Auto sales boost otherwise weak retail sector

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans spent less at most retail stores in July and inflation remained tame as high unemployment and weak job growth fueled fears of a slowing economic recovery.

A busy month for car dealerships and higher gas prices lifted overall retail sales 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the first overall gain in three months.

Still, most retailers reported declines. Excluding autos and gasoline sales â¿¿ which accounted for one-fourth of the July figures â¿¿ retail sales fell 0.1 percent last month. Sales were down 1 percent at department stores and also dropped at specialty clothing stores, furniture stores, hardware stores and appliance stores.


Stocks fall for 4th day after retail sales report

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The stock market has fallen for the fourth straight day after a mixed batch of readings on consumer spending contributed to a muddled picture of the economy.

The major indexes fluctuated all day in light trading. Many traders were on vacation, and those who were working had little reason to make major moves because of economic data that remain confusing.

The latest reports fell in line with a long string of conflicting data that has left investors unsure about where the economy is headed. The Dow Jones industrial average has lost almost 400 points in four days.


AP Source: GM likely to file IPO papers next week

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ General Motors Co. is likely to file paperwork next week that describes its plan to sell shares to the public, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

The Detroit automaker had planned to file the papers on Friday but delayed the move to build distance between the filing and two major announcements it made on Thursday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the company is not commenting publicly on the stock sale.

GM said Thursday that CEO Edward Whitacre would step down as CEO Sept. 1 and be replaced by board member Daniel Akerson. It also reported a $1.3 billion second-quarter profit, its second-straight positive quarter.


J.C. Penney cuts outlook on consumer weakness

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ J.C. Penney Co. cut its profit outlook for the rest of the year, a sign of jitters that Americans, still stinging from the recession and worried about jobs, aren't going to spend more any time soon.

The reduced outlook came Friday as Penney reported a second-quarter profit as it benefited from tight inventory controls and exclusive store-label brands. Shares fell almost 2 percent, or 40 cents, to $20.40 per share.

Penney, based in Plano, Texas, earned $14 million, or 6 cents per share, in the three months ended July 31. That compares with a loss of $1 million, or break-even per share, in the same quarter last year.


Blackstone taking Dynegy private for $542.7M

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Asset manager Blackstone Group said Friday it is paying $542.7 million to take Dynegy Inc. private in a three-way deal that will see Dynegy also sell four power plants to NRG Energy Inc.

New York-based Blackstone is taking on more than $4 billion in Dynegy debt as well, bringing the deal's total value to $4.7 billion.

Dynegy said its shareholders will receive $4.50 per share in cash for its nearly 120.6 million shares outstanding, representing a 62 percent premium to the stock's closing price on Thursday.


IBM to buy Unica for $480M, gets ad measuring

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ IBM Corp. said Friday that it has agreed to buy the marketing services company Unica Corp. in a $480 million deal that would give IBM more tools to meet its customers' growing demand for targeted advertising.

The all-cash acquisition brings IBM deeper into the advertising business, a relatively new area for the company. In June, the Armonk, N.Y., company agreed to buy Coremetrics Inc., a company that helps target online marketing.

It also expands IBM's software business, its most profitable division and the main focus of a $20 billion acquisition spree for IBM over the past few years.


Aid helps states escape layoffs, but for how long?

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Cash-strapped states from Maine to Hawaii are tearing up the pink slips â¿¿ for now â¿¿ relieved that the $26 billion state aid bill passed by Congress this week has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it might be the last time the federal government comes to the rescue.

The legislation is a stopgap for long-term budget problems, letting states put off hard choices at a time of record federal deficits. While appetite for such cash infusions is wearing thin, some analysts say the latest package is essential to preserving the fragile economic recovery.


Germany leads eurozone to stronger growth

LONDON (AP) â¿¿ The economy of the 16 countries that use the euro grew by a better-than-expected 1 percent during the second quarter as growth engine Germany expanded at its fastest pace since reunification two decades ago.

Thursday's quarter-on-quarter figures show the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years â¿¿ and faster than the U.S. during the same quarter.

That defied expectations from just a couple of months ago, when Europe was threatened by a severe government debt crisis. The U.S. grew by 0.6 percent during the April to June period compared to the previous quarter.


Oil stuck below $76, gasoline prices slide lower

Gasoline prices are now a penny below where they were a week ago and could head lower after a retreat in oil prices over the past few days.

The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $2.770 on Friday, compared with $2.776 on Thursday and $2.779 a week ago, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

Oil prices continued slipping after falling more than $5 in the first four trading sessions of the week. Benchmark crude for September delivery fell 35 cents to settle at $75.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level in a month.


India eyes Google and Skype in security crackdown

MUMBAI, India (AP) â¿¿ India may ask Google and Skype for greater access to encrypted information once it resolves security concerns with BlackBerrys, which are now under threat of a ban, according to a government document and two people familiar with the discussions.

The 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which were coordinated with satellite and cell phones, helped prompt a sweeping security review of telecommunications ahead of the Commonwealth Games â¿¿ a major sporting event to be held in New Delhi in October. By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 16.80, or 0.2 percent, to 10,303.15.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.36, or 0.4 percent, to 1,079.25. The Nasdaq composite index fell 16.79, or 0.8 percent, to 2,173.48.

Benchmark crude for September delivery fell 35 cents to settle at $75.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level in a month.

In other Nymex trading in September contracts, heating oil was down less than one cent to $1.9956 a gallon, gasoline fell 1.52 cents to $1.9396 a gallon and natural gas gained 3.2 cents to $4.328 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was down 29 cents at $75.11 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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