Sales at U.S. retailers fell in March from February, indicating that higher taxes and weak hiring weighed on consumers.

Retail sales declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales at auto dealers dropped 0.6 percent. Gas station sales dropped 2.2 percent, partly reflecting lower prices.

Wholesale prices declined in March; food prices rose

WASHINGTON - In U.S. financial reports Friday:

• A measure of wholesale prices fell in March by the largest amount in 10 months, reflecting a big drop in gasoline prices. The producer price index fell 0.6 percent last month compared with February, the Labor Department said.

Food prices posted a 0.8 percent rise in March.

• Companies restocked their shelves at a much slower pace in February than January, a sign they expected consumer and business spending to weaken, the Commerce Department said.

• The Obama administration declined to label China a currency manipulator, but said China's currency remains significantly undervalued. The U.S. also cautioned Japan about its currency policies.


EU to extend repayments for Ireland, Portugal

DUBLIN - European Union finance ministers agreed Friday to grant Ireland and Portugal seven more years to pay their bailout loans.

The ministers also approved a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) loan package to stop Cyprus from sliding into bankruptcy.

The Associated Press; Bloomberg News