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Associated Press

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Business News at 5:30 p.m.

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

— Adds: UNIVERSITY ENDOWMENTS, HFR, WALL STREET JOURNAL-HACKING, EPA-BIOFUELS

— Updates: DEBT LIMIT, WALL STREET

TOP STORIES:

GASOLINE PRICES

NEW YORK — Gasoline prices are on their way up — again. Rising economic growth is pushing oil prices higher oil prices and temporary refinery outages are crimping supplies. The average price at the gas station is up 13 cents per gallon over the last ten days to $3.42 and it's likely to soon set a record for this time of year. Analysts don't expect to see a repeat of last year's jump above $3.90 by early spring, however. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey.

— OIL PRICES — The price of oil falls as U.S. unemployment claims rose more than expected.

ANHEUSER-BUSCH-JUSTICE

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sues to stop Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion purchase of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which would unite the ownership of popular beers like Budweiser and Corona. The government says the deal could lead to higher beer prices in this country because it would substantially reduce competition. It says the merged firm would control nearly half the beer sales in the U.S. By Pete Yost.

AP photo.

— CONSTELLATION BRANDS-MOVER — Shares of Constellation Brands tumble after the U.S. Justice Department challenged Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed purchase of Grupo Modelo, which harms chances of a related Constellation deal.

SUPER BOWL-ADVERTISING-INTERACT

NEW YORK — You don't have to be a football player to be a part of the action on Super Bowl Sunday. Advertisers are finding new ways to get viewers into the game. And they're going well beyond Twitter chatter and Facebook 'likes: Coca-Cola is asking fans to vote online during the game, while Lincoln created its ad based on user-generated tweets. By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.

AP photos.

With:

—SUPER BOWL-ADVERTISING-INTERACT-GLANCE

—SUPER BOWL-ADVERTISING-INTERACT-GLANCE2

FOOD-SUPER BOWL AVOCADOS

Imagine for a moment a Super Bowl without the avocado. No vats of guacamole to be defiled by double-dipping guests at your big game party, no chunks of creamy green flesh with which to spike your salsa or scatter willy-nilly over nachos. Imagine instead that the eggplant or chickpea had summoned the public relations prowess to commandeer the produce side of the Super Bowl. With Americans poised to spend tens of millions of dollars on game day grub, food marketers have spent months — in some cases years — lobbying for space in your spread. By Food Writer J.M. Hirsch.

US-CHINA HACKING

WASHINGTON — Amid new allegations that hackers infiltrated the New York Times' computer systems, cybersecurity experts call on the government to take stronger actions against China. American companies say Chinese-based hackers are waging aggressive cyberespionage against them despite already increased pressure. By Lolita C. Baldor.

With:

— US-CHINA HACKING-TIPS — Basic tips from cybersecurity experts and the government on how to protect data.

— NEW YORK TIMES-HACKING — Chinese hackers repeatedly penetrated The New York Times' computer systems over the past four months, stealing reporters' passwords and hunting for files on an investigation into the wealth amassed by the family of a top Chinese leader, the newspaper says.

— WALL STREET JOURNAL-HACKING — Wall Street Journal says Chinese hackers infiltrated its computer systems too.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK — This week a ruling went into effect that will allow merchants in 40 states to pass along credit card transaction fees on purchases to customers. But many small-businesses owners, who could use the savings of 1.5 percent to 4 percent, say they won't bite. There are a number restrictions and loopholes that are keeping many from taking advantage of the change and on top of that, they don't want to anger customers who don't want to pay extra to use plastic to pay over time. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.

DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-BLACKBERRY 10 FIRST LOOK

NEW YORK — Are you ashamed to have a BlackBerry? It's not exactly a status symbol anymore. Now, there's a new BlackBerry that wants to get back into the cool club: the Z10. Older BlackBerrys are great communications devices, but are poor at multimedia and at running third-party apps, something the iPhone excels at. The new software is a serious attempt at doing both, and after a few hours of use, it looks like it succeeds. By Peter Svensson.

AP photos.

