AP News

Business Highlights


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Gas stations scramble in Sandy's aftermath

NEW YORK (AP) — There's plenty of gasoline in the Northeast — just not at gas stations.

In parts of New York and New Jersey, drivers lined up Thursday for hours at gas stations that were struggling to stay supplied. The power outages and flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy have forced many gas stations to close and disrupted the flow of fuel from refineries to those stations that are open.

At the same time, millions of gallons of gasoline are sitting at the ready in storage tanks, pipelines and tankers that can't unload their cargoes.

"It's like a stopped up drain," said Tom Kloza, Chief Oil Analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

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Exasperation builds on Day 3 in storm-stricken NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — Frustration — and in some cases fear — mounted in New York City on Thursday, three days after Superstorm Sandy. Traffic backed up for miles at bridges, large crowds waited impatiently for buses into Manhattan, and tempers flared in gas lines.

Subway service was restored to most of the city, but not the most stricken parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, where the tunnels were flooded. Bridges into the city were open, but police enforced a carpooling rule and peered into windows to make sure each car had at least three people. The rule was meant to ease congestion but appeared to worsen it.

More than 1,000 people packed the sidewalk outside an arena in Brooklyn, waiting for buses to Manhattan. Nearby, hundreds of people massed on a sidewalk.

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Flying gets easier but travel woes still persist

NEW YORK (AP) — Planes were getting up to speed faster than trains and automobiles in the storm-stricken Northeast.

The region's major airports were all open once New York's LaGuardia resumed flights Thursday morning. While there were additional canceled flights and the tri-state air space was still relatively empty, flying was closer to normalcy than moving by rail, subway or car.

By midday, about one-third of all scheduled departures from LaGuardia and nearly one-third from Newark, N.J., had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightStats.com. There were 192 canceled departures at LaGuardia, 188 at Newark, and 82 at John F. Kennedy International, or about one in every seven scheduled takeoffs for the whole day and evening.

Airlines scrapped nearly 8,000 flights on Monday and another 6,500 Tuesday. Thursday's cancellations were about 1,000, according to FlightStats, bringing the total from Superstorm Sandy to more than 20,000.

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Potential for Sandy scams prompts warnings

Authorities warn of the likelihood of Sandy-related fraud reaching far beyond the storm zone — from bogus charities seeking donations, to home repair scams and sales of flood-damaged vehicles.

State attorneys general, business and consumer groups and the Justice Department are among those cautioning consumers to be wary as requests for donations start arriving via email, text message, telephone and Twitter.

The bottom line: Maintain a healthy skepticism when pitched by solicitors, contractors and groups you don't know, and give your money to charities and businesses you have reason to trust.

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Power, transit outages will increase Sandy's costs

Widespread power outages and subway shutdowns may wind up making Superstorm Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, according to the forecasting firm Eqecat. That would rank it right behind Hurricane Katrina.

The firm doubled its previous estimate for the total bill and now says Sandy may have caused between $30 billion and $50 billion in economic losses, including property damage, lost business and extra living expenses. The cost to insurance companies could run as low as $10 billion and as high as $20 billion.

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Consumers give US economy a lift before election

WASHINGTON (AP) — A flurry of data issued Thursday sketched a brightening view of the U.S. economy in the final days before a presidential election that will pivot on the strength of the recovery.

Cheaper gas, rising home prices and lower unemployment have given consumers the confidence to spend more. And retailers, auto dealers and manufacturers are benefiting.

At the same time, many employers remain anxious about the economy, which is why only modest hiring gains are forecast for Friday's jobs report for October. It will be the last major report on the economy before Election Day.

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Most automakers report sales jumps despite storm

DETROIT (AP) — Most major automakers reported sales increases in October despite losing at least three days of business to the punishing rain and wind from Superstorm Sandy.

Toyota said its sales rose almost 16 percent for the month, while Volkswagen reported another strong month with sales up 22 percent. Honda sales slowed from double-digit growth earlier in the year to 8.8 percent, while Chrysler sales rose 10 percent. General Motors was up 5 percent and Ford rose slightly.

Of major automakers, only Nissan reported a decrease, 3.2 percent, as Sandy pounded the Northeast, the company's top-performing region.

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Retailers' gains in October could hurt holidays

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans spent briskly in October before Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast on the tail-end of the month. But the question is whether they're still willing to buy an iPhone for Christmas if they plunked down hundreds on a generator for Sandy?

