Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 28, 2009 5:21 PM

In-flight security rules eased

DALLAS (AP) _ In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said Monday.

At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.

Tougher airline security measures were imposed Friday after a man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam then to the U.S. on a Northwest Airlines flight tried to ignite an explosive as the plane prepared to land in Detroit.

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Retailers' stores thinly stocked; profits won't be

ATLANTA (AP) _ Retailers have thin inventories after coming out of Christmas with slightly better-than-expected sales.

Some retailers kept inventory so low they've had to bring in new merchandise to restock shelves, a rare move this soon after Christmas.

That's good news for their bottom lines. But it means slim pickings for shoppers hoping for after-Christmas clearance sales. Shoppers looking for big sales should act quickly because there are relatively few leftovers to clear out.

Because their ordering was in line with weak demand, retailers were able to sell more items at higher prices, which is critical to profits. Last year, profits were hammered by fire-sale discounts to get rid of the excess.

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Stocks edge higher as shoppers step up spending

NEW YORK (AP) _ Better holiday sales and rising commodities prices pushed stocks to their sixth straight gain and new highs for 2009.

Major indexes edged higher in light trading Monday after sales figures showed shoppers spent more freely this holiday season, a sign that consumers are feeling better about the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.98, or 0.3 percent, to 10,547.08, its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008.

Figures from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which track all forms of payment, show retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, after dropping during that time last year. Adjusting for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the number was closer to a 1 percent gain.

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Fed exit strategy: Let banks set up CDs

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Reserve on Monday proposed allowing banks to set up the equivalent of certificates of deposit at the central bank, a move that would help the Fed mop up money pumped into the economy and prevent inflation from taking off later.

Under the proposal, the Fed would offer so-called "term deposits" that would pay interest. Doing so would provide banks with another incentive to park their money at the Fed, rather than having it flow back into the economy.

The proposal comes as no surprise. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Fed officials have repeatedly said the creation of so-called "term deposits" _ essentially the equivalent of CDs for banks _ would be one of several tools the Fed could use to drain money from the economy when the time is right.

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Storms, falling supply drives energy prices up

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oil prices rose above $79 barrel Monday for the first time in four weeks as an extended cold snap triggered an end-of-year rally in energy futures.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added 72 cents to settle at $78.77 a barrel in light, holiday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices rose as high as $79.12 earlier in the day, the highest since Nov. 18.

Futures contracts for oil, natural gas and heating oil have all become more expensive this month as snow storms blanketed parts of the country and a sharp drop in supplies of crude and other fuels surprised traders.

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Pilgrim's Pride exits bankruptcy protection

PITTSBURGH, Texas (AP) _ Chicken producer Pilgrim's Pride Corp. said Monday that it has emerged from bankruptcy protection and will soon be part of the world's largest meat producer.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection more than a year ago after it was unable to cope with mounting debt, low chicken prices and rising feed costs.

Pilgrim's Pride continued to operate while under bankruptcy protection but underwent major changes _ shuttering plants, cutting thousands of jobs and shedding production to improve its financial position.

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Audi plans 7.3 billion euros investments through 2012

FRANKFURT (AP) _ Audi AG said Monday it plans to spend 7.3 billion euros ($10.51 billion) on plant upgrades, new products and technology research as it moves to expand its number of customers worldwide and increase market share.

Audi, based in Ingolstadt, and a unit of Volkswagen AG, said it plans to spend that amount from 2009 to 2012 and will increase the number of models from its current 34 to a planned 42 by 2015.

Of the investment, about 5.9 billion euros will go toward new products and future technologies, or about 80 percent of its planned spending.

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Treasurys come off lows following auction

NEW YORK (AP) _ Interest rates rose moderately Monday, but were down from their highest levels following a decent auction of two-year notes.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is used as a benchmark for interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, rose to 3.83 percent from 3.80 percent Thursday, after earlier hovering around 3.85 percent. The bond market was closed Friday for Christmas.

The price of the 10-year note fell 7/32 to 96 8/32. Meanwhile, the yield on previously issued two-year note rose to 1.03 percent from 0.97 percent Thursday, while its price fell 3/32 to 99 15/32.

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AT&T temporarily halts online iPhone sales in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) _ AT&T Inc. suspended online sales of iPhones to New Yorkers over the weekend for unknown reasons, then abruptly started selling them again just as mysteriously on Monday.

Spokesman Fletcher Cook said only that the phone company periodically "modifies" its distribution channels. He had no further comment on the resumption in sales, and officials with phone maker Apple Inc. did not immediately return messages for comment.

Bloggers speculated that the sales suspension was a means of managing data traffic, since AT&T has acknowledged that its network is overburdened with iPhone users in New York and San Francisco.

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Japan's factory output grows most in 6 months

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's factory output grew the most in six months in November as a recovery in export demand from Asia boosted production of cars, flat screen televisions and other goods in the world's second-biggest economy.

Factory output _ a key barometer of Japan's economic health _ was up 2.6 percent from October and logged its ninth consecutive month of growth, the government said Monday.

Japan's exports to Asia totaled 2.7 trillion yen ($30 billion) in November _ more than those to North America (920 billion yen) and Western Europe (624 billion yen) combined, the finance ministry said last week. Exports to China alone in November rose 7.8 percent, the first increase in 14 months.

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.98, or 0.3 percent, to 10,547.08.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.30, or 0.1 percent, to 1,127.78, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 5.39, or 0.2 percent, to 2,291.08.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added 72 cents to settle at $78.77 a barrel in light, holiday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil climbed 3.79 cents to settle at $2.0735 a gallon while gasoline added 2.88 cents to settle at $2.0184 a gallon. Natural gas increased by 34.7 cents to settle at $5.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose $1.01 to settle at $77.32 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.