With:

— DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-BLACKBERRY SPECS

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — The Dow logs its best start to the year in almost two decades. The Dow Jones industrial average ends the month up 5.8 percent, its strongest January since 1994, according to S&P Capital IQ data. The Standard & Poor's 500 finishes the month 5 percent higher, its best start to the year since 1997. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP Photos.

OBAMA-JOBS COUNCIL

WASHINGTON — 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. By Josh Lederman.

Also:

— OBAMA-ECONOMY — Just as President Barack Obama is pushing new initiatives on gun control and immigration, the gloomy old problem of a sluggish economy is elbowing its way back into prominence. AP photo.

— DEBT LIMIT — Congress passes must-do legislation to permit the government to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars more to meet its obligations, averting a first-ever government default that had loomed as early as mid-February. AP photos.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON — 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 says that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

AP photos.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

AP photos.

With:

— UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS-GLANCE — How states fared on unemployment benefit claims

— MORTGAGE RATES — The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to its highest level in four months but remains low by historical standards.

UNIVERSITY ENDOWMENTS, HFR

After two strong years, college and university endowments lost ground slightly during the fiscal year ending last June 30, with their investments declining 0.3 percent on average, according to a new study. By Education Writer Justin Pope. Eds: Hold for release until 12:01 a.m. EST.

EARNINGS:

EARNS-UPS

DALLAS — United Parcel Service Inc. says it was slowed down in the fourth quarter by weak global trade and a disappointing holiday-shopping season. The company is forecasting a "relatively flat" first quarter and its outlook for the full year came in below analysts' expectations. By David Koenig.

AP photos.

EARNS-MASTERCARD

MasterCard says that its net income rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter as its overseas business continued to expand. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

— EARNS-DOW CHEMICAL — Dow Chemical saw significant deterioration in key markets during the fourth quarter, particularly in China, and it posted a wider fourth-quarter loss.

— EARNS-AETNA — Aetna's fourth-quarter earnings sank 49 percent as the health insurer's medical costs as higher medical costs squeezed profitability for its commercial health coverage. AP photo.

— EARNS-ALTRIA GROUP — Marlboro maker Altria Group's fourth-quarter profit rose about 32 percent as it commanded higher prices for cigarette and smokeless tobacco and expanded its industry-leading share of the U.S. market. By Tobacco Writer Michael Felberbaum.

CONSUMER:

DORITOS-TACO BELL

NEW YORK — Frito-Lay wants a 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. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.

— FOOD AND FARM-ETHANOL FROM SCRAPS — After decades of talk, the ethanol industry is building multimillion dollar refineries in several states that will use corn plant residue, wood scraps and even garbage to produce the fuel additive. AP photo.

— FISHING CRISIS — New England fishermen say their industry is facing ruin after regulators approved massive cuts in cod catch limits. AP photos.

INDUSTRY:

JAPAN-ANA-BOEING

TOKYO — 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 says. By Business Writer Yuri Kageyama.

AP photos.

PROSECUTING CONTRACTORS

WASHINGTON — With thousands of civilian contractors remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan, Justice Department officials want Congress to resolve a legal issue they say obstructs efforts to prosecute any such workers who rape, kill or commit other serious crimes abroad. By Eric Tucker.

AP photo.

BROKERAGE COLLAPSE-SENTENCING

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A judge has sentenced Peregrine Financial Group Inc. Russ Wasendorf Sr. to 50 years in prison for stealing $215 million from investors and concealing his theft for 20 years. By Ryan Foley.

AP photo.

PFIZER-ANTIDEPRESSANT SUIT

TRENTON, N.J. —The maker of the popular antidepressant Zoloft is being sued in an unusual potential class-action case alleging the drug has no more benefit than a dummy pill and that patients who took it should be reimbursed for their costs. Zoloft's maker, Pfizer Inc., the world's biggest drugmaker by revenue, strongly disputes the claim. By Business Writer Linda A. Johnson.

— EPA-BIOFUELS — In spite of court ruling, Obama administration raises production estimate for biofuels.

