Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2009 6:47 PM

Jobless rate tops 10 pct. for first time since '83

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The unemployment rate has hit double digits for the first time since 1983 _ and is likely to go higher. The 10.2 percent jobless rate for October shows how weak the economy remains even though it is growing. The rising jobless rate could threaten the recovery if it saps consumers' confidence and makes them more cautious about spending as the holiday season approaches.

The October unemployment rate _ reflecting nearly 16 million jobless people _ jumped from 9.8 percent in September, the Labor Department said Friday. The job losses occurred across most industries, from manufacturing and construction to retail and financial.

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Stocks post modest gains as job losses slow

NEW YORK (AP) _ Investors undaunted by a surprisingly weak jobs report found enough positive news to nudge stocks higher.

News that the nation's unemployment rate rose above 10 percent last month for the first time in 26 years didn't derail the stock market's strong gains in the week, which lifted major indexes more than 3 percent.

The rise in joblessness to 10.2 percent in October, while bad news for the economy, reassured some investors that the Federal Reserve will have to hold interest rates low for some time. That tends to weaken demand for the dollar, which in turn gives a boost to stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.46, or 0.2 percent, to 10,023.42, boosting its gain for the week to 311 points.

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Consumer borrowing drops $14.8B in September

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Consumers borrowed less for a record eighth straight month in September amid rising unemployment and tight credit conditions. Economists worry the declines in borrowing will drag on the fledgling recovery.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that borrowing fell at an annual rate of $14.8 billion in September. That's the biggest decline since July and was larger than the $10 billion drop economists expected.

Americans are borrowing less as they try to repair cracked nest eggs and replenish rainy day funds in a dismal jobs market. Many are finding it hard to get credit as banks, hit by the worst financial crisis in decades, have tightened lending standards.

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Regulators shut United Security Bank, small Ga. bank

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Regulators have shut United Security Bank, a small bank in Georgia, bringing the number of bank failures this year to 116 amid the struggling economy and a cascade of defaults on loans.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday took over United Security Bank, based in Sparta, Ga., with $157 million in assets and $150 million in deposits and two branches. Ameris Bank, based in Moultrie, Ga., agreed to assume the assets and deposits of the failed bank.

The failure of United Security Bank is expected to cost the federal deposit insurance fund an estimated $58 million.

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Obama signs homebuyer, jobless bill assistance

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama signed a $24 billion economic stimulus bill into law Friday, giving tax incentives to prospective homebuyers and additional jobless benefits to those idled by the business slump.

The bill-signing came a day after the House, displaying rare bipartisan agreement over the troubling employment picture nationally, voted 403-12 to pass the measure. The Senate had approved it unanimously on Wednesday.

The White House said the law, which also includes tax cuts for struggling businesses, builds on provisions in the $787 billion stimulus package enacted last February to avert an economic meltdown.

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AIG posts 2nd consecutive quarterly profit

NEW YORK (AP) _ AIG said Friday it was profitable for the second straight quarter as its core insurance operations continue to stabilize after the company's bailout by the government last year.

American International Group Inc. also said the amount of its government financial assistance dropped by 4 percent during the third quarter. Its results got a lift from the increasing value of investments it still holds that soured last year and helped drive it to the brink of collapse.

While new insurance business stabilized compared with the second quarter, it is still sharply below year-ago figures as the economy remains weak and AIG struggles with its image after being bailed out by the government. A recovery in its core insurance operations is considered vital to AIG repaying the government.

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Berkshire Hathaway says 3Q profit triples to $3.2B

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Warren Buffett's company says its third-quarter profit tripled as the improving economy and stock market boosted the value of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s derivative contracts.

Berkshire said Friday it generated $3.2 billion, or $2,087 per share, in net income. That's up significantly from last year's $1.1 billion, or $682 per share.

Most of the swing in earnings is related to unrealized gains in the value of Berkshire's derivatives, some of which are tied to credit defaults and some of which are tied to equity markets.

Berkshire's insurance companies performed well, but its other operating companies struggled.

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Freddie Mac loses $6.3B in 3Q

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Freddie Mac says its losses narrowed to $6.3 billion in the third quarter and the company didn't need a federal cash infusion.

The McLean, Va.-based mortgage finance company has received about $51 billion since it was seized by federal regulators in September 2008, but avoided tapping the government for more aid for the second-straight quarter.

The quarterly loss, which works out to $1.94 per share, includes $1.3 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $25 billion, or $19.44 per share, in the year-ago period.

The results were driven by $7.6 billion in credit losses as the company continued to build its reserves for bad mortgages.

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Oil settles lower after US unemployment report

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oil prices tumbled Friday after the government said the U.S. unemployment rate topped 10 percent for the first time since 1983.

Benchmark crude for December delivery gave up $2.19 to settle at $77.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for December delivery shed $2.12 to settle at $75.87 on the ICE Futures exchange.

America's thirst for petroleum has slumped all year. With nearly 16 million people now out of work, traders found few reasons to expect it will return anytime soon. Crude prices shed most of their gains from earlier in the week, when financial reports showed consumers were spending more, and companies were squeezing more productivity out of their workers.

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GM says Europe chief Forster to leave post

DETROIT (AP) _ Carl-Peter Forster, the chief executive of General Motors Europe who runs its struggling Opel unit, will leave the company, GM said Friday.

GM said in a statement that Forster, 55, would advise the company on picking a new Opel CEO. The statement gave no time frame for his departure.

Forster will be replaced temporarily by Nick Reilly, who is now president of GM's international operations who once ran Opel's Vauxhall operations in the United Kingdom, said a person briefed on the executive moves.

The person asked not to be identified because that move has not been announced publicly.

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.46, or 0.2 percent, to 10,023.42.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.67, or 0.3 percent, to 1,069.30, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 7.12, or 0.3 percent, to 2,112.44.

Benchmark crude for December delivery gave up $2.19 to settle at $77.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for December delivery shed $2.12 to settle at $75.87 on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 5.41 cents to settle at $2.0035 a gallon. Gasoline for December delivery lost 6.34 cents to settle at $1.9243 a gallon. Natural gas for December delivery plunged 18.7 cents to settle at $4.595 per 1,000 cubic feet.