Twenty-one retailers from club operator Costco to department store Macy's reported that sales in October through last Saturday were up 5 percent compared with the year-ago period, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That beat the trade group's estimated growth of 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent. Results were not hurt by the storm because it hit the East Coast on Monday, two days after the period for which retailers were reporting sales ended.

But analysts fear that many Americans in some of the nation's biggest cities who bought generators, bottled water and other emergency and cleanup supplies before and after the storm will be less inclined to spend over the holidays.

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Hit by crisis, Greek society in free-fall

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A sign taped to a wall in an Athens hospital appealed for civility from patients. "The doctors on duty have been unpaid since May," it read, "Please respect their work."

Patients and their relatives glanced up briefly and moved on, hardened to such messages of gloom. In a country where about 1,000 people lose their jobs each day, legions more are still employed but haven't seen a paycheck in months. What used to be an anomaly has become commonplace, and those who have jobs that pay on time consider themselves the exception to the rule.

To the casual observer, all might appear well in Athens. Traffic still hums by, restaurants and bars are open, people sip iced coffees at sunny sidewalk cafes. But scratch the surface and you find a society in free-fall, ripped apart by the most vicious financial crisis the country has seen in half a century.

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Ford's Mark Fields promoted, could become CEO

DETROIT (AP) — Ford's leaders have watched Mark Fields, a brash Harvard MBA, turn the company's North American business into a profit machine. Now they're eyeing him for CEO.

Fields, 51, was named chief operating officer Thursday, a sign the board favors him for the top job when CEO Alan Mulally eventually retires. Mulally, 67, plans to stay at least through 2014, a decision that reassured Wall Street.

The announcement puts to rest — for now — the swirl of speculation about Ford's succession plans.

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China manufacturing improves in October

BEIJING (AP) — China's manufacturing improved in October, adding to signs the world's second-largest economy might be recovering from its deepest slump since the 2008 global crisis, two business surveys showed Thursday.

The Chinese numbers are rare good news for the world economy, which has slowed as Europe's chronic debt crisis worsened and the American economy stagnated.

The improvement comes as Communist Party leaders prepare for a once-a-decade handover of power to younger leaders that is due to start at a party congress next week.

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Exxon's 3Q profit falls 7 percent to $9.57 billion

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp.'s third-quarter profit fell 7 percent as it produced less oil and gas and fetched lower prices.

The weak global economy has lowered demand for everything from gasoline to jet fuel. Fear about future growth has undercut prices for oil and natural gas.

The nation's biggest oil company said that net income totaled $9.57 billion, down from $10.33 billion a year earlier. That works out to $2.09 per share. Analysts expected $1.95 per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue fell 8 percent, to $115.71 billion, still better than the $112.40 billion that analysts had forecast.

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Starbucks raises forecast as traffic climbs

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks Corp. on Thursday raised its forecast for the year, after the coffee chain said more customers are going to its cafes, even in the challenging global economy.

The Seattle-based company said global revenue at cafes open at least a year rose 6 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter, driven by higher customer traffic. The measure is a key gauge because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.

Starbucks lifted its guidance for the year ending in September 2013 to $2.06 to $2.15 per share. That's up from its previous outlook of $2.04 to $2.14 per share. Analysts expect $2.14 for the year, according to FactSet.

The company also lifted its quarterly dividend 24 percent, to 21 cents.

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Pfizer 3Q profit falls 14 percent on generic Lipitor

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Drug giant Pfizer Inc. said Thursday that its third-quarter profit fell 14 percent as sales plunged, mainly due to increased U.S. generic competition to cholesterol fighter Lipitor, long the world's top-selling drug.

Still, the company just beat Wall Street's profit expectations and raised its 2012 profit forecast, so its shares only fell slightly.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow closed up 136.16 points, or 1 percent, at 13,232.62. It was the best day since Sept. 13. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15.43 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,427.59. The Nasdaq composite index added 42.83, or 1.4 percent, to 3,020.06.

All three indexes fell in October, their first monthly losses since May.

Benchmark oil gained 85 cents Thursday to finish at $87.09 per barrel in New York. In London, Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 53 cents to end at $108.17 per barrel.

Heating oil fell 3 cents to finish at $3.03 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline was flat at $2.63 per gallon. Natural gas rose less than a penny to end at $3.70 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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