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Del Monte buying Milk-Bone

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Del Monte Foods Co., one of the nation's largest distributors of canned fruit and vegetables, said today it is adding more pet products to its business, agreeing to acquire Milk-Bone dog treats and other brands from Kraft Foods Inc. for about $580 million.

The sale includes Kraft's Milk-Bone manufacturing plant on Urban Street in Buffalo, and the Sherburne Pet Food Testing Center in Sherburne, N.Y. About 230 Kraft employees, including a business team in East Hanover, N.J., will join Del Monte.

The deal comes two weeks after Del Monte announced plans to buy catfood maker Meow Mix Holdings for $705 million and is part of Del Monte's larger plan to focus on having strong brands.

Milk-Bone is a leader in dog snacks, generating revenue of about $180 million in 2005.


Inflation slowed last month

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Inflation slowed sharply in February as food costs moderated and the price of gasoline, natural gas and other energy products posted big declines.

The Labor Department reported today that its closely watched Consumer Price Index posted a tiny 0.1 percent increase last month after having jumped 0.7 percent in January. The slowdown in price pressures was certain to be welcomed at the Federal Reserve, which has been boosting interest rates since June 2004 to make sure inflation does not get out of control.

In other economic news, the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits edged up to 309,000 last week, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week. Even with the slight increase, analysts said the level of claims was still signaling a strong labor market.

In a third report, the Commerce Department said that construction of new homes and apartments declined by 7.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.12 million units, another sign that the nation's five-year housing boom is slowing.


DuPont to cut 1,500 jobs

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Chemicals maker DuPont Co. said Wednesday it plans to cut 1,500 jobs and close four facilities in Europe in a restructuring of its performance coatings business and raised its overall earnings outlook. Its shares rose nearly 2.3 percent.

DuPont officials said the restructuring, which will take about 18 months to complete, will reduce annual costs by about $165 million. The Wilmington-based company anticipates taking a pretax charge up to $165 million in the first quarter, with additional costs of up to $55 million over the next year.


CVS reaches tobacco deal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- CVS Corp. has reached an agreement with 42 states and the District of Columbia by promising to strengthen practices that keep minors from buying tobacco products.

Under the voluntary settlement, the pharmacy chain agreed to check the identities of customers who attempt to purchase tobacco products if they look younger than 27.

CVS officials also agreed not to use self-service displays or vending machines to sell tobacco products and to train employees on state and local laws regulating tobacco sales.


Ford adds health care fee

Ford Motor Co. will charge U.S. salaried employees an extra fee for health insurance for spouses and same-sex domestic partners who have access to other coverage, as the automaker trims medical costs.

The surcharge will be $110 a month for health insurance and $11 a month for dental coverage, spokeswoman Marcey Evans said today. The fee takes effect June 1 and is part of changes in coverage for salaried workers announced in December.

-- Bloomberg News


In other business news . . .

U.S. taxpayers have received an average income tax refund of $2,423 so far this year, up 4.3 percent from the same time in 2005.

Delta Air Lines shares will be canceled as part of the company's bankruptcy.

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