Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Nov 30, 2009 5:39 PM

Worries that Dubai washing its hands of debt woes

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ If global investors were looking for reassurances from Dubai that it would stand behind its massive, debt-swamped investment conglomerate, they got none Monday. Instead, the Gulf city-state seemed to wash its hands of the financial woes that have rattled world markets.

The muddled message from Dubai has fueled worries over a possible default by the conglomerate. Many investors are hoping that Dubai World will either openly discuss restructuring of some $60 billion in debt with its creditors, or that Dubai's larger, oil-rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi, will step in to restore confidence by promising to foot any bills.

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Online retailers rev up deals to keep up momentum

NEW YORK (AP) _ Retail Web sites kept amping up the deals Monday, the first day after Thanksgiving weekend's strong online sales, to try to maintain the momentum.

Meanwhile, a research firm that tracks business at stores reported tepid sales and customer traffic for Friday and Saturday that confirmed a so-so start to the season for the bricks-and-mortar world.

Though the Web is only about 10 percent of the holiday shopping pie, it's seen most of the growth so far this year _ an encouraging sign after last year's first online sales decline.

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Stocks turn higher to extend month's big gains

NEW YORK (AP) _ The stock market closed out its best month since the summer, posting big gains for November even as investors worried about the strength of the holiday shopping season.

Stocks fluctuated through the day Monday, but finished modestly higher as traders ultimately were not deterred by reports that retail sales were overall uninspiring during the Thanksgiving weekend. Retailers including Macy's Inc. and Saks Inc. fell sharply but online merchants like Amazon.com Inc. shot higher on reports of strong Internet sales.

Despite the tepid finish, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose more than 5 percent in November, their biggest monthly advance since July.

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Gov't increases pressure on mortgage industry

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Faced with sluggish progress in its foreclosure-prevention effort, the Obama administration will spend the coming weeks cracking down on mortgage companies that aren't doing enough to help borrowers at risk of losing their homes.

Treasury Department officials said Monday they will step up pressure on the 71 companies participating in the government's $75 billion effort to stem the foreclosure crisis. The will start this week by sending three person "SWAT teams" to monitor the eight largest companies' work and requesting twice-daily reports on their progress.

The mortgage companies, also known as loan servicers, have had a hard time getting borrowers to complete the needed paperwork for the administration's loan modification program.

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Oil prices spike after Iran seizes yacht

Oil prices jumped Monday after Britain said a racing yacht was seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf and that five U.K. nationals were being held.

Crude quickly climbed $1.23 and settled at $77.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The yacht may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters when it was stopped last Wednesday, British officials said.

The jump in prices comes as the gap between what drivers are paying for gasoline in the U.S. compared with a year ago is widening. That gap will likely grow through December, largely because prices were in freefall last year at this time.

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Fed moves to drain some money out of economy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Reserve is fine-tuning a strategy to reel in some of the unprecedented amount of money that's been pumped into the economy during the financial crisis.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Monday that investors and others shouldn't conclude anything about when the central bank will reverse course and start boosting interest rates and removing other supports to fend off inflation.

The upcoming operations will involve so-called reverse repurchase agreements. That's when the Fed sells securities from its portfolio, with an agreement to buy them back later.

Reverse repos are one tool the Fed can use to drain some money it has plowed into the economy to ease financial troubles.

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Don't bet newspapers will get rich shunning Google

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ There's an intriguing idea floating around the media: Microsoft Corp. wants to undercut Google so badly in Internet search that it might pay newspapers to withhold their content from Google. Just don't count on that turning into a lucrative plan for newspapers.

The unorthodox strategy faces stumbling blocks, starting with this one: Microsoft is unlikely to fund a Google boycott, according to three people familiar with Microsoft's discussions with a variety of publishers. These people spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are still in early stages.

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Court hears Vioxx lawsuit arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lawyers for Merck & Co. told the Supreme Court Monday that investors waited too late and didn't do all of the necessary investigations to sue the drug maker over whether it properly warned about the risks of its blockbuster painkiller Vioxx.

Whether the high court agrees with the drug maker will help clarify the legal standards for determining exactly when the clock starts running for the two-year window to sue a company accused of defrauding investors.

Merck wants the high court to overturn a decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that will let proceed a class-action securities lawsuit related to the tens of billions of dollars in shareholder value lost overnight after Merck pulled Vioxx off the market.

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eBay fined in France for selling upscale perfumes

PARIS (AP) _ Online auction site eBay Inc. was fined euro1.7 million ($2.5 million) by a Paris court on Monday for failing to stop the sale of famous perfume brands like Christian Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy and Kenzo _ all of which are owned by luxury group LVMH.

The decision follows a ruling last year against eBay for not respecting the system championed by brand owners such as LVMH and Richemont SA, the Swiss maker of Cartier watches, which is called selective distribution.

The brand owners argue that luxury goods are valuable when they are exclusive and available in selected outlets _ and not in an online free-for-all.

EBay, meanwhile, has been calling for a change in European antitrust rules that allow luxury manufacturers to choose who can sell their branded goods online.

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Court won't disturb $82.6M award in SUV rollover

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court has left in place an $82.6 million award to a woman who was paralyzed after her Ford Explorer rolled over.

The justices on Monday rejected Ford Motor Co.'s challenge to the portion of the award, $55 million, that was intended as punitive damages. Ford argued that it should not be punished because its design of the vehicle met federal safety standards.

A California state appeals court earlier rejected Ford's contention and upheld the award to Benetta Buell-Wilson.

She was driving on an interstate east of San Diego in January 2002 when she swerved to avoid a metal object and lost control of her 1997 Explorer, which rolled 4 1/2 times. The mother of two was paralyzed from the waist down when the roof collapsed on her neck, severing her spine.

By The Associated Press

The Dow rose 34.92, or 0.3 percent, to 10,344.84.

The broader S&P 500 index rose 4.14, or 0.4 percent, to 1,095.63, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 6.16, or 0.3 percent, to 2,144.60.

Crude quickly climbed $1.23 and settled at $77.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil for December delivery added 5.6 cents to settle at $2.0181 a gallon. Gasoline added 7.46 cents to settle just above $2 a gallon. Natural gas shed nearly 7 percent, or 34.4 cents to settle at $4.848 per 1,000 cubic feet

In London, Brent crude for January delivery rose $1.29 to settle at $78.47 on the ICE Futures exchange.