Business Highlights

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Poverty stuck at 15 per cent — record 46.5 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s poverty rate remained stuck at 15 per cent last year despite America’s slowly reviving economy, a discouraging lack of improvement for the record 46.5 million poor and an unwelcome benchmark for President Barack Obama’s recovery plans.

More than 1 in 7 Americans were living in poverty, not statistically different from the 46.2 million of 2011 and the sixth straight year the rate had failed to improve, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median income for the nation’s households was $51,017, also unchanged from the previous year after two consecutive annual declines, while the share of people without health insurance did improve but only a bit, from 15.7 per cent to 15.4 per cent.

“We’re in the doldrums, with high poverty and inequality as the new normal for the foreseeable future,” said Timothy Smeeding, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in income inequality. “The fact we’ve seen no real recovery in employment and wages means we’ve just flatlined.”

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Slower holiday sales growth predicted for 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Coming off of a weak back-to-school shopping period, a research firm said Tuesday that it expects holiday sales growth will be slower this year during the crucial holiday season. Shoppers are also expected to visit fewer stores as they research purchases online.

Retail revenue in November and December should rise 2.4 per cent during the biggest shopping period of the year, according to Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak. That compares with a 3 per cent increase in 2012 from 2011.

While the job picture has been improving in the U.S. and the turnaround in the housing market is gaining traction, the improvements have not been enough to sustain higher levels of spending for most Americans. Most continue to juggle tepid wage gains with a higher cost of living.

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US consumer prices rise just 0.1 pct. in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S consumer prices barely rose last month, the latest sign that slow economic growth is keeping inflation tame.

The consumer price index increased just 0.1 per cent in August, the Labor Department said Tuesday, after a 0.2 per cent increase in July. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, core prices also rose just 0.1 per cent.

In the past 12 months, prices have risen 1.5 per cent. That’s down from the 2 per cent year-over-year gain in July and below the Federal Reserve’s 2 per cent inflation target. Core prices are 1.8 per cent higher than a year ago, the largest 12-month gain since March.

The increase in core prices could help persuade the Fed to start pulling back on its low interest rate policies. But significantly lower inflation would pressure the Fed to keep stimulating the economy.

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Penthouse magazine owner files for bankruptcy

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) — FriendFinder Networks Inc., the owner of Penthouse magazine and a bevy of online dating and adult websites, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company said that bankruptcy protection is the “most efficient and cost-effective” way for it to improve its balance sheet.

FriendFinder, like many of its peers, has been struggling for some time with lower revenue as free adult content online has lessened demand for paid content. It also faces tough competition for its online dating sites. The company reported a loss of $49.4 million in its last fiscal year.

The company owns well-known Penthouse magazine, but it also runs a bevy of online dating sites such as Friendfinder.com, Seniorfriendfinder.com and Bigchurch.com. Additionally, it runs a number adult websites such as Getiton.com, Nostringsattached.com and Hotbox.com.

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Safeway adopts poison pill to prevent takeover

NEW YORK (AP) — Safeway adopted a plan to prevent a hostile takeover after learning of a significant accumulation of its stock by an investor.

The announcement Tuesday sent shares of the grocer spiking 8 per cent to a five-year high.

So-called “poison pill” plans allow existing shareholders to acquire more stock at a discounted rate to discourage a takeover by an outside entity. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission later Tuesday, Jana Partners disclosed that it had amassed a 6.2 per cent stake in Safeway’s outstanding shares.

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22 firms paying $14.4 million to settle SEC charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twenty-two investment firms are paying a total of $14.4 million to settle federal charges of improperly short-selling certain stocks and buying them soon after in public offerings.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlements Tuesday. One of the best-known is the hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which agreed to pay $465,986 in restitution plus interest and a $201,506 penalty.

Short-selling is a bet that a stock will lose value. Short-sellers borrow shares and agree to sell them in hopes that the share price will fall. They can then buy the shares at a lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.

SEC rules prohibit short-selling a stock in the five business days before a public offering and then buying that stock in the offering.

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US builder confidence steady, rates a concern

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market held this month at its highest level in nearly eight years. But builders are starting to worry that sales may slow if mortgage rates continue to rise.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday registered at 58 this month. That’s unchanged from August, which was revised down from an initial reading of 59.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

In the latest survey, which included 264 respondents, a measure of current sales conditions was unchanged, while a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers rose one point. But builders’ outlook for single-family home sales over the next six months fell three points.

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Eiji Toyoda, key figure in Toyota’s rise, dies

TOKYO (AP) — Eiji Toyoda, a member of Toyota’s founding family who helped create the super-efficient “Toyota Way” production method, has died. He was 100.

Toyoda, a cousin of the Japanese automaker’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda, died Tuesday of heart failure at Toyota Memorial Hospital in Toyota city, central Japan, Toyota said in a statement.

Eiji Toyoda served as president from 1967 to 1982, engineering Toyota’s growth into a global automaker. He became chairman in 1982, and continued in advisory positions up to his death.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.95 points to close at 15,529.73 Tuesday. The S&P 500 rose 7.16 points to close at 1,704.76. The Nasdaq composite rose 27.85 points to 3,745.70.

Benchmark oil for October delivery fell $1.17, or 1.1 per cent, to close at $105.42 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline fell 6 cents to $2.66 per gallon. Natural gas rose 1 cent to $3.75 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil declined 7 cents to $3.00 per gallon.

The contract for November delivery for Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries, dropped $1.88 to $108.19 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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