Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2009 5:48 PM

Unemployment rises in almost half of metro areas

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Unemployment worsened or stayed the same in most metro areas in October, the Labor Department said Wednesday, as jobs remained scarce nationwide.

The report comes a day before the Obama administration is to hold a "jobs summit" at the White House that will gather economists, academics and corporate executives to consider how the government can spur job creation.

The jobless rate rose in 162 of the 372 metro areas tracked by the Labor Department. The rate was unchanged in 42 areas. It dropped in 168 areas.

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Fed survey finds recovery gaining momentum

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The economic recovery gained traction in late fall as shoppers spent a bit more and factories bumped up production. That assessment Wednesday by the Federal Reserve marked its most upbeat view since the economy tumbled into recession two years ago.

The Fed's new snapshot of business barometers nationwide found that conditions have generally improved since the last report in late October.

Eight of the Fed's 12 regions surveyed reported some pickup in activity or improved conditions, the Fed said. Those regions were: Boston, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.

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Stocks mostly rise as Fed sees improving economy

NEW YORK (AP) _ The stock market struggled but held its ground Wednesday as an upbeat assessment of the economy from the Federal Reserve offset drops in bank and energy stocks.

Most stocks finished higher after the Fed said regional economic activity has generally improved since its last snapshot in October. The central bank also said consumer spending has strengthened even as employment and commercial real estate remain weak.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 19 points to 10,452.68 a day after jumping 126 points. Reports of analysts' warnings about bank stocks hurt financial shares, while a steep drop in oil weighed on energy companies. Airlines jumped on hopes business is stabilizing.

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Henderson exits as GM board seeks faster change

DETROIT (AP) _ The leader of the new General Motors was done in by an old problem at the nation's largest car maker: Change wasn't happening fast enough.

GM's board and CEO Fritz Henderson parted ways Tuesday, the board upset that the automaker's turnaround wasn't moving more swiftly and Henderson frustrated with second-guessing, two people close to the former CEO said.

Board Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr., the former head of AT&T Inc., will take over as CEO while a global search is conducted.

It was unclear whether Henderson or the board moved first in the surprise resignation, which came just hours before Henderson was to be the high-profile keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

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Bank of America to repay TARP, raise cash

NEW YORK (AP) _ Bank of America Corp. says it plans to repay its government bailout funds and raise capital in the coming days.

The bank has issued a statement Wednesday saying it would pay back the $45 billion in government loans it received during the credit crisis last year and after the purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co. earlier this year.

The move would allow Bank of America, which is trying to recruit a new CEO to succeed the retiring Ken Lewis, to free itself from government restrictions on executive pay that come along with bailout funds.

Bank of America said it would use $26.2 billion in available cash and would also sell $18.8 billion in securities.

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Comcast, GE set to announce NBC deal Thursday

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The deal to give Comcast Corp. control of NBC Universal is expected to be announced Thursday morning.

Two people familiar with the talks told The Associated Press of the plans on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been made public.

Comcast's purchase of a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal would transform the nation's largest cable TV provider into one of the biggest owners of TV and movie programming.

Comcast is expected to pay GE $5 billion to $7 billion in cash and contribute $6 billion to $7 billion worth of cable channels.

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Geithner says $700B bailout program will end soon

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner affirmed Wednesday the administration's intent to soon end the $700 billion financial bailout program.

Geithner did not provide details, but said the government is close to the point at which "we can wind down this program" and end it.

Some lawmakers have been agitating for an exit from the politically unpopular bailout program, approved by Congress at the height of the financial crisis in October 2008 as a way to supply banks with fresh capital.

Geithner also said legislation to bring transparency to the global, unregulated $600 trillion derivatives market was needed soon to restore confidence in the U.S. financial system.

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Maker of Camels buys cigarette replacement seller

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. has reached a deal to acquire a Swedish company whose nicotine gum, pouches and spray help people stop smoking, the second-largest U.S. tobacco company said Wednesday.

The acquisition will let Reynolds offer products that can "reduce the risks of diseases and death caused by tobacco use," CEO Susan M. Ivey said in a statement.

Niconovum AB's products are sold outside the U.S. under the Zonnic brand. They could help the maker of Camel cigarettes and Grizzly smokeless tobacco keep growing as tax increases, health concerns, smoking bans and social stigma cut into demand for cigarettes.

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ConocoPhillips to cut 2010 capital program 10 pct

NEW YORK (AP) _ ConocoPhillips said Wednesday it plans to slash its 2010 capital spending by 10 percent as it tries to shore up cash amid plunging profits.

The nation's third-largest oil company intends to spend $11.2 billion on capital projects in 2010, 10 percent below its estimated spending in 2009. In its third-quarter report given in late October, ConocoPhillips forecast a 2010 budget of $11 billion.

In 2010, about 86 percent of its capital program will support ConocoPhillips' exploration and production segment, while its hard-hit refining and marketing segment represents about 12 percent of the program, the Houston-based company said.

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Death prompts repeat crib recall announcement

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Government safety officials ordered a new recall announcement of two crib models following the death of a 1-year-old child.

The Cranbury, N.J., based LaJobi Inc. initially recalled its Italian-made Molly and Betsy style cribs in 2001 because of the risk that children could become trapped or strangle.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Wednesday that it had received a report of a 1-year-old Mississippi girl's death. The girl's head was trapped in a decorative cutout on the headboard of her Betsy crib in 2003. The agency declined to say when it was notified of the child's death.

By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 18.90, or 0.2 percent, to 10,452.68.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 0.38, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,109.24, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 9.22, or 0.4 percent, to 2,185.03.

Benchmark crude for January delivery dropped $1.77, or more than 2 percent, to settle at $76.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, Brent crude for January delivery fell $1.47 to settle at $77.88 on the ICE Futures exchange.

Natural gas hit a 52-week low Wednesday and closed down 23.2 cents at $4.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other Nymex trading in contracts for January delivery, heating oil fell 4.16 cents to settle at $2.0364 a gallon, and gasoline lost 4.95 cents to settle at $1.9928 a gallon.