By The Associated Press___ Flu season puts businesses and employees in a bind WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Nearly half the 70 employees at a Ford dealership in Clarksville, Ind., have been out sick at some point in the past month. It didn't have to be that way, the boss says. "If people had stayed home in the first place, a lot of times that spread wouldn't have happened," says Marty Book, a vice president at Carriage Ford. "But people really want to get out and do their jobs, and sometimes that's a detriment." The flu season that has struck early and hard across the U.S. is putting businesses and employees alike in a bind. In this shaky economy, many Americans are reluctant to call in sick, something that can backfire for their employers. Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The only states without widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii. And the main strain of the virus circulating tends to make people sicker than usual. ___ FAA to review Boeing 787, but calls plane safe WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government stepped in Friday to assure the public that Boeing's 787 "Dreamliner" is safe to fly, even as it launched a comprehensive review to find out what caused a fire, a fuel leak and other worrisome incidents this week. Despite the incidents Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared, "I believe this plane is safe, and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight." Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration said his agency has seen no data suggesting that the plane isn't safe but wanted the review to find out why safety-related incidents were occurring. The 787 is the aircraft maker's newest and most technologically advanced airliner, and the company is counting heavily on its success. It relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
___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. ___ 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. ___ 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.
___US budget deficit grows by $260 million in December WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. annual budget deficit is on track to reach $1 trillion for a fifth straight year, though government revenue jumped last month as people paid some taxes early to avoid higher rates in 2013. The Treasury Department said Friday that the federal deficit grew by just $260 million in December. But for the first three months of the budget year, the deficit widened to $292 billion. In December, tax revenue rose 12 percent to $270 billion. Spending fell 17 percent to nearly the same amount. ___ USDA: Drought cut corn crop by about one-fourth DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) â¿¿ For farmers like Earl Williams, last year couldn't have started out better or ended much worse as a warm, sunny spring that let him plant early gave way to record heat and drought that devastated his corn. Williams ended up with about two-thirds of the crop he expected, and a Department of Agriculture report released Friday showed most corn farmers didn't fare much better. The final report on the 2012 growing season showed farmers harvested 10.78 billion bushels of corn, less than three-fourths of what the agency predicted last spring. While the report covers many other crops, much of the attention has been on corn, which is widely used as an ingredient in many foods, provides feed for livestock and is mixed with gasoline as ethanol. The crop also was the hardest hit by the drought that settled in just as the plants were maturing. ___ Merck warns docs to stop prescribing Tredaptive Drugmaker Merck & Co. is suspending its sale of the cholesterol drug Tredaptive after initial results from a study showed that it wasn't effective and could raise the risk of some serious side effects. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said Friday it is telling doctors to quit prescribing the tablets, which are not approved in the U.S., and it also is advising patients to stop taking the medication only after talking to a physician.
The drug is sold in about 40 countries. A company spokeswoman said Friday it will take a few months to implement the suspension worldwide.___ Best Buy shares jump on holiday results NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Shares of Best Buy Co. rose more than 16 percent on Friday after the electronics chain showed signs of starting to reverse declining sales during the critical holiday selling season, a better-than-expected result. Best Buy has been facing tough competition from discounters and online retailers, as people browse electronics in stores and then buy them more cheaply online, a practice known as "showrooming." To combat this, it has instituted a cost-cutting program, invested in more employee training and put an online price matching policy in place during the key holiday period of November and December. The holiday quarter accounted for about a third of Best Buy's revenue last year. The chain said that revenue at stores open at least a year fell 1.4 percent for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5. This figure is a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed. ___ Apple CEO: China will be biggest market BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ Apple expects China to overtake the United States as its biggest market, CEO Tim Cook told a Chinese government news agency. "China is currently our second largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Cook as saying in an interview. The report gave no details of when Cook thought China might pass the U.S. Apple Inc. spokespeople in China did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Apple has said sales in China more than doubled in 2010 and 2011 though growth has slowed in the past year. ___ By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.21 points to 13,488.43. The Nasdaq composite index rose 3.87 to 3,125.63. The S&P 500 was little changed, closing at 1,472.05.Benchmark oil dropped 26 cents to finish at $93.56 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell $1.25 to end at $110.64 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to finish at $2.74 a gallon. Heating oil lost 5 cents to end at $3.01 a gallon. Natural gas rose 13 cents to finish at $3.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.