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Friday Afternoon Business Brief

March 7, 2014, 1:39 PM

Friday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are drifting lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street. Traders are balancing an encouraging pickup in hiring by U.S. employers last month against concerns about Ukraine, where the region of Crimea is preparing for a referendum on whether to split away and become part of Russia.

  • The efforts of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to make his state a tax-cutting example for the nation may have taken a hit. The state Supreme Court has ruled that Kansas must spend more money on its public schools -- and that the current amount of school funding is unconstitutional. But the ruling stopped short of telling lawmakers exactly how much to spend. Kansas has enacted sweeping cuts to income taxes in the last two years, reducing the amount of available resources for education funding. Now lawmakers could be forced to reconsider those cuts.
  • Illinois is buying more renewable energy than any other state in the nation. And a report by national and state environmental groups says the state's efforts have reduced pollution by the equivalent of removing a million cars from the road over the past few years. A 2009 state law allowed communities to buy their own electricity, rather than relying on a central purchasing agency. Since then, more than 600 Illinois communities have adopted aggregation, which allows them to bundle residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers.
  • L.L. Bean says it had a record year for profits and saw revenue growth of 3 percent. CEO Chris McCormick told workers today that after four consecutive years of growth, the Maine-based retailer is ready to accelerate expansion plans. He says the privately held company plans its largest single-year capital investment and will spend an additional $100 million on website changes, retail expansion and business systems. McCormick says the company has been conservative for the past few years and is now ready to "grab market share."
  • Samsung is unveiling a new free music service for its phones. The South Korean gadget maker says its Milk Music service includes over 200 stations and 13 million songs. The app is designed to be easy to use and highly customizable, but it will compete with numerous streaming music services including Pandora, Spotify and Apple's iTunes Radio. Samsung says it sees room for improvement in the services that are now available.

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