Sugar company locks out 1,300 workers as talks fail

Replacement workers were on the job at seven American Crystal Sugar plants and a handful of employees were quietly picketing outside them Monday, after about 1,300 union members were locked out of facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The union’s contract expired at midnight Sunday after workers overwhelmingly rejected what the company called its final offer. The largest beet sugar processor in the United States had offered a 17 percent pay increase over five years, but workers were upset about provisions covering job security and health care costs.

Although American Crystal accounts for 38 percent of the country’s production of sugar from beets and 15 percent overall, the company said it doesn’t believe the lockout will affect sugar production or the industry outlook.


Banking giant HSBC to cut 30,000 jobs worldwide

British banking group HSBC said Monday it will cut 30,000 jobs worldwide by 2013 and sell almost half of its retail bank branches in the United States, part of a new strategy to focus on fast-growing emerging markets.

The bank, which reported a better-than-expected 3 percent increase in pretax profits through June, has already shed 5,000 jobs this year. Another 25,000 will be cut by 2013, spokesman Patrick Humphris said.

HSBC employs about 296,000 people worldwide.

As part of its restructuring, HSBC will sell 195 retail banking branches in the United States to First Niagara Bank for about $1 billion. Most of the branches to be sold are in upstate New York, while six are in Connecticut.


Disasters weigh on Allstate, but loss is less than expected

Allstate reported a second-quarter loss Monday, hammered by $2.3 billion in catastrophe losses from tornadoes, wildfires and storms.

Yet Allstate’s numbers were better than Wall Street had expected as the property and casualty insurer’s ratio for claims paid out versus dollars taken in improved. Shares rose more than 1 percent in a market that was down sharply.

The $620 million loss at the Northbrook, Ill., company amounted to $1.19 per share. That compared with a profit of $145 million, or 27 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Allstate’s adjusted loss for the quarter was $1.23 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast a wider loss of $1.46 per share.


Humana earnings climb 35 percent in second quarter

Humana Inc. posted a 35 percent surge in second-quarter profits Monday, easily beating Wall Street views, as more people enrolled in the health insurer’s Medicare plans while existing members made less use of its health care services.

The company, which has branched out into health care delivery, also raised its earnings forecast for the full year to a range of $7.50 to $7.60 per share, up from $6.70 to $6.90 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict, on average, an annual profit of $7.02 per share.

For the three months ended June 30, Humana earned $460.3 million, or $2.71 per share. That compares to $340.1 million, or $2 per share, last year.


Oil prices slip below $95 on weak industrial data

Oil fell Monday as early enthusiasm about a deal on the nation’s debt ceiling turned to concern about the global economy following weak readings on U.S. and Chinese manufacturing.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery fell 81 cents to settle at $94.89 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was as high as $98.60 earlier in the session.

Brent crude, used to price many international oil varieties, added 7 cents to settle at $116.81 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.