Business Highlights

Tuesday - 3/26/2013, 5:59pm EDT

The Associated Press

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Study: Health overhaul to raise claims cost 32 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Medical claims costs -- the biggest driver of health insurance premiums -- will jump an average 32 percent for Americans' individual policies under President Barack Obama's overhaul, according to a study by the nation's leading group of financial risk analysts.

The report could turn into a big headache for the Obama administration at a time when many parts of the country remain skeptical about the Affordable Care Act. The estimates were recently released by the Society of Actuaries to its members.

While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report concluded the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases in their individual health insurance markets, where people purchase coverage directly from insurers.

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Housing, manufacturing give US economy lift

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gains in housing and manufacturing boosted the U.S. economy over the winter, according to reports released Tuesday, and analysts say they point to the resilience of consumers and businesses as government spending cuts kick in.

U.S. home prices rose 8.1 percent in January, the fastest annual rate since the peak of the housing boom in the summer of 2006. And demand for longer-lasting factory goods jumped 5.7 percent in February, the biggest increase in five months.

February new-home sales and March consumer confidence looked a little shakier, but the overall picture of an improving economy drove stocks higher on Tuesday.

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GM in next phase of hoped for Buick revival

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stop me if you've heard this one before: There's this famous car brand whose average driver is more familiar with Social Security than social media.

General Motors Co. will make another attempt to get Buick to appeal to younger buyers with freshened up versions of the Regal midsize sports sedan and the LaCrosse luxury car. GM unveils the pair Tuesday ahead of the New York auto show.

Youth has been the theme of several Buick marketing campaigns during the last three decades, with famous pitchmen like Tiger Woods and Shaquille O'Neal. Sales have even risen recently after a dramatic and lengthy decline. But even with that recent success, odds are against GM making Buick a go-to option for large numbers of drivers below the age of 40.

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T-Mobile to start selling iPhones on April 12

NEW YORK (AP) -- T-Mobile USA on Tuesday said it will start offering the iPhone on April 12, filling what its CEO said was "a huge void" in its phone lineup.

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest of the national U.S. phone companies, has been losing customers to the bigger companies, which all sell the iPhone.

The company will charge $100 up front for the iPhone 5, then another $20 per month for two years. That's on top of service fees for voice, text and data that start at $50 per month. Total monthly cost starts at $70 per month, substantially below prices offered by bigger companies.

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Cyprus businesses hurt as banks stay shut

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Cypriot businesses were under increasing strain to keep running on Tuesday after financial authorities stretched the country's bank closure into a second week in a an attempt to stop depositors from rushing to drain their accounts.

Cyprus Central Bank governor Panicos Demetriades said "superhuman efforts are being made" to open banks on Thursday.

"Temporary" restrictions will be imposed on financial transactions once the banks open, he said, but he would not specify what they would be or how long they would be in place.

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Ratings dip but 'American Idol' gets the ads

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In the heyday of "American Idol," the notion that it could lose ratings to a zombie slugfest or standard crime drama would have been laughable.

That was then. With Fox's singing contest shedding about 20 percent of its audience so far this season to hit new lows, it's been leapfrogged repeatedly in total viewers by series like CBS' "Person of Interest" and "NCIS."

In a harsher blow to a blockbuster that once ruled the advertiser-adored young adult segment, "American Idol" has been overtaken this season by AMC's "The Walking Dead," despite the addition of glossy new "Idol" judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

But in its 12th season, "American Idol" is managing to hit the right notes with sponsors if not always with fickle viewers: It has kept its status as TV's advertising leader among series and the loyalty of its biggest backers, including Ford and Coca-Cola.