Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Nov 27, 2009 5:26 PM

Signs of life in stores as holiday shopping begins

The nation's shoppers took advantage of deals on toys and TVs with some renewed vigor in stores and online on Black Friday after a year of concentrating their spending on basic necessities.

Though the first numbers won't be available until Saturday, early reports indicated bigger crowds than last year, with people buying more and even throwing in some items for themselves.

It was an encouraging sign for retailers, which have suffered through a year of sales declines, and perhaps also for the broader economy, which could use a kickstart from consumer spending.

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Dubai crisis jolts markets, but early fears ease

NEW YORK (AP) _ Dubai's debt crisis rattled world financial markets Friday, raising concerns that some banks could further tighten lending and stall the global economic recovery.

Stock and commodity markets tumbled in New York, London and Asia as investors flocked to the U.S. dollar as a safe haven. But earlier concerns that the crisis might trigger another financial meltdown seemed to ease after some analysts downplayed the risks for U.S. banks, which are thought to have little exposure to the Middle Eastern city-state.

U.S. stocks fell sharply but rebounded from their lows as investors concluded that the damage might be contained. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 155 points, or roughly 1.5 percent, in a shortened trading day, and other stock averages also sank.

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Crude prices fall on Dubai debt jitters

NEW YORK (AP) _ Shades of the roiling energy markets that were set off last year by the crisis on Wall Street emerged again Friday with crude seeing the largest percentage drop in prices since January.

The sell-off this time followed troubling news from Dubai, which asked lenders for a six-month reprieve on payments for about $60 billion in debt.

Benchmark crude prices plunged by 7 percent in early trading, though those declines eased as investors weighed the chances that Dubai's problems would spread to Europe, Asia and the United States. It was partly the fear of frozen credit markets last year that sent crude prices from $147 per barrel in July to about $32 by December.

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Dollar falls briefly against the yen but rallies against euro

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The dollar fell briefly to its lowest level in 14 years against the Japanese yen Friday but rallied against the euro and other currencies as Dubai's debt problems roiled currency markets.

Analysts said they expected the dollar's recent strengthening against some major currencies to be short-lived. They noted the immense borrowing needs of the U.S. government, which relies heavily on foreigners to finance budget deficits exceeding $1.4 trillion annually.

Further declines in the dollar would help boost U.S. exports on global markets. But they won't bolster the confidence of foreign investors who are needed to buy billions in federal government debt.

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GM: Opel to launch new models in break-even plan

FRANKFURT (AP) _ General Motors Co.'s top European official said Friday that a plan for Opel to be unveiled next month will include a schedule to launch new models and a financial break-even target.

Nick Reilly's comments in an official GM blog came as the U.S. automaker finalizes its restructuring plan for Opel and British sister brand Vauxhall, a program it has said will result in about 9,000 job cuts across the continent.

GM is currently in consultations with European government officials and employee representatives.

Reilly said this week that the up to 60 percent of the job cuts could come from Germany, and that the future of an Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium is "uncertain."

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FAA transcripts show efforts to reach Flight 188

After a Northwest Airlines plane flew past Minneapolis last month, air traffic controllers asked the pilots repeatedly for explanations about why they didn't heed radio calls, according to transcripts released on Friday.

The Oct. 21 flight had been out of contact for 77 minutes before the pilots responded. The pilots told controllers right away that they had been distracted, but didn't give details, according to the transcript of their radio conversations released by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Air traffic controllers ultimately had the pilots perform several turns to verify that they were in control of the plane. It landed safely in Minneapolis, and was met at the gate by police.

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Saab: New buyers emerge after Koenigsegg collapse

STOCKHOLM (AP) _ A spokeswoman for General Motors' Saab unit says several potential buyers have expressed interest in the Swedish brand after specialty car maker pulled out of a deal to acquire it.

On Tuesday, a group led by Sweden's Koenigsegg Automotive AB dropped out of a deal to buy Saab that had been in the works since June.

Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs says a few potential buyers have approached Saab after the deal fell through. She didn't identify the potential suitors Friday but said Saab was in close contact with more than one.

A person briefed on GM's plans said Wednesday that it hasn't talked to any potential buyers. Saab has been in a court-protected restructuring since Feb. 20.

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Canada high court rules for Wal-Mart in union case

TORONTO (AP) _ The Supreme Court of Canada said Friday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was entitled to close a store in Quebec in 2005, seven months after workers voted to become the first Wal-Mart in North America to unionize.

The highest court in Canada ruled in a 6-3 margin that the multinational had the right to shut down the outlet in Jonquiere, Quebec, and lay off 190 employees.

A Wal-Mart Canada spokesman said the ruling is consistent with previous decisions from a Quebec labor commission and the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal.

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Government delays new ban on Internet gambling

WASHINGTON (AP) _The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are giving U.S. financial institutions an additional six months to comply with regulations designed to ban Internet gambling.

The two agencies said Friday that the new rules, which were to take effect on Dec. 1, would be delayed until June 1 of next year.

A key Democratic opponent of the ban on online gambling praised the action and said it would give Congress time to overturn a law passed in 2006 when Republicans controlled Congress.

The delayed rules would curb online gambling by prohibiting financial institutions from accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers to settle online wagers.

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Deflation, surging yen threaten Japan's recovery

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan got word Friday that prices fell again in October, just as a surging yen threatens to worsen the deflation that is undermining the country's fragile economy.

The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh food, retreated at a near-record pace of 2.2 percent from a year earlier, the government said. Prices have now fallen for eight straight months _ a trend that the government highlighted last week for the first time in three years.

The news came amid heightened concern over the Japanese currency, which hit a new 14-year high against the dollar. A strong yen and deflation represent a perilous combination for the world's second-biggest economy.

By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 154.48, or 1.5 percent, to 10,309.92. It was the Dow's biggest drop since Oct. 30.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 19.14, or 1.7 percent, to 1,091.49, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 37.61, or 1.7 percent, to 2,138.44.

Benchmark crude for January delivery fell $1.91 to settle at $76.05 on Nymex.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 2.79 cents to $1.9622 a gallon. Gasoline for December delivery dropped 7.14 cents to settle at $1.9262 a gallon. Natural gas for January delivery climbed 2.9 cents to close at $5.192 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for January delivery rose 19 cents to settle at $77.18 on the ICE Futures exchange.