Leading economic indicators rise in August

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ A private forecast of U.S. economic activity rose in August for the fifth straight month, the latest sign the recession has ended. The report points to an economy on solid ground early next year, though some analysts caution that a rising unemployment rate will restrain growth.

The Conference Board said its index of leading indicators rose 0.6 percent in August. That follows a 0.9 percent gain in July revised up from 0.6 percent. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected an 0.7 percent gain last month.

The indicators are designed to project economic activity in the next three to six months. The August results support many analysts' projections that the economy started growing again in the current July-September quarter and will continue to gain in the fourth quarter.

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Stocks end off lows as health care, tech recover

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Stocks mostly fell but ended off their lows as investors moved into technology and health care shares.

News of Dell Inc.'s plans to buy information technology company Perot Systems Corp. for $3.9 billion helped to lift some tech stocks but failed to raise the broader market. A stronger dollar ignited a sharp sell-off in commodities like oil and gold, which weighed on energy and material shares.

Stocks and commodities have been on a relentless ascent over the past six months as investors make bets that the economy is healing, bolstered by improving activity in the housing and manufacturing industries and better consumer sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 41.34, or 0.4 percent, to 9,778.86, after earlier falling as much as 95 points. With stocks up more than 50 percent since bottoming in early March, analysts say breaks in the rally are healthy.

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Lennar posts wider loss in 3Q, but market improves

UNDATED (AP) ¿ Homebuilder Lennar Corp. reported a wider loss in its fiscal third quarter as it continued to write down the value of land and unsold homes, but executives say the company will be profitable next year assuming the economy remains stable.

Orders for new homes were down 8 percent from a year earlier, but they increased each month during the quarter ending Aug. 31. Another positive sign: the Miami-based company had more sales in the works at the end of last month than any time since August 2008.

The company reported that it lost $171.6 million, or 97 cents per share, in the three months ended in August. That includes 76 cents per share in write-downs and tax adjustments, and compares with a loss of $89 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier.

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Dell eyes tech services with $3.9B deal for Perot

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Dell Inc. will spend $3.9 billion for the technology services company Perot Systems Corp. in an attempt to expand beyond the PC business and compete more aggressively with Hewlett-Packard Co. ¿ which recently bought another tech-services company founded by H. Ross Perot.

Dell said it will offer $30 per share in cash for Perot Systems ¿ a 68 percent premium over its closing price Friday. Perot Systems' shares rose $11.65, or 65 percent, to close at $29.56.

Former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot Sr., 79, serves as chairman emeritus of Perot Systems, which he founded in 1988. According to an April regulatory filing, Perot and related trusts controlled at least 25 percent of the company's stock, though the beneficiary of those shares was not clear. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Perot's stake.

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AIG shares jump after talk of bailout revamp

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Shares of American International Group Inc. jumped more than 20 percent after the head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said that panel will examine a plan to reduce the company's massive bailout package.

The stock surge occurred despite a report from congressional investigators that cast doubt on whether efforts by AIG to restructure its operations and fully repay the government the billions it received will ever prove successful.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House committee, will have that panel study a plan by AIG's former CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg to reduce and restructure the company's bailout package, a committee spokeswoman said.

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Energy prices drop sharply ahead of Fed meeting

UNDATED (AP) ¿ Oil prices fell for a third straight day before the U.S. Federal Reserve meets to discuss monetary policy, which for months has helped to drive crude prices higher.

Benchmark crude for October delivery lost more than 3 percent, or $2.33, to settle at $69.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

With the October contract set to expire on Tuesday, traders were focusing more on the November contract, which fell $2.56 to settle at $69.93. Natural gas futures, which have soared throughout the month, fell sharply, as did most other fuels.

Energy consumption in North America and Europe has been crimped by recession, leaving China as one of the few countries that continue to consume oil, gasoline and diesel in large quantities. That pace, at least during late summer, appeared to slow, according to a report.

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EU gives details of Intel's sales tactics

BRUSSELS (AP) ¿ The European Union published e-mail excerpts from computer makers and Intel Corp. to show that Intel pressured chip buyers into choosing Intel over rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Intel was hit by a record EU antitrust fine of 1.06 billion euros ($1.45 billion) last May for what the EU said were strong-arm sales tactics ¿ payments, rebates and threats to withhold supplies ¿ to squeeze out AMD. Intel rejects the charges and is appealing to the EU courts.

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said the publication of the EU's decision "gives full details of the hard facts on which the Commission's decision was based."

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IRS extends amnesty program for tax cheats

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Procrastinating tax cheats will get a few extra weeks to apply for an amnesty program that has been flooded with applications from people who hid assets overseas.

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it will extend the deadline, originally set for Wednesday, until Oct. 15.

More than 3,000 Americans have applied for the program, which promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax dodgers who come forward, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the agency has not publicly released the size of the program.

The IRS is extending the deadline to give a rush of applicants more time to prepare their paperwork. The agency said there will be no additional extensions.

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Regions to pay $1M penalty in investment fraud

MIAMI (AP) ¿ Regions Bank has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint that it played a role in a long-term investment fraud that charged huge hidden fees and sales commissions to thousands of unwitting Latin American investors.

The Birmingham, Ala.-based bank and its predecessor, Union Planters Bank, acted as trustees for a pair of unregistered investment brokers ¿ U.S. Pension Trust Corp. and U.S. College Trust Corp. ¿ that have previously been charged as deceptive by the SEC. Regions allowed its name to be used in marketing materials, helped prepare a promotional video and met with prospective investors and some of the schemes' 2,000 unregistered sales agents. By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 41.34, or 0.4 percent, to 9,778.86.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.64, or 0.3 percent, to 1,064.66, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 5.18, or 0.2 percent, to 2,138.04.

Benchmark crude for October delivery lost more than 3 percent, or $2.33, to settle at $69.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The November contract fell $2.56 to settle at $69.93.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for October delivery fell 8.1 cents to settle at $1.7514 a gallon, and heating oil fell 7.62 cents to settle at $1.7517 a gallon. Natural gas tumbled more than 5 percent, or 20.2 cents to settle at $3.576 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell $2.63 to settle at $68.69 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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