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Business Highlights

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Microsoft may have exited gadget show prematurely

LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ Microsoft may have relinquished its starring role in America's gaudiest gadget show a year too early.

After 13 straight years in the spotlight, Microsoft's decision to scale back its presence at this week's International CES deprived the software maker of a prime opportunity to explain and promote a new generation of redesigned computers running its radically remade Windows operating system.

The missed chance comes at a time when Microsoft Corp. could use a bully pulpit to counter perceptions that Windows 8 isn't compelling enough to turn the technological tide away from smartphones and tablets running software made by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

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In gun debate, video game industry defends itself

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The video game industry, blamed by some for fostering a culture of violence, defended its practices Friday at a White House meeting exploring how to prevent horrific shootings like the recent Connecticut elementary school massacre.

Vice President Joe Biden, wrapping up three days of wide-ranging talks on gun violence prevention, said the meeting was an effort to understand whether the U.S. was undergoing a "coarsening of our culture."

The gaming industry says that violent crime, particularly among the young, has fallen since the early 1990s while video games have increased in popularity.

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US trade gap grows to $48.7 billion, as imports surge

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. trade deficit expanded in November to its widest point in seven months, driven by a surge in imports that outpaced only modest growth in exports.

The Commerce Department report Friday suggests trade will drag on economic growth in the October-December quarter. A wider trade gap slows growth because it means Americans spent more on foreign products while U.S. businesses earned less in overseas sales.

Still, the report showed consumers have maintained an appetite for spending. They kept buying iPhones and other imported goods in November, despite high unemployment and low wage growth.

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