BP probe sparks decline in stocks

NEW YORK -- Stocks took another late-day dive Tuesday after the government said it was starting criminal and civil investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 112 points shortly before the close and minutes after Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement. Stocks in energy companies and oil service providers tumbled on the news, and other stocks followed.

Analysts have said the oil spill has been among the many issues nagging at investors in recent weeks. Among the fears is the potential economic impact of the spill.

Trading was choppy for much of the day before Holder's announcement, a sign that investors weren't sure where to put their money. Investors were juggling worries about Europe's debt problems with upbeat reports on U.S. manufacturing and construction.

Alcoa, union agree on new contract

DENVER -- Aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with its largest union Tuesday, avoiding a possible strike that would have affected thousands of workers.

Details of the four-year agreement between Alcoa and the Steelworkers Union were not immediately available. It still must be ratified by union members.

The current contract covers about 5,400 employees at 10 facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Washington, Tennessee, Indiana, New York, Iowa, and North Carolina. Alcoa has about 59,000 employees in 31 countries, including a smelter near Goose Creek.

Canada hikes rates before rest of G7

TORONTO -- Canada on Tuesday became the first Group of Seven nation to raise interest rates since the global financial crisis, but said any further hikes would depend on global economic conditions.

The Bank of Canada increased its key interest rate by a quarter point to 0.50 percent from a record-low rate of 0.25 percent.

The bank said thus far the impact of Europe's sovereign debt crisis in Canada has largely been limited to a modest fall in commodity prices.

It said the decision to raise rates still leaves considerable monetary stimulus in place.

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Economists widely expected the central bank to raise rates after the country's economy grew 6.1 percent in the first three months of this year.

HP's tech services unit to cut payroll

NEW YORK -- Hewlett-Packard Co. said Tuesday it will lay off about 9,000 workers in the unit that provides technology services to other businesses as the company consolidates and automates its commercial data centers.

The cuts will be made over three years and amount to 3 percent of HP's global work force of 304,000 employees as of October, the most recent figure available. HP said it plans to replace two-thirds of those jobs to boost its global sales and delivery staff.

HP said the cuts will result from productivity gains and automation in the data centers, which are clusters of computers that customers tap into to store data and perform other tasks.

Once it completes the restructuring, HP said it will see savings of about $500 million to $700 million a year.