Chevron Corp. first-quarter income jumps by 36 percent

Chevron Corp. said Friday its first-quarter net income rose 36 percent, the latest strong earnings report from a major oil company.

Chevron earned higher prices for its oil around the globe. In the U.S., Chevron sold its oil for an average price of $89 per barrel in the last quarter, compared with $71 a year ago.

Internationally, Chevron sold oil for an average price of $95 per barrel, compared with $70 a year earlier.

These higher prices led to a $1.25 billion increase in profit from exploring for and producing oil and gas. Refining profits more than doubled, to $622 million.


Merck reports profits more than triple in first quarter

Merck & Co. on Friday said its first-quarter profit more than tripled as strong sales of key drugs and lower costs from integrating its Schering-Plough acquisition offset competition from generic drugs that slashed sales of two heart drugs.

The results beat Wall Street expectations and suggest drug sales and cost savings from acquiring Schering-Plough Inc. are paying off.


Geithner makes exemption to new transparency rules

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has decided to let companies continue to trade certain contracts used to guard against swings in currency values outside regulators’ view.

New rules require that many such trades happen more transparently, on exchanges where regulators can see them. But Geithner is exempting certain contracts used by companies to hedge currency rates.

The new financial overhaul law authorized Geithner to carve out such an exemption to stricter regulation.

Business groups argue that tighter oversight of such contracts would be costly and unnecessary.

Critics however, including some regulators, counter that the whole market for financial contracts called over-the-counter derivatives should face stricter supervision.


Airlines to add $20 charge to offset higher fuel costs

United and Continental are raising airfares on many U.S. routes by up to $20 per round-trip ticket. It’s the latest effort to cover spiraling fuel costs across the airline industry.

The two airlines raised prices Thursday night. Spokesman Mike Trevino says fares went up $3 each way on flights longer than 500 miles, and $10 each way for first-class tickets.

U.S. airlines have raised prices more than a half-dozen times this year. Most still lost money in the first quarter due to higher fuel costs.


EU regulators investigate banks, financial data firm

The European Union’s competition watchdog is investigating the practices of some of the world’s largest banks, as well as a clearing house and a financial data firm, in the market for credit default swaps.

The two probes home in on a market that has come under fire for lacking transparency and allegedly worsening market turmoil during the financial crisis.

While the investigations focus on competition issues, they accompany a wider regulatory crackdown in Europe and the United States on credit default swaps and other derivatives and could have implications for the broader functioning of the market. In that market, several companies control trillions of dollars of financial instruments.


Homebuilder sees profits rise, but new orders falling

Homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc. surprised Wall Street on Friday, reporting its profit more than doubled in the first three months of the year thanks to a large tax gain.

What wasn’t surprising was the builder saying its new home orders and closings fell sharply versus the same quarter last year, reflecting the absence of federal tax credits that helped boost home sales a year ago.

New home orders fell 23 percent, while closings fell 17 percent. The trends echoed declines reported this week by other homebuilders.