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April 17, 2013 01:19 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Falling energy prices and disappointing earnings reports are sending stock prices sharply lower on Wall Street. Energy stocks are leading the decline as the price of crude oil falls for the fourth day out of five. Bank stocks are also lower after Bank of America reported earnings that fell short of analysts' expectations.

  • Signs of weak demand for fuel in the U.S. are sinking the price of oil. The Energy Department says demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended April 12 was 3.3 percent less than a year earlier, averaging 8.4 million barrels a day. In afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, benchmark oil for May delivery was down $2.51, or 2.8 percent, to $86.21 a barrel.
  • Shares of Apple Inc. have fallen below $400 for the first time in a year and half. It's been down more than 5 percent today after a supplier hinted at a slowdown in iPhone and iPad production. At one point today the stock hit $398.11, the lowest level since December 2011. The decline has at least temporarily cost Apple its position as the world's most valuable publicly traded company to Exxon Mobil.
  • Google Inc. says it doesn't know what caused its mail and application services to become unavailable to some users this morning. The disruptions started affecting people worldwide around 8 a.m. Eastern time but appeared to be resolved by midday. Google didn't say how many people were affected.
  • Microsoft is offering enhanced security for email, storage and other services. People who turn on the new feature will be asked not just for a username and password, but also a second piece of information, such as a temporary code sent as a text message to a phone on file. The security enhancements work with all Microsoft accounts. Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. already allow two-step verification as an option.
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  • Economy/Stocks

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