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Food costs up 6.9 percent, group says

LOS ANGELES – A basket of meats, cheese and other grocery store products cost 6.9 percent more in the first quarter of 2012 than it did a year earlier, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

A group of 16 items, including cheddar cheese, sirloin-tip roast, salad, orange juice and eggs, cost consumers $52.47 during the first three months of the year, the farm group said. During the same period last year, the price was $49.07. In the fourth quarter of 2011, it cost $49.23.

Flour, russet potatoes, apples and toasted oat cereal have all become pricier for consumers, according to the report. Only three items in the basket have gotten cheaper: whole milk, white bread and boneless chicken breasts.

Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food – less than any other country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Goldman Sachs settles insider case

NEW YORK – Goldman Sachs will pay $22 million to settle regulators’ charges that its analysts shared confidential research with favored clients.

The regulators said Goldman analysts had weekly “huddles” from 2006 to 2011 where they discussed confidential stocks research with the firm’s traders. Analysts then passed on ideas to a select group of top clients, regulators said, creating the risk of research being passed to special clients before it was published.

Goldman paid half the penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission and half to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry’s self-policing organization.

Google earnings up; stock split planned

NEW YORK – Google improved its short-term finances even as it seeks to preserve its long-term interests.

The online search leader reported a 61 percent increase in its net income for the first three months of the year and announced plans to issue a new class of stock to shareholders. The new shares won’t have any voting power and will help Google’s senior leaders keep control.

Under the plan, expected to win approval in June, all current stockholders would get one share of the Class C stock for each share they now own. This effectively splits Google’s stock price in half.

Google said that it earned $2.89 billion, or $8.75 per share, in the first quarter. That’s up from $1.8 billion, or $5.51 per share, a year earlier.

Paper clips

Best Buy Co.’s board is reportedly investigating whether its former CEO, Brian Dunn, misused company funds while he was involved in an alleged relationship with a 29-year-old female employee. The Wall Street Journal attributed its report to people familiar with the matter who requested to remain anonymous. Dunn resigned abruptly Monday.

Dow Chemical Co. said Thursday that it is raising its quarterly dividend by 28 percent, a little more than a week after announcing it will eliminate 900 jobs and close several plants. The company will increase its dividend to 32 cents from 25 cents. It is payable July 30 to shareholders of record on June 29.

• The World Bank cut its 2012 growth forecast for China on Thursday. It expects China’s economy to grow 8.2 percent, down from a previous outlook of 8.4 percent.

Exxon Mobil gave its top executive a 17 percent increase in compensation last year. Rex Tillerson, 60, received a pay package worth $25.2 million, up from $21.5 million in 2010, according to an AP analysis of a regulatory filing on Thursday.


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