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Monday Afternoon Business Brief

March 19, 2012, 1:18 PM

Monday Afternoon Business Brief

U.S. stocks are higher at midday. Last week, the key averages were up nearly 2.5 percent, their best showing this year.

• Apple says it will pay shareholders a dividend and mount a huge stock buyback program. Along with being the world's most valuable company, as measured by its stock, Apple also sits on about $98 billion in cash.

• The National Association of HomeBuilders' sentiment index was unchanged this month. At the same time, builders are increasingly optimistic about the future. That's because they say more people are expressing interest in buying a new home.

• United Parcel Service plans to buy Netherlands-based TNT Express for nearly $6.8 billion in cash.  Atlanta-based UPS is the world's largest delivery company, while TNT is the second-biggest express mail company in Europe behind DHL.

• Wendy's has dethroned Burger King as the country's second biggest hamburger chain. Food industry research firm Technomic says Wendy's edged out Burger King in U.S. sales volume for the first time last year since Wendy's was founded in 1969.

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