GM cutting production in Russia, pulling Opel out

General Motors will slash production in Russia and pull its mass-market Opel brand completely in the face of plummeting sales in the economically troubled country.

Mainstream GM brands have been among the biggest losers as Russia’s auto market shrinks, with sales of Chevrolet down 74 percent year-on-year in February and those of Opel plunging 86 percent.

Opel will leave the Russian market by December, with Chevrolet production cut back significantly to focus on top-end products such as the Corvette sports car and Tahoe SUV, which are imported into Russia from the U.S.

American Express users to get points toward purchases

American Express is preparing to launch a customer loyalty program in the U.S. that will enable shoppers at select retailers to rack up points that they can use toward future purchases at Macy’s, Exxon Mobil, AT&T and other participating companies.

The free program, set to debut in May, is dubbed Plenti and will also include Nationwide, Rite Aid, Direct Energy and Hulu, American Express said Wednesday.

Dow, other markets show healthy increase

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 227.11 points, or 1.3 percent, to 18,076.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 25.22 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,099.50. The Nasdaq composite rose 45.39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,982.83.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.20 to close at $44.66 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $2.40 to close at $55.91 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 6.9 cents to close at $1.799 a gallon.

Shareholder suit against Herbalife dismissed

A judge dismissed a lawsuit by Herbalife shareholders who claimed that the business structure and marketing practices of the weight loss and nutritional supplements company violated the law and that they lost money because it amounts to a pyramid scheme.

Plaintiffs did not show that accusations by activist investor Bill Ackman proved fraud by Herbalife, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer in Los Angeles wrote in his ruling Tuesday.

Ackman, who runs Pershing Square Capital Management, bet heavily against the company’s stock.

– From news service reports