European markets flat; U.S., Britain take holiday

European stock markets traded mostly flat Monday as investors shrugged off more sobering news about shaky government finances ahead of a busy schedule of U.S. economic data later in the week, including the May jobs report.

The CAC 40 index of leading French shares was down almost 3 points at 3,512.16, while Germany’s DAX rose 38.47 points or 0.7 percent to 5,984.65. Spain’s IBEX index fell 0.7 percent to 9,363.2.

Oil, meanwhile, rose above $74 a barrel, and the dollar gained against the yen and fell against the euro.

Markets in the U.S. and Britain were closed for public holidays.

In an otherwise quiet session due to the U.K. bank holiday, investors remained focused on Europe’s debt crisis. The French parliament was scheduled to go over a revised budget bill Monday ahead of its expected approval of France’s share of the trillion dollar bailout for struggling member states.

German markets shrugged off the surprise resignation of President Horst Koehler. Koehler resigned Monday from the largely ceremonial post after being criticized for remarks in which he appeared to link military deployments abroad with the country’s economic interests.

Eurozone inflation rose in May but stayed well below the 2 percent medium-term target set by the European Central Bank, figures released by Europe’s statistics office showed Monday.


Spain threatens reforms if labor market talks fail

Spain’s Socialist government warned Monday it will impose labor market reforms if unions and management fail to agree on changes needed for Spain to resurrect its economy — and reassure markets worried about the country’s ability to show growth and pay off debt.

The labor market talks have taken on new urgency with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero under pressure from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and President Obama to take bold action and ward off a Greek-style debt crisis that would further hurt the euro.

Two ministers said the government will give unions and management a few more days, then act decisively if needed. Hours later, another round of talks ended inconclusively.

Unions have said that if such a unilateral government decree goes against the interests of workers, they will call a general strike.

Monday had been the deadline for a deal.

Many economists criticize Spanish labor law as excessively rigid, discouraging employers from hiring. In the first quarter of this year, Spain recorded a jobless rate of just over 20 percent — the highest in the 16-nation eurozone.


British Airways cabin crew begin new round of strikes

British Airways cabin crew walked out for the 14th day Monday in an on-and-off strike over pay, benefits and working conditions, and a union leader said disruptions could continue into the summer.

Striking cabin crew walked off their jobs May 24 for five days and began the new round of strikes Sunday after the latest talks collapsed. The cabin crew union has called for another five days of strikes beginning Saturday if there is no settlement.

The airline said it plans to fly more than 70 percent of its long-haul flights, compared to the 60 percent it had operated during last week’s strike, and 55 percent of short-haul flights, up from 50 percent last week.

A big sticking point in the dispute is British Airways’ decision to take away travel benefits for cabin crew who joined in strikes.

CARACAS, Venezuela

Business leaders denying conspiracy against Chavez

Members of Venezuela’s largest business chamber said Monday that there is no pre-election conspiracy to undermine President Hugo Chavez by hoarding goods and boosting prices.

Chavez and his backers have accused business leaders of attempting to magnify Venezuela’s economic woes and weaken support for the socialist leader before legislative elections in September.

Chavez backers marched Monday to the chamber’s headquarters to demand an end to the alleged hoarding of goods and the random raising of prices. Organizers said more than 6,000 people joined the march.

Venezuela faces a deepening recession and the highest rate of inflation in Latin America, 30 percent.

Business owners blame Chavez’s socialist-oriented economic policy for the country’s financial woes, arguing that government-imposed controls are strangling the economy.


Apple sells 2 million iPads, starts Asian, European sales

Apple Inc. said Monday that iPad sales have topped 2 million since its launch almost two months ago.

The company began selling the iPad on Friday in Asia and Europe. The iPad launched April 3 in the United States.

The company had previously said it sold 1 million iPads in the United States just 28 days after its launch. As a result of the strong demand at home, Apple had pushed back the start date of its international sales.

The iPad can be used to send e-mails, draw pictures and play games. It can also be used as an electronic reader. The basic model costs $499 in the United States.


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