Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2011 5:25 PM
Business Highlights

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French, Greek, German leaders discuss Greek crisis

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece is an "integral" part of the eurozone, the leaders of Greece, France and Germany said in an emergency teleconference Wednesday night that aimed to calm markets and temper talk of an imminent default by Greece.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also stressed to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou "that it is more indispensable than ever to fully implement the decisions adopted July 21" by the eurozone leaders "to ensure the stability of the eurozone," the French president's office said in a statement.

Fears that Greece was heading rapidly toward a chaotic default _ and the idea that it should potentially leave the euro and return to its own currency _ have roiled markets for days, both across the 17-nation eurozone and globally.

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Retail sales flat in August, auto demand declined

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Consumers spent less on autos, clothing and furniture to leave retail sales unchanged in August.

The lack of growth suggests households became more cautious during wild stock market fluctuations and increased fears about the economy.

The Commerce Department also said Wednesday that retail sales were slightly weaker in July than first thought. They rose just 0.3 percent, down from the initial reading of 0.5 percent.

Auto sales fell 0.3 percent in August. Sales at clothing stores declined 0.7 percent. Gasoline sales rose.

Analysts said Hurricane Irene likely disrupted sales in late August along most of the East Coast.

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Wholesale prices flat, as inflation pressures ease

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Companies paid the same amount for wholesale goods last month as a drop in energy prices offset higher food costs.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core wholesale prices edged up 0.1 percent, the smallest increase in three months. The figures indicate that inflation pressures are easing.

The Producer Price Index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, was unchanged in August, the Labor Department said Wednesday, after a 0.2 percent rise in July.

In the past 12 months, the index has increased 6.5 percent, mostly due to higher gas and food costs. That's the smallest 12-month rise since March, though much bigger than the annual changes late last year.

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Business inventories and sales rose July

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businesses added to their stockpiles in July for a 19th straight month and their sales increased by the most since March.

The Commerce Department says business inventories rose 0.4 percent in July following a similar gain in June. Business sales increased 0.7 percent in July.

The strong month for inventory growth shows businesses were confident in the economy despite weakening growth and dismal spending by consumers in the first half of the year. A more important sign will be how they reacted in August, when the stock market fluctuated wildly and the economy created no new jobs.

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Report: BP ultimately responsible in Gulf spill

A key federal report goes further than other investigations and puts ultimate responsibility on BP for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and the deaths of 11 rig workers, especially regarding the cement seal that was put in place the day before the explosion that triggered the spill.

The report, released Wednesday, said in the days leading up to the disaster, BP made a series of decisions that complicated cementing operations, added risk, and may have contributed to the ultimate failure of the cement job.

Other companies also shared some of the blame, according to the report, which noted that Transocean, as owner of the Deepwater Horizon, was responsible for conducting safe operations and for protecting personnel onboard.

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Future NASA rocket to be most powerful ever built

WASHINGTON (AP) _ To soar far away from Earth and even on to Mars, NASA has dreamed up the world's most powerful rocket, a behemoth that borrows from the workhorse liquid rockets that sent Apollo missions into space four decades ago.

But with a price tag that some estimate at $35 billion, it may not fly with Congress.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and several members of Congress on Wednesday unveiled the Obama administration's much-delayed general plans for its rocket design, called the Space Launch System. The multibillion-dollar program would carry astronauts in a capsule on top, and the first mission would be 10 years off if all goes as planned. Unmanned test launches are expected from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in six years.

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Yahoo co-founder urged to help oust chairman

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A major Yahoo Inc. shareholder is recruiting company co-founder Jerry Yang to join a crusade to oust Chairman Roy Bostock amid the upheaval triggered by the recent firing of CEO Carol Bartz.

The shareholder, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, sought Yang's help in a letter sent Wednesday. The direct appeal to Yang, the longest-serving member of Yahoo's board, is the latest twist in the melodrama that has been unfolding since Bostock called Bartz Sept. 6 to cut her loose with nearly 16 months left on a four-year contract that he awarded her in January 2009,

Since that brusque parting, Bartz has questioned Bostock's manhood and blasted the Yahoo board as a bunch of "doofuses." Loeb, who controls a 5.2 percent stake in Yahoo through his Third Point LLC fund, also launched his campaign to shake up a board that he views as an impediment to turning around one of the Internet's best-known companies. Meanwhile, the board has engaged in a "strategic review" that has raised the possibility Yahoo might be broken up or sold in its entirety.

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UPS unveils new service to avoid missed deliveries

NEW YORK (AP) _ UPS is hoping "sorry we missed you" notices will soon be a thing of the past. It's unveiling a delivery-notification service aimed at not missing you at all.

Called My Choice, the basic free membership service allows package recipients to be notified of incoming shipments and provided an approximate arrival time the night before delivery.

Delivery alerts will be offered through e-mail, text or phone calls. For packages that require signatures, members can electronically sign for packages on their computers or mobile phones.

For $5 per package, members can also choose to re-route the package to another address or a UPS Store in real time rather than waiting to get a "delivery attempt" notice on your door.

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Toys R Us expands exclusive toy offerings

NEW YORK (AP) _ Toys R Us won't open as many holiday pop-up stores this year as last, betting that offering more exclusive toys _ like Air Swimmers Extreme, a helium-filled, radio-controlled shark that floats through the air _ will do more to attract shoppers to its stores during the all-important holiday season.

CEO Jerry Storch said at a press conference Wednesday that the company hasn't yet determined how many pop-up stores it will open. But there will be fewer than the 600 it had in 2010 and more than the 90 it opened 2009.

Despite opening fewer pop-up stores, Toys R Us plans to hire about the same amount of seasonal workers as it did 2010, about 45,000. They'll work at new and existing stores and a new e-commerce distribution center that opened in July in Nevada.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 140.88 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 11,246.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15.81 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,188.68. The Nasdaq composite rose 40.40, or 1.6 percent, to 2,572.55.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude gave up $1.30 to finish the day at $88.91 per barrel in New York while Brent crude lost 12 cents to end at $109.65 in London.

In other commodities trading, heating oil fell added less than a penny to end at $2.945 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 1.66 cents to finish at $2.7258 per gallon. Natural gas added 5.9 cents to end at $4.039 per 1,000 cubic feet.