Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Sep 06, 2011 6:02 PM
Business Highlights

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Back to school is a test for teen retailers

NEW YORK (AP) _ Teens are heading back to school, but it's the retailers catering to them that are getting the first test.

They're hoping their expanded selections of funky tee shirts and hip-hugging jeans will attract students like Dale Gibson, 15, who struggles to find trendy clothes in their stores. Ditto for Danielle Martinez, 14, who thinks their merchandise is dull. Same goes for Rochelle Wilson, 19, who stopped shopping them altogether.

The "Big Three" teen merchants Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale and American Eagle once defined fashion for fickle teens. But they lost their mojo by not stocking the jeans and tees that their customers covet. So, teens flocked to chains like H&M and Forever 21 that cater to twenty-somethings with up-to-the minute trendy styles that they can mix and match. Now, as the down economy batters both teens and their parents, teen clothing chains are having mixed success as they try to lure young people back into their stores by offering more of the things they love __ boot cut jeans, fleece bottoms and accessories.

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Service firms grew at slightly faster pace

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Service firms that employ 90 percent of the U.S. work force expanded at a slightly faster pace in August. But the sector remains too weak to help an economy that is barely growing and struggling to create jobs.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index for service companies rose to 53.3 in August, up from 52.7 in July. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The service sector includes everything from restaurants and hotels to health care firms and financial service companies. It has grown in all but one month over the past two years. The index reached a five-year high of 59.7 in February.

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International Paper to buy Temple-Inland for $3.7 billion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ International Paper Co. is buying smaller rival Temple-Inland Inc. for $3.7 billion after sweetening its bid.

The transaction will give the combined company about 40 percent of the corrugated packaging materials market in North America. IP is the largest producer of corrugated packaging in North America, while Temple-Inland is the third-largest.

IP raised its bid to $32 per share for Temple-Inland, a 30 percent premium to its Friday closing price. This is higher than its previous bid of $30.60 per share in June, which its Austin, Texas, target had rejected as too low.

IP, which is based in Memphis, Tenn., will also assume $600 million in debt.

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Sunoco to sell refineries

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sunoco Inc. said Tuesday it's getting out of the refining business.

The Philadelphia company, which owns two refineries in Pennsylvania, announced plans to sell those refineries and focus on its pipelines and retail gas stations that provide a steadier cash flow.

Sunoco's refineries in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook, Pa., can process a combined 505,000 barrels of oil per day. If it cannot sell its refineries, the company will shut down its main processing units in July 2012.

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Shaw Group to sell its stake in Westinghouse

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Engineering and construction company The Shaw Group Inc. will sell its minority investment in nuclear power plant company Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC back to Toshiba Corp.

The sale will help Shaw shed some debt and strengthen its balance sheet. But it also means that there will no longer be any U.S. investors in Westinghouse, which is more than 100 years old and is based in Monroeville, Pa.

While Toshiba is taking a larger stake in Westinghouse, the Japanese company said it "remains open to the idea" of inviting in new investors if they share its long-term vision and business strategy for Westinghouse.

Toshiba said several companies have already expressed interest in possible investments.

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Settlement to help limit toxic cadmium in jewelry

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Major national retailers, including Target Corp. and Gap Inc., have agreed to all but eliminate the toxic metal cadmium in jewelry and other accessories they sell.

Starting in 2012, jewelry sold at the stores in California must contain less than 0.03 percent cadmium _ a soft, whitish metal that in high enough amounts can cause cancer and other harm. Because of the size of California's market, that effectively becomes a national limit _ though it doesn't carry the force of law in other states.

Five states have passed legislation limiting cadmium in jewelry, but typically they apply to items intended for kids, who are especially vulnerable to poisoning.

The new legal agreement, approved by a California judge Friday, applies to children's and adult jewelry. It is between the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and 26 retailers and suppliers, also among them Aeropostale, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Claire's, an international jewelry and accessories chain store.

The state laws and lawsuits followed an Associated Press investigation that last year revealed some Chinese jewelry manufacturers were substituting cadmium for lead, which Congress effectively banned due to its own hazards. Several bracelet charms and pendants tested for AP were more than 90 percent cadmium.

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Swiss central bank sets limit on franc's strength

GENEVA (AP) _ In what experts called a last-ditch "nuclear option," the Swiss National Bank set a ceiling Tuesday on the value of its currency, which has skyrocketed this year as traders worldwide frantically searched for a safe haven in volatile times.

Aiming to protect Swiss exports and the country's vital tourism industry, the bank said it would spend whatever it takes to keep the Swiss franc from strengthening beyond 1.20 francs per euro. It also indicated it might take more measures to weaken it further.

Philipp Hildebrand, chair of the central bank's governing board, said that the move to counter "a massive overvaluation of our national currency" was taken to avert a recession.

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Starbucks plans to triple its China coffee shops

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Starbucks Corp., the world's largest coffee retailer, plans to triple its coffee shops in China during the next four years and step up expansion elsewhere in Asia, an executive said Tuesday.

Starbucks plans to operate 1,500 outlets in China by 2015 from a current 470, the company's Asia Pacific president Jinlong Wang said. The company also expects to open 700 coffee shops in South Korea by 2016, up from 370 now, Wang said.

Wang said Starbucks sales in Asia have remained robust in recent months despite a slowing global economy.

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PepsiCo and NFL renew sponsorship deal

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) _ PepsiCo and the NFL say they're renewing their long-term partnership with a new, multi-year deal that starts next year.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal extends a 28-year relationship between the Purchase, N.Y., company and the NFL and involves several of PepsiCo Inc.'s brands.

PepsiCo's Gatorade sports drinks will be provided to NFL players and the Gatorade brand take part in educational programs, while Pepsi MAX will be the official soft drink of the NFL.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 100.96 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,139.30.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index dropped 8.73, or 0.7 percent, to 1,165.24. The Nasdaq composite fell 6.50, or 0.2 percent, to 2,473.83.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude lost 43 cents to $86.02 per barrel in New York.

Brent crude added $2.81, or 2.6 percent, to $112.89 in London.

In other trading, heating oil added 1.28 cents to $3.0102 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 1.7 cents to $2.8226 per gallon. Natural gas added 6.6 cents to $3.938 per 1,000 cubic feet.