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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Sales fall at U.S. stores, Starbucks cuts bagged-coffee prices, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Now's a good time to bulk up on Starbucks' bagged coffee.
Now's a good time to bulk up on Starbucks' bagged coffee. Starbucks

1. RETAIL SALES FALL
Sales fell by 0.4 percent at U.S. stores in March, the steepest drop in nine months, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Friday. The decline was bigger than expected — economists had forecast a 0.1 percent fall — and it came as the figures for sales in January and February were revised lower. The news weighed on stocks, as analysts said it suggested it was an indication that this year's increase in Social Security taxes and February's rise in gas prices had hit consumers hard. "The economy appears to have lost some momentum," says Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics. [Associated Press]
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2. JPMORGAN PROFITS RISE
JPMorgan Chase kicked off the quarterly earnings season for the nation's banks on Thursday, reporting a better-than-expected 33 percent jump in profit over the first three months of the year. JPMorgan attributed the gains to a rise in mortgage lending along with solid gains in investment banking. It also benefited from a decline in the amount spent on litigation over the "London Whale," a slowly fading scandal involving $6 billion in trading losses last year. Still, most of JPMorgan's businesses did only so-so, and its overall revenue declined, sending its stock falling by one percent early Friday. The company is America's largest bank, so it's results are viewed as a sign of how the industry's doing as a whole. [New York Times, Reuters]
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3. JUDGE SAYS NO TO HORTON'S $20 MILLION SEVERANCE
A bankruptcy judge has rejected a $20 million severance package proposed for AMR Corp. and American Airlines Inc. chairman and chief executive Tom Horton under the company's proposed merger with US Airways. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane ruled Thursday that the compensation violated bankruptcy rules adopted in 2005 to prevent excessive payments to executives of struggling companies. The decision won't affect the merger, which Lane has already verbally approved, but it will force the companies and some of their creditors back to the table to work out how much to pay Horton on his way out the door. [Dallas Morning News]
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4. FORMER KPMG PARTNER FACES INSIDER TRADING CHARGES
Federal authorities filed insider trading charges Thursday against Scott London, a former partner at accounting firm KPMG who was fired for allegedly giving a friend confidential information about five clients, including Herbalife and Skechers. Investigators say London, who personally oversaw audits for Herbalife and Skechers, tipped off close friend Bryan Shaw several days before the information was made public, in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars and valuable gifts, including a Rolex watch and Bruce Springsteen concert tickets. Shaw, who was also charged, allegedly made more than $1.27 million over several years on stock trades ahead of earnings or merger announcements. [USA Today]
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5. STARBUCKS LOWERS PRICES ON BAGGED COFFEE
With the cost of coffee beans falling, Starbucks is cutting the price it recommends that grocery stores charge for its bagged coffee. Starting May 10, the Seattle chain is lowering 12-ounce bags of its whole and ground coffee to $8.99, from $9.99. Starbucks is also lowering prices on its Seattle's Best brand, from $7.99 a bag to $6.99. Don't expect a break from your local Starbucks baristas, though. Starbucks isn't changing prices for brewed coffee at its cafes. [Associated Press]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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