AP News

Business Highlights


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Early look at Windows 8 baffles consumers

NEW YORK (AP) — The release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system is a week away, and consumers are in for a shock. Windows, used in one form or another for a generation, is getting a completely different look that will force users to learn new ways to get things done.

Microsoft is making a radical break with the past to stay relevant in a world where smartphones and tablets have eroded the three-decade dominance of the personal computer. Windows 8 is supposed to tie together Microsoft's PC, tablet and phone software with one look. But judging by the reactions of some people who have tried the PC version, it's a move that risks confusing and alienating customers.

Tony Roos, an American missionary in Paris, installed a free preview version of Windows 8 on his aging laptop to see if Microsoft's new operating system would make the PC faster and more responsive. It didn't, he said, and he quickly learned that working with the new software requires tossing out a lot of what he knows about Windows.

"It was very difficult to get used to," he said. "I have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, and they never got used to it. They were like, 'We're just going to use Mom's computer.'"

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Jobless rate falls in most battleground states

CLEVELAND (AP) — Unemployment rates fell last month in nearly all of the battleground states that may determine the presidential winner, giving President Barack Obama fresh fodder to argue that voters should stick with him in an election focused squarely on the economy.

The declines, however, were modest. It's unclear whether they will do much to sway undecided voters who are considering whether to back Republican Mitt Romney or give the Democratic president four more years.

The statewide data released by the Labor Department on Friday provide one of the last comprehensive looks at the health of the U.S. economy ahead of Election Day, now a little more than two weeks away. Voters will get one more update on the national unemployment rate just days before the election. But the state reports matter greatly to the Obama and Romney campaigns, which believe the public's impressions of the economy are shaped mostly by local conditions rather than national ones.

In Ohio, perhaps the most crucial battleground state for both Obama and Romney, the unemployment rate ticked down last month to 7 percent from 7.2 percent, below the national average of 7.8 percent.

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US home sales dip 1.7 percent on tight inventory

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. sales of previously occupied homes fell in September after hitting a two-year high in August, in part because there were fewer homes available for sale.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales dipped 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million. That's down from a rate of 4.83 million in August, which was the highest in more than two years.

Sales are still up 11 percent from a year earlier. They remain below the more than 5.5 million that economists consider consistent with a healthy market.

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GE 3Q earnings rise; revenue disappoints

NEW YORK (AP) — General Electric Co.'s transformation into a simpler industrial company seems to be helping its bottom line.

The top line, though, is lagging slightly.

GE's net income rose 49 percent in the third quarter to $3.49 billion, or 33 cents per share. On an adjusted basis, GE earned 36 cents per share, in line with analysts' expectations and up 13 percent from a year earlier.

Revenue rose $1 billion, or 3 percent, to $36.35 billion. Analysts were looking for revenue of $36.95 billion and GE shares fell more than 3 percent, part of a broad market decline.

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Stronger dollar hurts McDonald's 3Q results

NEW YORK (AP) — Tough competition in the U.S. and the weakening economy abroad was a double whammy for McDonald's in the third-quarter, sending the burger chain's net income down nearly 4 percent.

McDonald's said it was adjusting some of its plans to deal with the pressures, including stepping up advertising for its dollar menu and bringing back the popular McRib sandwich nationally in December to drive traffic into U.S. stores.

The world's largest hamburger chain with 33,000 locations worldwide has thrived in boom and bust times by selling cheap eats and constantly updating its menu. But global economic pressures and intensifying competition are wearing at the company, which does two-thirds of its business overseas.

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Starbucks opens first India store in Mumbai

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Starbucks inaugurated its first store in India Friday in a historic building in southern Mumbai as the Seattle-based coffee giant seeks growth in a market long associated with tea drinkers.

After over six years of studying the local market, Starbucks is making a rapid-fire entry into Asia's third-largest economy. Coffee houses are still a relatively new trend in India, and the chains already in business sell cappuccinos and lattes well below Starbucks' usual prices.

The company, in a joint venture with Tata Global Beverages, plans to open two additional stores in Mumbai next week — on Wednesday in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and on Thursday in the Oberoi hotel across town — before launching in New Delhi early next year.

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Draft order would give companies cyberthreat info

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new White House executive order would direct U.S. spy agencies to share the latest intelligence about cyberthreats with companies operating electric grids, water plants, railroads and other vital industries to help protect them from electronic attacks, according to a copy of the order obtained by The Associated Press.

The seven-page draft order, which is being finalized, takes shape as the Obama administration expresses growing concern that Iran could be the first country to use cyberterrorism against the United States. The military is ready to retaliate if the U.S. is hit by cyberweapons, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. But the U.S. also is poorly prepared to prevent such an attack, which could damage or knock out critical services that are part of everyday life.

The White House declined to say when the president will sign the order.

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Banana Boat recalls sunscreen due to fire risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — The maker of Banana Boat sunscreen is recalling some half-million bottles of spray-on lotion after reports that a handful of people have caught on fire after applying the product and coming in contact with an open flame.

Energizer Holdings said Friday that it is pulling 23 varieties of UltraMist sunscreen off store shelves due to the risk of the lotion igniting when exposed to fire.

The recall includes aerosol products like UltraMist Sport, UltraMist Ultra Defense and UltraMist Kids.

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European bank supervisor step closer but deal hazy

BRUSSELS (AP) — European leaders took a step toward creating a single supervisor for banks in countries that use the euro on Friday but refused to pin down a start date.

Although the leaders meeting in Brussels said their decisions on the watchdog — the single supervisory mechanism — were key to shoring up lenders and eventually giving them access to loans from Europe's bailout fund, many observers were struggling to figure out exactly what had been achieved.

Rather than finding new measures to fight the crisis, the leaders focused on establishing a timeline for those they had already agreed to.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 205.43 points, or 1.5 percent, to close Friday at 13,343.51.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 24.15, or 1.7 percent, to 1,433.19. The Nasdaq composite index lost 67.24 points to 3,005.62, a 2.2 percent decline.

Benchmark oil fell $2.05 to finish at $90.05 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, dropped $2.28, or 2 percent, to end at $110.14 per barrel in London.

Heating oil fell 5 cents to finish at $3.13 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to finish at $2.70 per gallon. Natural gas rose 3 cents to finish at $3.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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