Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Oct 29, 2010 6:10 PM
Business Highlights

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Economy still sluggish as nation prepares to vote

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The last read on the economy before the midterm elections found Americans are spending a little more but not nearly enough to bring down high unemployment _ one final bit of bad news for Democrats.

The economy expanded at a 2 percent pace from July to September, the Commerce Department said Friday. It marked a slight improvement from the scant 1.7 percent growth rate in the previous quarter.

But to keep up with population growth and actually bring down unemployment, the economy must grow much faster. Economists figure it takes growth at a rate of about 5 percent for a full year to lower the jobless rate by a percentage point.

Democrats risk losing control of the House and perhaps the Senate on Tuesday at a time when nearly 15 million Americans are out of work and the jobless rate is 9.6 percent.

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Sick of campaign ad avalanche? TV stations aren't

NEW YORK (AP) _ For TV viewers, this cutthroat election year is a riot of attack ads and media saturation made possible by big-money donors. For TV stations, it's a stimulus package.

One research group expects TV political spending to hit a record $3 billion. The windfall may continue well past Election Day because regular advertisers are getting squeezed out of the schedule and could spend their ad budgets later. Coming out of a recession that put some broadcasters in or near bankruptcy protection, political spending is emerging as a critical _ but temporary _ source of revenue.

Several factors created the upsurge: tea party enthusiasm, self-financed millionaire candidates, an unusually high number of toss-up races and a Supreme Court ruling in January that eased rules on corporate campaign donations.

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In France, happiness is retiring at 60

PARIS (AP) _ Time is on Guy Robert's side: Since he retired at age 60, he's using his new freedom to turn back the family clock and trace the paths of his ancestors, from a 17th century royalist to grandparents who resisted the Nazis in World War II.

Robert wants his son and daughter to share in the bounty by retiring at 60, too.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says that dream is unrealistic and is in the midst of changing France's pension system to increase the retirement age to 62. Even that is still far short of other rich countries such as the United States and neighboring Germany, which have raised retirement ages.

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Stocks edge up to close strong October

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks edged higher Friday to close out the best October for the Dow Jones industrial average in four years.

Trading activity was relatively light, with the Dow keeping to a tight range of just 50 points, amid uncertainty over next week's elections. News that the U.S. economy rose at just a 2 percent annual pace in the three months ending in September had little effect on stock prices.

Every market index was up more than 3 percent for the month. The Nasdaq finished October with a 5.9 percent gain. For the first time since April, major stock indexes have risen for two months in a row. The Dow and S&P are both up about 6 percent for the year, while the Nasdaq is up 10.5 percent.

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Big Oil resets its sights on Gulf of Mexico

NEW YORK (AP) _ Big Oil is ready to go back to work in the Gulf of Mexico, even with the U.S government promising to rule the waters with a heavier hand.

Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell are willing to endure the additional time to secure permits and extra costs that will result from new government regulations because they've come to depend on deepwater drilling to replenish their reserves. The companies outlined plans for the Gulf this week as most of them reported improved earnings for the third quarter.

These big oil and gas companies know the geology of the Gulf much better than other parts of the world. Taxes and royalties for projects in U.S. waters are considered to be much lower than foreign operations, and it's much easier and cheaper to deliver the oil to the consumer.

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Chevron 3Q profit slips 2 pct

NEW YORK (AP) _ Chevron Corp. said Friday income slipped nearly 2 percent in the third quarter on costs related to the Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium and hefty foreign exchange charges.

Chevron, America's second-largest oil company, reported earnings of $3.77 billion, or $1.87 per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with $3.83 billion, or $1.92 per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 7 percent to $49.7 billion.

The results didn't meet Wall Street expectations, and shares dropped more than 2 percent.

Chevron benefited from higher oil and gas prices and better profit margins in its refining business, but it also booked $367 million in foreign-currency expenses. Chevron's exploration and production operations in the U.S. were more costly due to the U.S. ban on deepwater drilling following the BP oil spill.

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Merck 3Q profit plunges 90 percent on deal charges

Merck & Co. posted a 90 percent drop in third-quarter profit, due to large charges for its $41.1 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough Corp. last November and a legal reserve for a federal investigation.

Also, Merck had a $2.8 billion gain a year ago from selling its animal health business to win antitrust approval to buy Schering-Plough, which also makes veterinary medicines.

The world's second-biggest drugmaker by revenue had net income in the quarter of $341.6 million, or 11 cents per share. That's down from $3.42 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier.

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Samsung, Sony book profits but wary of road ahead

TOKYO (AP) _ Three of the world's biggest names in electronics _ Samsung, Sony and Panasonic _ are bracing for weaker global demand and a rocky road even as they reported stellar quarterly profits Friday.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. booked a record net profit for the third straight quarter. Japanese rival Sony Corp. climbed back to the black. Panasonic Corp.'s net profit surged more than fivefold.

The results underscore how major Asian manufacturers have benefited from a recovering global economy and government stimulus measures that boosted consumer spending. But with that recovery now in doubt in key overseas markets like the U.S., companies are preparing for a tougher fight for customers and with each other. Rising currencies in Asia also cloud their outlooks.

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Court in Ill. reverses 2 Conrad Black convictions

CHICAGO (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Friday reversed two of former media mogul Conrad Black's 2007 fraud convictions _ raising at least the possibility he won't return to prison.

After serving two years of a 6 1/2-year sentence, Black was released earlier this year from a federal prison in Florida while his case was appealed.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously agreed that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling sharply curtailing so called "honest services" laws meant the two fraud convictions had to be tossed. But the ruling was only a partial victory for Black because the three-judge panel upheld two other convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice.

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By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.54, or 0.1 percent, to close at 11,118.49. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index fell 0.52, or 0.1 percent, to 1,183.26, while the technology focused Nasdaq composite index rose less than a point to 2,507.41.

Benchmark crude for December delivery fell 75 cents to settle at $81.43 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other energy trading on the Nymex, heating oil lost 2.34 cents to settle at $2.2201 a gallon. Gasoline dropped 0.94 cent to settle at $2.1045 per gallon. Natural gas gained 14.8 cents to settle at $4.038 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 44 cents to settle at $83.15 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.