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PODCAST: Auto profits grow, PepsiCo profits stay flat

A detail of the Pepsi Cola sign is seen in the outfield as the New York Mets host the Atlanta Braves during their Opening Day Game at Citi Field on April 5, 2012 in New York City. Nick Laham/Getty Images

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Italian carmaker Fiat says first-quarter profits more than tripled thanks to results at its U.S. unit Chrysler, which posted its best quarter in 13 years. The German carmaker Volkswagen is reporting strong quarterly profits, thanks to a 26 percent increase in sales last quarter. Audi, which is owned by VW, performed especially well.

The parent of United Airlines lost $448 million in the first quarter as it dealt with higher fuel prices and hiccups in its integration with Continental Airlines. Discount airline JetBlue Airways topped estimates for first-quarter profit on Thursday, as average fares increased and it was able to offset higher expenses with rising revenue.

Contracts to purchase previously owned U.S. homes increased solidly to a near two-year high in March, suggesting the spring selling season got off to a firmer start and offering hopes of a pickup in housing.

The government said today the number of people signing up for unemployment benefits dropped over the last week, but not by much. The fact that about 388,000 people needed to file for the benefits is taken as a sign that the labor market has a lot more healing to do.

Oil giant ExxonMobil said this morning its profit dropped 11 percent last quarter…compared with a year ago. Shipping giant UPS reported a higher quarterly profit and affirmed its 2012 outlook, with package volume up in the quarter driven by e-commerce.

Pepsico said this morning its profits were flat last quarter. Analysts are blaming those flat profits on the rising cost of ingredients.

Back in 2001, the National Museum of Art in the Ukraine loaned a pair of valuable paintings to its government.  Someone thought the works by Ukrainian impressionist Mykola Hlushchenko might look nice hanging in the building where the cabinet ministers hang out.  Tests now show somebody in these corridors of power swapped the paintings and put up clever fakes. Earlier this month, the art museum’s director was fired.  He’d been clamoring for the paintings back and now wants an investigation into the fakes. 

To Sweden, where an invitation for a formal government dinner with top officials – went out to the wrong person. Instead of sending the invitation to the former deputy prime minister, Margareta Winberg, organizers sent an invitation to Margereta Winberg…the retired occupational therapy assistant. Well that Winberg showed up… And was allowed to stay at the dinner. She summed up the experience this way to the Swedish newspaper, The Local, saying, “the food was nice and there were a lot of people talking and talking.”

Time Magazine hosted an event earlier this week in New York celebrating the people the magazine considers the world’s 100 most influential. People like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Turns out one of the most popular people at the event was Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx. According to the New York Post… She was called over to Clinton’s table for a long conversation. No word on whether Blakely will be sent to North Korea to help another one of the 100 most influential — Kim Jong Un — look his best.

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