Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Fed foresees far weaker growth than it had earlier

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Federal Reserve sketched a bleaker outlook Wednesday for the economy, which it thinks will grow much more slowly and face higher unemployment than it had estimated in June.

The Fed's gloomier forecast shows that the recovery from the recession has continued to fall short of expectations. Some economists said it makes the Fed more likely to act further to try to boost the economy, though probably not until early next year.

One option would be a program similar to the Fed's $600 billion in Treasury bond purchases, which it completed in June. Some economists think the Fed could buy mortgage-backed securities instead, which could more directly support the depressed housing market by lowering loan rates.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Chairman Ben Bernanke said that if conditions worsen, the Fed would consider buying more mortgage-backed securities. He declined to specify what would trigger such a move.


401(k) matches resume for 75 percent of companies

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) â¿¿ Few areas are spared when it comes to corporate belt tightening. During the economic downturn, employees felt the impact of cutbacks in hiring, raises, and even contributions to their 401(k) plans.

The first wave of reductions in 401(k) plans began in 2008. The number of employers lowering or suspending their contributions rose in the first half of 2009 as the stock market fell to its lowest point after the financial meltdown.

In new research released Wednesday, business consultant Towers Watson analyzed the action of 260 mid- to large-sized companies. It shows that 75 percent of those that took the step to cut costs in their retirement plans have resumed making 401(k) contributions.


New device uses light to screen for melanoma

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Dermatologists will soon get some high-tech help deciding which suspicious-looking moles should be removed and checked for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a first-of-its-kind device, called MelaFind, that makes detailed, digital images of skin growths and uses a computer to analyze them for signs of cancer, offering a sort of second opinion to doctors. The device is approved only for dermatologists and only for use on growths that don't have obvious signs of cancer but still have one or two worrisome traits.

The hope is to find more melanomas sooner. Nearly all patients diagnosed with early-stage melanoma can be treated and cured, but 85 percent of patients with late-stage melanoma die from it within five years.


Like a Rock: Chevy celebrates 100th anniversary

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ We saw the USA in them. We drove them to the levee. We even worked on our night moves in their back seats.

For a century, Chevrolets won America's love with their safety, convenience, style and speed â¿¿ even if sometimes they were clunky, or had problems with rust or their rear suspensions.

Chevy, which lays claim to being the top-selling auto brand of all time, celebrates its 100th birthday on Thursday.

For most of its life, Chevy stayed a fender ahead of the competition by bringing innovations like all-steel bodies, automatic shifting, electric headlamps and power steering to regular folks at a low cost.

Chevy also embedded itself in American culture, sometimes changing it by knowing what people wanted to drive before they did. Snappy jingles and slogans dominated radio and television, and bands mentioned Chevys in more than 700 songs. No other automotive brand has come close to the adoration that Chevy won from customers, especially in the 1950s and '60s.


Protesters target downtown Oakland bank branches

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ Thousands of Wall Street protesters marched in the streets of Oakland on Wednesday as they geared up with labor unions to picket banks, take over foreclosed homes and vacant buildings and disrupt operations at the nation's fifth-busiest port.

The protests marked an escalation from previous demonstrations as they went beyond boisterous rallies at park encampments and took aim at a major hub of commerce â¿¿ the Port of Oakland. Organizers say they want to halt "the flow of capital" at the port.

The union representing port workers said it cannot ask members to participate in the protests because of clauses in its contract, potentially minimizing any disruptions.


MasterCard third-quarter profit up 38 percent as card use rises

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ MasterCard Inc. said Wednesday that its third-quarter profit soared 38 percent on a big spike in card use around the world.

The most pronounced growth was in debit cards. In the U.S., use of MasterCard-branded debit cards rose 23 percent, compared with just 7 percent for credit cards. By comparison, rival Visa, which has a far bigger share of the domestic debit market, said last week that debit purchase volume rose about 8 percent.

The debit side of the card industry is experiencing a shakeup. New U.S. regulations limit the fees banks and payment processors like MasterCard and Visa can charge retailers for handling debit card purchases, setting a cap of about 24 cents per transaction, versus the previously unregulated average of about 44 cents. And merchants will be allowed to choose which network processes their transactions. That choice was previously made by the merchant's bank. The rules started to kick in Oct. 1.

The changes give MasterCard an opportunity to take even more business from Visa. The Purchase-N.Y. based company has poached Visa clients such as Huntington Bancshares and SunTrust Banks over the past year.


Kraft third-quarter profit up 22 percent

NORTHFIELD, Ill. (AP) â¿¿ Kraft Foods Inc.'s third-quarter profit jumped 22 percent as higher prices helped offset the food maker's increased costs.

The company reported Wednesday that it earned $922 million, or 52 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That's up from $754 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier.

After adjusting for integration costs related to its acquisition of Cadbury, the company earned 58 cents per share versus 47 cents per share in the prior period.

Kraft's revenue rose nearly 12 percent to $13.23 billion.

The results beat analysts' average forecast for earnings of 55 cents per share on revenue of $12.8 billion.


News Corp first-quarter profit falls on charges from scandal

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ News Corp. saw net income for its fiscal first quarter drop 5 percent from a year ago due to the cost of closing a scandal-wracked tabloid and dropping its takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting.

The media conglomerate, controlled by CEO Rupert Murdoch, is under fire for phone hacking in Britain.

Net income in July through September fell to $738 million, or 28 cents per share, from $775 million, or 30 cents per share, a year ago.

Absent about $221 million in special charges, including $91 million in restructuring costs linked to the U.K. newspaper business, adjusted earnings came to 32 cents, beating the 29 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue grew 7 percent to $7.96 billion, helped by higher fees for pay TV channels like Fox News and the successful movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." That also beat the $7.63 billion expected by analysts.


Syms and Filene's unit seek bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Discount retailer Syms Corp. and its subsidiary Filene's Basement have filed for bankruptcy protection and plan to close all 46 of their stores.

Syms acquired Filene's Basement out of bankruptcy protection in the spring of 2009 for $62.4 million, but struggled to turn the chain around. This is the third bankruptcy case involving the Filene's Basement chain.

Syms and Filene's Basement stores are located mostly in the Eastern U.S. and employ about 2,450 people, the company said.

It's an indicator of the tough economic times as the retailer struggled to stay afloat amid tough competition and consumers who have curbed their spending.

CEO Marcy Syms said in statement that the two discount chains were burdened by increasing competition from department stores offering the same brands at similar discounts and by a rising number of private label discounters. She also said there was less overstock for her company to buy as businesses continue to manage their inventory carefully during the tough economy.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 178.08 points, or 1.5 percent, to close at 11,836.04. The Standard and Poor's 500 rose 19.62 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,237.90. The Nasdaq composite gained 33.02, or 1.3 percent, to 2,639.98.

Benchmark crude rose 32 cents to end the day at $92.51 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude lost 20 cents to finish at $109.34 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil lost 3.72 cents to end at $3.0007 per gallon, while gasoline futures were flat, finishing at $2.6272 per gallon. Natural gas lost 3.2 cents to end at $3.749 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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