Business

Business briefs

Markets in Asia don't benefit from rate cut

LONDON - Markets across the globe, save for Asia, rebounded Friday after the U.S. Federal Reserve cut its primary discount rate, a surprise move aimed at easing credit and calming financial markets.

By the time the Fed acted, Asian markets had already closed down across the board. The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo fell 5.4 percent to end at 15,273.68, its lowest close in a year.

Investors from Sao Paulo to London, however, bid up shares almost immediately after the Fed announcement.

Grocers

Regulators appeal ruling favoring Whole Foods

WASHINGTON - Federal regulators Friday appealed a court ruling that allowed Whole Foods Market Inc. to purchase its rival organic grocer Wild Oats Markets Inc.

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block the $565 million acquisition, arguing that it would stifle competition and lead to higher prices in the premium organic food market. The companies say the deal won't hurt consumers because they also compete with conventional supermarkets such as Safeway Inc. and Kroger Co., which are selling increasing amounts of organic products.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman rejected the FTC's arguments in a ruling late Thursday and denied the agency's request to block the transaction.

Pharmaceuticals

Drug companies hurt by FDA's caution to approve

TRENTON, N.J. - Under growing scrutiny since the blockbuster painkiller Vioxx was pulled from the market, the Food and Drug Administration in recent months has rejected a slew of experimental drugs or delayed their approval and required more data.

Besides keeping drugs some patients might need off the market, the rejections have battered drug company stock prices and are expected to increase the cost and time it takes to develop a new drug, not to mention the price of developing future ones.

Denials and delays have hit everyone from pharmaceutical giants such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck & Co., Novartis AG, Sanofi-Aventis and Wyeth down to struggling startups trying to get their first drug on the market.

Stock buys

Buffet's company buys more shares of railroad

OMAHA, Neb. - Legendary investor Warren Buffett's company bought another 1.4 million shares of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. this week to gain control of nearly 12 percent of the nation's number two railroad.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. revealed its two latest railroad stock purchases in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday.

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