Business Roundup for Monday, March 31.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are closing higher as the market posts a meager gain for the first three months of the year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 1,872 Monday. The index gained 1.3 percent for the first quarter of the year, the fifth straight quarterly gain. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 134 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,457. The Nasdaq composite rose 43 points, or 1 percent, to 4,199. Microsoft rose 2 percent after its Office for iPad software was released last week to highly positive reviews. Traders were encouraged by remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who said she thinks the U.S. job market should continue to be supported by low interest rates for some time.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's health insurance website has been hit by some technical problems today amid a rush of people trying to beat the deadline to sign up for coverage. The Obama administration says the latest glitch was preventing last-minute users from creating new accounts, but that's been resolved. The Obama administration and the states appear to be on track to sign-up about 6.5 million people for subsidized private health insurance through the new online markets

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has been hearing a case about whether it's too easy for high-tech companies to patent inventions that are not really new. The justices today appeared to struggle to come up with a middle ground that would recognize true inventions as opposed to those that simply take an old idea and blend it with computer wizardry. The issue has divided the nation's technology giants, with some saying new restrictions could nullify thousands of existing patents and others saying free flowing patents can block innovation.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Apple and Samsung are back in court today accusing each other of ripping off designs and features. The trial in Silicon Valley marks the latest in a series of lawsuits between the two tech giants that underscore the larger concern about what is allowed to be patented. The case is being tried less than two years after a federal jury found Samsung was infringing on Apple patents and ordered the company to pay about $900 million. This time Apple is accusing Samsung of infringing on five patents on newer devices.

NEW YORK (AP) — New York's attorney general says FedEx Corp. has cost the state more than $10 million by unlawfully shipping contraband cigarettes to consumers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made the allegation today as he announced that New York is joining a federal lawsuit that New York City officials have brought against the high-speed mail carrier. It alleges FedEx made nearly 33,000 illegal shipments of cigarettes to consumers in New York state between 2006 and 2012.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Fed's efforts to boost the economy are still needed. In her first major speech since taking over as Fed chair in February, Yellen describes the U.S. job market as being less than healthy despite some improvement. She says the difficulty many people are still having finding full-time work shows that low rates are still needed to encourage borrowing and spending.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson has accepted an offer of about $4 billion from the private equity firm The Carlyle Group to buy its Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business. The Ortho-Clinical business supplies hospitals, testing laboratories and blood banks with equipment and chemicals to screen donated blood for HIV, hepatitis C and other serious diseases. It also makes technology for advanced blood testing to diagnose health conditions and to monitor medication effects. J&J says the deal should close by mid-year.

TURIN, Italy (AP) — The CEO of Fiat and Chrysler says the merged company will be able to increase production to more than 6 million cars a year, a level he has long said is the minimum for an automaker to compete in the global market. Sergio Marchionne aims to complete the legal merger of Fiat and Chrysler by the end of the year, creating Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The carmakers delivered a combined 4.4 million cars last year, and Marchionne says they aim to sell as many as 4.6 million this year.

BERLIN (AP) — Travelers with plans to fly Germany's Lufthansa airline later this week need to start finding a backup. Lufthansa says it is canceling some 3,800 flights because of a three-day strike by the pilots' union set to start Wednesday. The airline says some 425,000 passengers will be affected. The strike will also affect Lufthansa Cargo as well as the company's budget airline Germanwings.



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