Business Highlights

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Associated Press

Posted on December 1, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 2 at 7:01 AM

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Shoppers' habits not changed by garment plant fire

NEW YORK (AP) — Before purchasing a shirt, shoppers will run their hands over the fabric, look at the price tag and wonder how it will hold up in the washing machine. Some might even ask if it makes them look fat.

The one detail, however, that is rarely considered: What are the conditions like for the workers making the shirt?

A horrific fire that raced through a Bangladesh garment factory Saturday, killing 112 people, has put the spotlight — at least temporarily — back on those workers and their sometimes treacherous work environment.

The factory, owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., made clothing for several retailers around the globe including Wal-Mart, Sears and The Walt Disney Co. All three companies have distanced themselves from responsibility for the incident, saying they didn't know that their subcontractors were using the factory.

Holiday shoppers have also maintained their distance from the tragedy.

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Sandy slowed US consumer spending and pay in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans cut back on spending last month while their income remained flat. The weakness in part reflected disruptions from Superstorm Sandy that could slow economic growth for the rest of the year.

The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in October. It was the weakest figure since May, and it compared with a 0.8 percent spending increase in September.

Income had risen 0.4 percent in September.

Work interruptions caused by the storm reduced wages and salaries in October by about $18 billion at an annual rate, the government said. The storm affected 24 states, with the most severe damage in New York and New Jersey.

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Congress looks at doing away with the $1 bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers have shown about as much appetite for the $1 coin as kids do their spinach. They may not know what's best for them either. Congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.

Vending machine operators have long championed the use of $1 coins because they don't jam the machines, cutting down on repair costs and lost sales. But most people don't seem to like carrying them. In the past five years, the U.S. Mint has produced 2.4 billion Presidential $1 coins. Most are stored by the Federal Reserve, and production was suspended about a year ago.

The latest projection from the Government Accountability Office on the potential savings from switching to dollar coins entirely comes as lawmakers begin exploring new ways for the government to save money by changing the money itself.

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VeriSign wins .com renewal, but can't hike prices

NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government has cleared VeriSign Inc. to manage the databases that house ".com" domain names for another six years, but the company won't be allowed to raise prices without approval.

Under the current contract, which expires Friday, VeriSign was guaranteed four price increases of up to 7 percent each on domain name registrations. VeriSign sought a similar guarantee as part of the contract renewal, but the Commerce Department rejected it. The new contract freezes the annual price at the current $7.85 per name, barring special circumstances.

Anyone who wants a ".com" name can obtain one from various companies, which pay VeriSign $7.85 of what they collect on each name. The new contract lets VeriSign continue receiving those fees, but won't guarantee more.

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US to sell wind energy leases off 3 states

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The federal government plans to sell leases for wind farms off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia, marking the first time it has sold competitive leases for wind energy on the outer continental shelf, officials said Friday.

The leases for the two areas, which total more than 430 square miles, will be sold next year, the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said.

The announcement was hailed by the conservation group Oceana, which called it a major step in developing domestic clean energy.

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Ford recalls Escapes, Fusions for engine fire risk

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. said Friday that it is recalling more than 89,000 new Escape SUVs and Fusion sedans because the engines can overheat and cause fires.

The recall affects vehicles from the 2013 model year with 1.6-liter engines that were sold in the U.S. and Canada, the company said in a statement.

Ford says it's working on a fix and is asking owners to contact dealers, who will arrange for loaner cars at no charge until the repairs are made. The company says the engines can catch fire when they overheat and fluids leak onto hot parts. It was unclear exactly what caused the engines to overheat.

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Couple convicted of stealing GM trade secrets

DETROIT (AP) — A former General Motors engineer with access to the automaker's hybrid technology was convicted Friday along with her husband of stealing trade secrets for possible use in China.

Shanshan Du won a transfer within GM in 2003 to be closer to the technology and then copied documents until she accepted a severance offer and left the company in 2005, prosecutors said.

Du, 54, and Yu Qin, 51, were found guilty Friday by a federal jury in Detroit after a trial that lasted weeks. Qin also was convicted of wire fraud and attempting to obstruct justice by shredding documents. They shook each other's hand after the verdict but declined to comment, as did their attorneys.

Du faces up to 10 years in prison, while her husband faces up to 30. No sentencing date has been set.

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Drugmaker Ranbaxy halts generic Lipitor production

NEW YORK (AP) — Problem-plagued Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc. has halted production of generic cholesterol drug Lipitor while it investigates how tiny glass particles got into the ingredients used for dozens of batches of the drug that were recalled in November. It was Ranbaxy's second recall of the drug, called atorvastatin, since August.

The Food and Drug Administration said the company, a subsidiary of India's Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., won't resume manufacturing atorvastatin until it determines the cause of the latest problem and fixes it. The recall was due to "possible contamination with very small glass particles similar to the size of a grain of sand," according to the FDA.

After originally recommending that consumers consult with their pharmacist to determine if they received the recalled atorvastatin — and if so, to stop taking it — the agency decided Friday that it's safe to take the pills.

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FedEx to increase rates in January

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — FedEx Corp. says that it is raising its shipping rates for ground and home delivery services in January by an average of 4.9 percent.

The shipping company said Friday that the new rates will take effect on Jan. 7. Its SmartPost rates also will go up.

FedEx, which is based in Memphis, Tenn., announced earlier this year that it would increase its shipping rates for FedEx Express by an average of 3.9 percent for U.S. domestic, export and import services. Those hikes also take effect on Jan. 7.

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Eurozone unemployment hits another record high

LONDON (AP) — Another month, another record unemployment rate for the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro.

Figures released Friday by Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed that the recession in the eurozone pushed unemployment up in the currency bloc to 11.7 percent in October, the highest level since the introduction of the euro in 1999.

The rise from September's previous record of 11.6 percent was anticipated after the eurozone returned to recession in the third quarter, commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average closed

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.76 points to close at 13,025.58. The Standard and Poor's index edged up 0.23 point to 1,416.25. The Nasdaq composite was down 1.79 points to 3,010.24.

U.S. benchmark crude rose 84 cents to close at $88.91 per barrel in New York. In London, Brent crude rose 47 cents to close at $111.23 per barrel.

Heating oil finished unchanged at $3.06 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline finished unchanged at $2.73 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2.4 percent to close at $3.56 per thousand cubic feet.

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