Business Highlights


Cyber Monday shoppers give retailers sales bump

NEW YORK (AP) — Cyber Monday is turning into Cyber Month.

Retailers rolled out discounts and free shipping deals on Cyber Monday, with millions of Americans expected to log on and shop on their work computers, laptops and tablets after the busy holiday shopping weekend.

But with retailers extending their online deals into “Cyber Week” and even “Cyber Month,” early reports indicated shopping was less robust online on Monday compared with prior years. As of 3 p.m. ET, online sales rose just 8.7 per cent compared with last year, according to IBM Digital Analytics. The figures don’t take into account the many shoppers who plan to head online after work or in the evening. But a year ago, Cyber Monday sales jumped 20.6 per cent, according to IBM.


Weak euro becoming key to Europe’s recovery

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — If that creme brulee in a Paris cafe seems a bit cheaper for U.S. tourists next summer, they may have the European Central Bank to thank for it.

Economists are lowering their forecasts for the value of the euro on expectations that the ECB will make good on its promises to provide more support to the eurozone economy if it needs it. Central bank stimulus tends to weigh on a currency.

Ultimately, the euro’s drop itself could be the biggest boon to the economy as it helps exporters and encourages tourism.


Jurors to hear Steve Jobs testimony at Apple trial

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After nearly a decade in legal wrangling, a billion-dollar class-action lawsuit over Apple’s iPod music players heads to trial on Tuesday in a California federal court. A key witness will be none other than the company’s legendary late founder Steve Jobs, who will be heard in a videotaped deposition.

Attorneys for consumers and electronics retailers claim Apple Inc. used software in its iTunes store that forced would-be song buyers to use iPods instead of cheaper music players made by rivals. The software is no longer used, but the plaintiffs argue that it inflated the prices of millions of iPods sold between 2006 and 2009 — to the tune of $350 million. Under federal antitrust law, the tech giant could be ordered to pay three times that amount if the jury agrees with the estimate and finds the damages resulted from anti-competitive behaviour.


FBI looking into hack of Sony Pictures’ computers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The FBI has confirmed it is investigating a recent hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which reportedly caused major internal computer problems at the film studio last week.

Sony’s corporate email and other internal systems were knocked offline, according to reports by Variety and other trade publications. Sony workers reportedly saw a message appear on their computer screens that said “Hacked by #GOP,” which may be the initials of a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. Copies of some unreleased Sony films such as “Still Alice,” ”Annie,” ”Mr. Turner,” and “To Write Love on Her Arms” are now being distributed on unauthorized file-sharing websites, although a direct connection to the hacking hasn’t been confirmed.

The FBI said in a statement that “the targeting of public and private sector computer networks remains a significant threat.” Sony Pictures, based in Culver City, California, wasn’t immediately available for comment.


Girl Scouts byting into digital for cookie sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Watch out world, the Girl Scouts are going digital to sell you cookies.

For the first time since sales began nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts of the USA will allow its young go-getters to push their wares using a mobile app or personalized websites.

But only if their scout councils and guardians say OK.

And the best news for these digital natives: They can have cookies shipped directly to your doorstep.

More than 1 million scouts, from kindergarten-age Daisies to teens, were expected to opt in as cookie-selling season cranks up this month and the scouting organization gets digital sales underway. But the tactic is intended to enhance, not replace, the paper spreadsheets used to generate an estimated $800 million in cookie sales a year — at anywhere from $3.50 to $5 a box, depending on scout council.


US businessman jailed in Russia over broken window

MOSCOW (AP) — Last year, he tried to bring NFL star Tim Tebow to Moscow to play for his American football team on a $1 million-per-game contract. Now, accused of breaking a window, American businessman Mike Zaltsman shares a packed jail cell with drug dealers.

Much has changed for the Boston entrepreneur since a dispute over an office he rented from a Russian billionaire escalated into a weekslong standoff in downtown Moscow and ended with his arrest in April.

The case puts into relief the unpredictable business environment in Russia, where thousands of people have ended up in jail as the result of business disputes or raids by business rivals. Even seemingly petty crimes are routinely used to keep people in Russian prisons for months or even years.


LGBT baby boomers face tough retirement hurdles

NEW YORK (AP) — For Kathy Murphy, the difference between being gay or straight is $583 a month.

Retirement should have been a “slam dunk,” the 62-year-old Texas widow says. She saved, bought a house with her spouse and has a pension through her employer.

But Murphy’s golden years have not been as secure as they should have been. She is missing out on thousands of dollars a year in Social Security benefits simply because she was married to a woman, not a man.

Murphy fell into a loophole in Social Security that denies survivor benefits to same-sex couples depending on what state they live in. Had Murphy and her wife, Sara Barker, lived next door in New Mexico, a state that does recognize same-sex marriage, this wouldn’t have been an issue.


US factory growth slips in Nov. but still healthy

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories were slightly less busy in November, as production and hiring slowed, though the level of activity remained strong.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its manufacturing index slipped to 58.7 last month from 59 in October. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. October’s figure matched a three-year high reached in August.

Manufacturing has been a key driver of growth this year in the U.S., even as it has fallen off overseas. Factories in China, the world’s second-largest economy, are barely growing, according to a survey released Sunday by the bank HSBC Corp. And a European manufacturing index fell to 50.1 in November, the lowest in 17 months and just barely in expansion territory. Brazil’s manufacturing sector has contracted for the seventh time in eight months.


Hispanics targeted in 2nd year of health overhaul

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Between the avocado and grapefruit displays, Adolfo Briceno approaches customers in the bustling Hispanic supermarket to ask whether they have health insurance.

Turn left at the bucket of flower bouquets, he tells dozens of shoppers on a recent Saturday, to spot the table covered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina logo and its Spanish-speaking agent.

A local Mexican music radio station is doing a live remote broadcast from outside the grocery and periodically mentioning Blue Cross, backing up a line of people curious about coverage in front of the harried agent.

Such atypical approaches to selling health insurance policies are playing out across the country since the second round of enrolment under the federal Affordable Care Act opened in mid-November. Insurance companies and some states are focusing heavily on signing up eligible Hispanics, a group that accounts for a large share of the nation’s uninsured but largely avoided applying for coverage during the first full year the health care reform law was in effect.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 51.44 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 17,776.80. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 14.12 points, or 0.7 per cent, to close at 2,053.44. The Nasdaq composite fell 64.28 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 4,727.35.

Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $2.85, or 4 per cent, to close at an even $69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude rose $2.39, or 3.4 per cent, to close at $72.54 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 5.34 cents to $1.881 a gallon. Heating oil added 5.12 cents to $2.212 a gallon. Natural gas fell 8.1 cents to $4.007 per 1,000 cubic feet.