AP News

Business Highlights


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Claims about flood-damaged cars aren't true

DETROIT (AP) — In the days since Superstorm Sandy, an alarming prediction has flashed across the Internet: Hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged vehicles will inundate the nation's used-car market, and buyers might not be told which cars have been affected.

Not true, according to insurance-claims data reviewed by The Associated Press. The actual number of vehicles is far smaller, and some of those cars will be repaired and kept by their owners. The dire predictions are being spread by a company that sells vehicle title and repair histories and by the largest group representing American car dealers.

They claim the number of cars damaged by Sandy could be larger than when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 and damaged more than 600,000 vehicles. But an AP analysis of claims data supplied by major insurance companies shows the number of cars reported damaged so far is a fraction of that.

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Stocks slide on Wall Street, extending sell-off

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks slid on Wall Street Thursday, a day after the Dow Jones industrial average logged its biggest one-day drop of the year, as investors fretted about the potential for gridlock in Washington.

The Dow closed down 121.41 points to 12,811.32, bringing its two-day loss to 434 points. The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell 17.02 points to 1,377.51 and the Nasdaq composite slipped 41.70 to 2,895.58.

The Dow plunged 313 points Wednesday, its fifth worst one-day drop following a U.S. presidential election. The biggest, in 2008, came in the midst of the financial crisis on the day after President Barack Obama won his first term.

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McDonald's sales drop for first time since 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's Corp. is having a tough time stomaching the competition.

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Thursday that a key sales figure fell for the first time in nearly a decade in October, as it faced the double whammy of a challenging economy abroad and intensifying competition at home. The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., says global revenue at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 1.8 percent for the month. The last time it dropped was in March 2003.

The figure is a key metric because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations. It's a snapshot of money spent on food at both company owned and franchised restaurants and does not reflect corporate revenue.

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Weekly US jobless claims fell to 355,000 last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, a possible sign of a healing job market. But officials cautioned that the figures were distorted by Superstorm Sandy, which likely delayed some claims.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose by 3,250 to 370,500.

The storm could affect weekly applications for up to four weeks, a Labor spokesman said.

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US trade deficit narrows to $41.5 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit declined to the lowest level in nearly two years as exports rose to a record high. The gain may not last given the global economic slowdown.

Still, the narrower trade deficit could lead the government to revise its July-September economic growth estimate slightly higher than the 2 percent annual rate reported last month. That's because U.S. companies earned more from overseas sales while consumers and businesses spent less on foreign products.

The deficit narrowed to $41.5 billion in September, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That is 5.1 percent below the August deficit and the smallest imbalance since December 2010.

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Duke Energy 3Q earnings hurt by mild weather

NEW YORK (AP) — Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility by market value, reported stronger-than-expected earnings for the third quarter but company executives said the outlook for strong economic growth in the U.S. is dim.

The company said more customers signed up for service, which is a hopeful sign, but demand for electricity from homes and businesses has been weak. Jim Rogers, Duke CEO, said in an interview that the company is operating under the expectation that electricity demand, excluding the effects of weather, will grow at a rate of less than 1 percent.

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Wendy's sales climb amid transformation push

NEW YORK (AP) — Wendy's push to remake itself as a higher-end hamburger chain is starting to pay off, with a key sales figure rising for the sixth straight quarter.

The company, based in Dublin, Ohio, is trying to pull away from the image of the typical fast-food chain and cast itself as a purveyor of higher-quality burgers and sides. The move reflects the growing popularity of chains such as Chipotle and Panera, which offer better quality food for slightly higher prices.

Other chains have been taking cues from the new breed of fast-casual restaurants as well, with Burger King reworking its menu and Taco Bell rolling out its higher-end Cantina Bell bowls and burritos earlier this year. McDonald's Corp., meanwhile, said it plans to intensify its focus on value in the challenging economy. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain said Thursday that sales in October fell for the first time since 2003.

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Disney 4Q profit in line, revenue misses forecast

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday that its net income in the latest quarter rose 14 percent because of an uptick in revenue driven by higher consumer spending at its theme parks and on its cruise ships.

The results were announced a week after Disney said it would buy Lucasfilm Ltd. and revive the "Star Wars" franchise with a new trilogy starting in 2015.

Net income in the three months to Sept. 29 rose to $1.24 billion, or 68 cents per share, from $1.09 billion, or 58 cents per share, a year ago.

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Wal-Mart raises stake for holiday season's start

NEW YORK (AP) — Attention, frustrated Black Friday shoppers who can never grab that hot product: Wal-Mart is hoping to relieve some of your anxiety.

The world's largest retailer is throwing its doors open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than a year ago. It's also guaranteeing shoppers that it will have three of the most popular items it sells if they line up inside the store during a one-hour event that day.

Those who are lined up inside the store between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving will be able to purchase the following items: an Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $74 Wal-Mart gift card; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148, marked down from $228; and an LG Blu-ray Disc player for $38, about half off the original price.

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Priceline to acquire Kayak in $1.8 billion deal

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) — Priceline.com Inc. plans to buy online travel-research company Kayak Software Corp. for $1.8 billion to expand its travel business.

Priceline will pay about $500 million in cash and $1.3 billion in stock and assumed options. The deal values Kayak at $40 a share, a 29 percent premium over its closing price Thursday.

Shares of Kayak — which also reported a 78 percent jump in third-quarter earnings — soared in after-hours trading while Priceline shares fell.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow closed down 121.41 points to 12,811.32. The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell 17.02 points to 1,377.51 and the Nasdaq composite slipped 41.70 to 2,895.58.

Crude oil rose 65 cents to close at $85.09 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 43 cents to $107.25 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 1.84 cents to $2.6073 per gallon. Heating oil fell 0.67 cent to $2.9554 per gallon. Natural gas rose 3 cents to $3.608 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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