Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2011 5:51 PM
Business Highlights

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Target faces much-watched union vote in New York

NEW YORK (AP) _ Target may be known for its cheap-chic apparel, but workers at one New York store say the company is just plain cheap.

Late Friday night, about 250 workers at a Target store in Long Island plan to vote on whether to join the country's largest retail union. This is the first union vote Target has faced in two decades and if workers vote "yes," the store will be the first of the company's 1,700 locations to bring in organized labor.

The vote could have a ripple effect in the U.S. retail industry as the economy recovers from the worst recession since the 1930s. At a time when jobs are scarce, the retail industry is expected to be one of the strongest sectors for job growth during this decade. But the hours and pay for jobs selling clothes, computers and other goods have been declining in recent years. At the same time, the industry has faced decreasing union membership, which can limit workers' ability to fight for better wages.

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Greece steps back from prospect of debt default

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece appeared to step back from the prospect of a devastating debt default Friday after its prime minister quelled chaotic political infighting and Germany softened a contentious demand on the participation of the private sector in a new European bailout.

After two days of dissent inside his Socialist party that threatened to bring down his government, Prime Minister George Papandreou named his main internal rival as finance minister. The move is expected to solidify the support from lawmakers Papandreou needs to pass a 28 billion euro ($39.5 billion) package of steep tax hikes and budget cuts so despised inside Greece that riots exploded outside parliament this week.

European donors and the International Monetary Fund require Greece to pass the austerity measures before releasing the next 12 billion euro ($17 billion) loan from a 110 billion euro package agreed on last year to keep Greece afloat until it can get its struggling economy back on track.

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Deepening crisis casts shadow over Lagarde IMF bid

PARIS (AP) _ Christine Lagarde's bid to head the International Monetary Fund could face new scrutiny now that Greece's worsening debt storm risks toppling one of her candidacy's key pillars _ her track record shepherding the eurozone through the worst crisis of its 12-year existence.

With Greece coming close to a default, which would spark a chain reaction that some fear could break up the eurozone, the crisis management strategy of Lagarde and her European colleagues will come in for renewed criticism, analysts say.

Lagarde, France's finance minister, heads to Washington D.C. next week to try to drum up critical U.S. support for her bid. Her distant lead over the rival candidate, Mexican central banker Agustin Carstens, means a Greek default now is unlikely to derail her campaign.

But it will come back to haunt her _ should she be chosen _ because Europe's indecisive and disjointed handling of the crisis has caused the total size of the final bill to balloon, experts say.

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Put a cork in the Internet bubble talk _ for now

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ It's starting to feel like a 1999 flashback. Internet companies _ some of them profitable, some not _ sense a golden opportunity and are lining up to go public this year.

But here's something to keep in mind as the latest case of Internet fever grips Wall Street: It's still nowhere close to the giddy days of the dot-com boom, when investors bought stocks as impulsively as lottery tickets. Technology stocks today are the cheapest in more than nine years, at least judging by one benchmark for appraising companies.

This year could yield the most initial public offerings of technology stocks since 2000. But the venture capitalists who bankroll high-tech startups aren't pouring money into the Internet like they once did. And even rapidly growing Internet companies LinkedIn Corp. and Pandora Media Inc. have lost some of their luster after dazzling investors when they went public in recent weeks.

All those factors signal that cooler heads are prevailing, especially with the global economy on shaky ground.

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Officials predict prolonged high food prices

PARIS (AP) _ High food prices are likely to rise even further over the next decade, putting the poor at an increasing risk of malnutrition and hunger, a world food report warned Friday.

The joint report of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the risk of price volatility that has hurt farmers across the globe remains high. The OECD leader came out to back France's demand for increased transparency and more regulation and public information in the farm commodities markets as a key measure to stabilize prices.

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UK blocks UPS sites over security

LONDON (AP) _ Shipping firm UPS has been ordered to stop moving air cargo through some of its U.K. facilities because of security flaws, the British government said Friday.

The order is the result of a planned security check rather than a new threat to aviation _ and a sign of heightened concerns about the vulnerability of cargo in the wake of an al-Qaida plot that saw bombs disguised in toner cartridges shipped on freight flights from Yemen.

Britain's Department for Transport said that "following careful consideration, the department has restricted the number of sites in the U.K. at which UPS Ltd. are permitted to screen air cargo until it has satisfied current security requirements."

It gave no details of the security issues and didn't identify the locations involved. No other air freight companies were mentioned in the statement.

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AARP slammed for not fighting Social Security cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) _ AARP, the powerful lobby for older Americans, was hammered Friday by fellow activists for refusing to oppose any and all cuts to Social Security benefits, a position the group says it has long held as a way to extend the life of the massive retirement and disability program.

The group, which has 37 million Americans as members, adamantly opposes cutting Social Security benefits to help reduce the federal budget deficit, said David Certner, the organization's director of legislative policy. But for years AARP has acknowledged that cuts to future benefits may be necessary to improve the program's finances, he said.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 42.84, or 0.4 percent, at 12,004.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.86, or 0.3 percent, to 1,271.50.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery lost $1.94, or 2 percent, to settle at $93.01 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has retreated about 6 percent this week. In London Brent crude, which is used to price many international oil varieties, declined 81 cents to settle at $113.21 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil gave up 2.05 cents to settle at $2.9833 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 0.34 cent to settle at 2.9460 per gallon. Natural gas fell 8.7 cents to settle at $4.325 per 1,000 cubic feet.