Business Highlights

Home construction up for 5th month in a row

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Construction of single-family homes rose in July for the fifth straight month, edging up almost 2 percent to the highest level since last October, the government said Tuesday. Building permits climbed nearly 6 percent.

Each new home built creates about three jobs on average and generates about $90,000 in taxes paid to local and federal authorities, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

With new construction up 37 percent from its low point this winter, the industry is expected to help the overall economy this quarter for the first time in three and a half years.

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Retailers' results top estimates; wariness remains

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Retailers that reported their second-quarter earnings Tuesday made big strides in profitability from a year ago by slashing inventory and other costs, but executives predicted shoppers will remain tightfisted.

At discounter TJX Cos., which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores, the benefit of offering low prices during the recession was clear: Profit rose 31 percent.

At Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc., profit fell but beat Wall Street expectations, while luxury merchant Saks Inc.'s second-quarter loss widened, though cutting costs helped it do better than analysts feared.

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Earnings data help stocks regain ground after drop

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Some better-than-expected retail earnings reports and the latest reading on housing Tuesday drew investors back into the stock market after the previous day's big selloff. The major indexes rose about 1 percent, led by a surge in financial and technology companies.

Investors were still wary about consumer spending and its impact on the economy but heard enough good news to fuel the comeback from Monday's 186-point slide in the Dow Jones industrials. Analysts said investors were putting things in perspective, believing the pullback was a bit overdone.

The Dow rose 82.60, or 0.9 percent, to 9,217.94.

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Inflation a no-show in July, likely to stay muted

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Inflation was a no-show in July and likely will stay away for months to come, giving the Federal Reserve room to keep invigorating the economy with record-low interest rates.

That was the message economists took from a report Tuesday that wholesale prices fell over the past 12 months by the sharpest amount in 62 years of record-keeping ¿ the latest sign that inflation is posing no threat.

The Labor Department said wholesale prices sank 0.9 percent in July, triple the decline that economists had expected. Over the past year, wholesale prices have dropped 6.8 percent. That's the biggest drop in records dating to 1947.

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Centex, Pulte shareholders OK takeover

UNDATED (AP) ¿ Pulte Home Inc.'s $1.53 billion takeover of rival Centex Corp. was approved by shareholders of both companies Tuesday, creating the largest homebuilder in the United States.

The deal matches Pulte's division for retirement-age homebuyers with Centex's focus on young first-time buyers. By absorbing Centex, Pulte is now positioned to sell homes in 29 states and Washington D.C., under brands such as Del Webb, DiVosta and Fox & Jacobs. Pulte also gains large tracts of land in Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The combined company is keeping the Pulte name and headquarters in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., but not all of the employees.

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Oil rebounds alongside stocks to more than $69

UNDATED (AP) ¿ Oil prices rebounded sharply alongside the major stock indices Tuesday after a huge sell-off that began the week.

The September benchmark crude contract gained $1.44 to settle at $69.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. With the September contract expiring on Thursday, most of the volume was in the October contract, which rose $2.28 to settle at $71.09.

With so many mixed economic reports, the jump in prices surprised many experts, who watched crude fall 5 percent over the past two trading sessions. Natural gas prices fell for the ninth straight day and it has been increasingly difficult to ignore the amount of crude and gas being placed into storage.

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GM to boost output due to clunkers incentives

DETROIT (AP) ¿ Higher sales, in part from the government's Cash for Clunkers program, are spurring General Motors Co. to boost production at several of its factories.

The automaker said Tuesday it will add 60,000 vehicles to its production in the third and mainly the fourth quarter. It will also bring back about 1,350 laid-off workers in the U.S. and Canada.

GM will add a shift to its CAMI factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, where the new Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain midsize crossover vehicles are made. The company's Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant, where the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 are made, also will see additional shifts.

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CIT Group records $1.68 billion 2Q loss

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Commercial lender CIT Group Inc. said Monday in a regulatory filing it lost $1.68 billion in the second quarter, and again warned it might have to file for bankruptcy protection if it fails to restructure its business.

Losses mounted in the quarter as the embattled New York-based lender as borrowing costs exceeded income from lending to customers, and as it set aside more money to protect against future loan losses.

CIT lost $4.30 per share during the quarter ended June 30. During the same quarter last year, CIT lost $2.08 billion, or $7.88 per share, due to a $2.55 billion charge from discontinued operations.

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HP 3Q profit drops 19 pct, weak PC, ink sales

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ¿ Hewlett-Packard Co.'s profit dropped 19 percent in the latest quarter, dragged by ongoing weakness in sales of personal computers and printer ink.

The Palo Alto, California-based company reported Tuesday that consumer spending on PCs is improving, and business in China was particularly good. Corporations are still being tightfisted, though.

Because of the recession, 2009 is shaping up to be the worst year in nearly a decade for the PC industry. HP, the world's No. 1 PC maker, has been branching out aggressively into other areas, like technology services and computer networking, but the PC business still makes up nearly a third of its revenue.

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PS3 price cut by $100; slimmer model to come

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ After months of rumors and anticipation, Sony Corp. is slashing the price of the PlayStation 3 by $100 in hopes of boosting sales of the console ahead of the important holiday season.

Sony Corp. said Tuesday it will cut the price of the currently available 80 gigabyte PlayStation 3 effective immediately, to $299. It is also launching a slimmer, lighter model with a 120 GB hard drive in early September; that version will also cost $299.

Sony also cut the price of its existing 160 GB PlayStation 3 by $100, to $399. All price cuts apply worldwide.

Sales of the PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006 and cost as much as $600 at the time, have fallen behind rival consoles. By The Associated Press

The Dow rose 82.60, or 0.9 percent, to 9,217.94.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 9.94, or 1 percent, to 989.67, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 25.08, or 1.3 percent, to 1,955.92.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 8.25, or 1.5 percent, to 556.43.

The September benchmark crude contract gained $1.44 to settle at $69.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for September delivery rose 4.87 cents to settle just above $2 a gallon and heating oil gained 3.85 cents to settle at $1.865. Natural gas for September delivery fell 4.7 cents to settle at $3.115 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices rose $1.82 to settle at $72.37 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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