Business Highlights

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 28, 2014 4:48 PM

___

Black Friday gets a little less frenzied

NEW YORK (AP) — Black Friday seemed a little less crazy this year.

There were squabbles here and there, and elbows got thrown, but the Friday morning crowds appeared smaller than usual and less frenzied, in part because many Americans took advantage of stores' earlier opening hours to do their shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

That might be hard to stomach for people worried about commercial encroachment on Thanksgiving. But it is good news for bargain-hunters who hate crowds

Whether it's good news for retailers remains to be seen. Sales estimates for the start of the holiday shopping season will start trickling out later in the weekend.

___

Black Friday problems hit Britain

Americans celebrating Thanksgiving in Britain may have felt right at home as Black Friday shopping chaos caused disruptions.

The practice of offering bargain basement prices the day after Thanksgiving has spread across the Atlantic, with some retailers opening overnight to lure shoppers.

Police were called early Friday morning to help maintain security at some supermarkets and shopping outlets that offered deep discounts starting at midnight.

___

Oil plunge a panacea for much of world economy

A renewed plunge in oil prices is a worrying sign of weakness in the global economy that could shake governments dependent on oil revenues. Yet it is also a bonus for consumers as prices fall at the pump, giving individuals more spending money and lowering costs for many businesses.

The latest slide was triggered by OPEC's decision this week to leave its production target at 30 million barrels a day. Member nations of the cartel are worried they'll lose market share if they lower production.

Partly because of the shale oil boom in the U.S., the world is awash in oil but demand from major economies is weak — so prices are falling.

___

Growers grateful for higher Christmas tree prices

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Christmas trees likely will cost a little more this year, and growers like John Tillman say it's about time.

Six years of decreased demand and low prices put many growers out of business. Those who withstood the downturn are relieved they survived.

Prices vary according to the variety of tree, but growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Tree Association. Prices will likely rise as the holidays near and supply decreases.

___

Swiss to vote on massive gold-buying plan

GENEVA (AP) — In Switzerland, a campaign is on to protect the country's wealth by investing in gold — a lot of gold.

In a test of their sense of financial security, the Swiss are being asked to vote on a proposal to make the central bank hold a fifth of its reserves in gold within five years. That would mean buying about 1,500 metric tons, or 1,650 short tons, of gold worth more than $60 billion.

If the initiative wins the backing of a majority of voters this Sunday, the Swiss National Bank would also be prohibited from spending any of the treasure, which would have to be locked away in vaults entirely on Swiss soil. The prospect risks causing a spike in gold prices globally.

___

Eurozone inflation dips again as energy costs tank

LONDON (AP) — A fall in energy costs as a result of dramatic declines in oil markets has pushed inflation across the 18-country eurozone down to 0.3 percent in the year to November, official figures showed Friday.

Preliminary numbers from the European Union's statistics agency, Eurostat, showed the dip in the consumer price inflation rate from the previous month's 0.4 percent was largely due to a 2.5 percent decline in energy costs. Excluding volatile energy, food, alcohol and tobacco prices — a gauge policymakers at the European Central Banks monitor closely — inflation was steady at 0.7 percent.

__

EU won't sanction France, Italy on budget yet

The European Union head office is opting not to sanction two of its biggest economies just yet for missing public finance targets and instead will give France and Italy until the spring to come up with better plans to cut their debts and deficits.

Paris and Rome have been accused of being too profligate in their budgetary spending projects at a time when the EU and the 18-country eurozone have been advocating strict austerity as the best way to get their public finances into shape.

France could have faced a hefty fine while Italy would have been forced into further budget changes and closer supervision from Brussels if the Commission had acted immediately.

___

Australia out of step with new climate momentum

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the U.S., China and other nations signal new momentum for action.

Abbott tried and failed to keep the issue off the agenda of the annual G-20 summit of wealthy and emerging countries that was hosted by the Australian city of Brisbane in mid-November. An agreement between Washington and Beijing to curb emissions, announced days before the summit, suggests he had misjudged the international mood on the issue.

___

3 tips for using credit wisely during the holidays

Using credit to tackle your holiday shopping can be tempting. And offers of a discount for opening a new account, or interest-free purchases for a year or more make it more enticing.

But relying on credit without a plan to pay off the debt quickly can easily cost you more in the long run. Carrying higher balances for several months could lower your credit score, making it more expensive to refinance your home, buy a car or qualify for other loans

A recent survey by the National Retail Federation found that about 38 percent of consumers planned to rely on credit to buy their holiday gifts. That's up from 28.5 percent last year and the biggest share in the survey's history.

___

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 0.49 of a point, a sliver of a percent, to 17,828.24. The S&P 500 index lost 5.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2,067.56. The Nasdaq composite picked up 4.31 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,791.63.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $7.54 to close at $66.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.56 to close at $70.02 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline fell 13.12 cent to close at $1.90 a gallon. Heating oil fell 16.57 cents to close at $2.23 a gallon. Natural gas fell 27 cents to close at $4.09 per 1,000 cubic feet.