By The Associated Press___ Gasoline prices get early start on spring surge NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Gasoline prices are getting an early start on their annual spring march higher. The average U.S. retail price rose 13 cents over the past two weeks to $3.42 per gallon, and within a few days it will likely set a record for this time of year. The culprits: Rising crude oil prices, slowing output at refineries that are undergoing maintenance, and low supplies of gasoline. ___ US challenges deal to merge Budweiser and Corona WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion purchase of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which would bring together the owners of popular beers like Budweiser and Corona. The government said the deal could lead to higher beer prices here because it would substantially reduce competition in the U.S. beer market, particularly in 26 metropolitan areas. It said the merged firm would control nearly half the beer sales in the U.S. Anheuser-Busch InBev promised a court fight to preserve the deal. ___ Ready to rumble: Super Bowl fans get in the game NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ You don't have to be a football player to be a part of the action on Super Bowl Sunday. Coca-Cola is asking people to vote for an online match between three groups competing in a desert for a Coke on Game Day. Pepsi and Toyota are using viewers' photos in their ads. Audi let people choose the end of its Super Bowl ad, while Lincoln based its spot on more 6,000 tweets from fans about their road trips. These are just some ways advertisers have found to get viewers involved in the excitement on Game Day by luring them online. And they're going well beyond encouraging fans to tweet or "like" their ads on websites like Twitter Facebook.
They're trying to get the most of their Super Bowl ads, which cost nearly $4 million for a 30-second spot, by drawing more people online. Companies that advertise during the Super Bowl get a 20 percent increase in Web traffic on the day of the game, according to the analytics arm of software maker Adobe. They also have a higher online audience than average, the week after.___ Obama decides not to extend term of jobs council WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ President Barack Obama is letting his jobs council expire, cutting off one source of input from business leaders while unemployment remains stubbornly high. Obama formed the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in January 2011, when unemployment was about 9 percent. It's now 7.8 percent, though more than 12 million people are out of work. Obama's executive order establishing the council said it would go out of business Jan. 31, 2013. The White House said Thursday that Obama had no plans to renew its charter. ___ US consumer spending up just 0.2 percent WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. consumers increased their spending in December at a slower pace, while their income grew by the largest amount in eight years. Income surged because companies rushed to pay dividends before income taxes increased on high earners. The Commerce Department said Thursday that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month, compared with a 0.4 percent increase in November. Income jumped 2.6 percent in December from November, the biggest gain since December 2004. The main driver of the increase was dividend payments, which companies accelerated to beat the possible January rise in tax rates. ___ Weekly US jobless aid applications rise to 368,000 WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows. Applications fell by a combined 45,000 in the second and third weeks of January.
The volatility reflects the government's difficulty adjusting the data to account for layoffs after the holiday shopping season. Job cuts typically spike in the second week in January as retailers dismiss temporary employees hired for the winter holidays. Layoffs then fall in the second half of the month.___ UPS 4Q results, 2013 outlook miss estimates DALLAS (AP) â¿¿ United Parcel Service Inc. says weak global trade and a disappointing holiday season slowed it down in the fourth quarter. Profit in the last three months of 2012 fell short of Wall Street expectations. So did UPS's outlook for this year as the company took a cautious approach toward the global economy. UPS also forecast a "relatively flat" first quarter. The company's shares dropped 2.4 percent on Thursday. ___ Global growth boosts MasterCard 4Q net income MasterCard's net income rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter as its overseas business continued to expand, the company said Thursday. The results benefited by comparison to the year-earlier quarter, which was weighed down by a massive legal charge. Net income in the three months ended Dec. 31 rose to $605 million, or $4.86 per share, from $19 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier. Net revenue rose 10 percent to $1.90 billion. MasterCard continued to grow by most measures: It processed 20 percent more transactions than a year ago, including 17 percent higher cross-border volumes. ___ Doritos to roll out chips in 'Taco Bell' flavor NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Frito-Lay wants a bigger bite of Taco Bell's popular Doritos Locos Tacos. The snack food giant plans to roll out its Doritos in a "Taco Bell" flavor as a limited-time product this spring, aiming to capitalize on the popularity of the Doritos-flavored tacos introduced by the fast-food chain last year. Frito-Lay says it will be the first time since the 1990s that it has offered Doritos branded with the logo of a national restaurant chain.
___ANA to seek damages from Boeing for 787 woes TOKYO (AP) â¿¿ Japan's All Nippon Airways is prepared to recoup from Boeing whatever damages it suffers from flight cancellations and other costs caused by the worldwide grounding of 787 jets, a senior executive said Thursday. All Nippon Airways Co.'s chief financial officer said the airline was focused on investigating the cause of the 787 battery problems, and it was not yet in damage negotiations with Boeing Co. He also said efforts were focused on minimizing flight disruptions and revenue losses by using other aircraft. ANA, the biggest customer for the Dreamliner with 17 of the jets in its fleet, canceled 459 domestic and international flights this month, resulting in about 1.4 billion yen ($15.4 million) in lost revenue. It is unclear when the aircraft will be cleared by regulators to fly again. ___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones industrial average fell 49.84 points to 13,860.58. The Standard and Poor's 500 fell 3.85 points to 1,498.11. The Nasdaq composite fell a fraction to 3,142.13. Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 45 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 65 cents to $115.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent at $3.03 per gallon. Natural gas was flat at $3.34 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil rose 1 cent to $3.13 a gallon.