— WAL-MART-UNION — Labor groups say they will end most of their picketing of Wal-Mart stores as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board. By Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio.

— SCIENTIFIC GAMES-WMS — Instant-win lottery ticket company Scientific Games is buying gaming equipment company WMS Industries Inc. for about $1.42 billion in order to broaden its product offerings.

— TRI POINTE-IPO — Shares of TRI Pointe Homes climbed more than 14 percent in the home builder's first day of trading.

— GENERAL MOTORS-BOARD MEMBER — General Motors is expanding its board to include former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen.

— GM-EUROPE-OPEL— General Motors has appointed the former head of Volkswagen's China business to try and turn around its lossmaking European division, Opel.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

EARNS-VIACOM

NEW YORK — Viacom Inc. says that its net income rose sharply in its fiscal first quarter versus results depressed by a large accounting charge a year ago. But its revenue and adjusted earnings fell because of a drop at its Paramount studio business and lower advertising revenue at its television channels. By Anick Jesdanun.

AP photo.

— APPLE-MAC-JAVA BLOCKED — Apple blocks Java on Macs due to security threats; some programs stop running.

— TABLET SHIPMENTS — IDC says Apple dominates in tablets, but share shrinks with competition from Samsung, Google.

— FACEBOOK-GIFT CARDS — Facebook's newest e-commerce idea: A gift card users can buy for each other that can be spent at retailers and restaurants including Target, Jamba Juice and Olive Garden.

—BRITAIN-TWEET REVENGE— An employee apparently fired from music retailer HMV let loose on the company's Twitter feed Thursday, comparing the latest round of layoffs to a mass execution. The rogue messages — which immediately attracted media attention — started with a missive saying "we're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting!!"

— JAPAN-NINTENDO — Nintendo's president says he has ruled out price cuts for its new Wii U home console as a way to boost sales. AP photos.

— SWEDEN-EARNS-ERICSSON — Wireless equipment maker Ericsson posts a $1.02 billion loss in the fourth quarter due to a massive one-time charge. AP photos.

— GRAND THEFT AUTO-RELEASE DATE — Video game publisher Take-Two is next installment of the long-awaited "Grand Theft Auto" series from this spring to Sept. 17.

— BRITAIN-NAOMI CAMPBELL — Model Naomi Campbell accepted libel damages from British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, over a story that falsely claimed she was planning an elephant polo match in India for her partner's birthday. AP photo.

INTERNATIONAL:

CYPRUS-CRISIS SONGBIRDS

NICOSIA, Cyprus — It's just before first light and the bird-catcher strings nets among the orange, pomegranate, fig and carob trees in his orchard. The sound of chirping emanates from inside a massive carob — a trick sent from speakers to attract tiny songbirds. By midmorning, the man disentangles about a half-dozen blackcaps, snaps their necks with his teeth and drops them in a bucket. For centuries, the migratory songbirds have been a prized delicacy among Cypriots. They are also an illegal one, as entry into the European Union forced Cyprus to ban the tradition of catching the creatures, some endangered, in nets or on sticks slathered with a glue-like substance. By Menelaos Hadjicostis.

AP photos.

CHINA-EUROPE-INVESTMENT

BEIJING — Chinese companies plan to step up investment this year in Europe, which some see as more welcoming than the United States, a European business group says. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.

LATVIA-EURO

RIGA, Latvia — Unemployment, recession, debt, crisis and bailouts: These have been the sort of words that have been associated with the euro currency over the past few years. So it may come as a bit of a surprise to hear that Latvia, a relatively poor country on the edge of the European Union, is hurtling toward full membership within the year. By Gary Peach.

AP photos.

— GERMANY-ECONOMY — The number of Germans without jobs increased in January but analysts say the labor market still looks strong when the effects of the winter weather are taken into account.

— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Public transport workers in the Greek capital walked off the job in a 24-hour strike, snarling traffic around Athens, while a doctors' strike has left hospitals functioning with emergency staff. AP photos.

— EU-RYANAIR — The European Union's top court says that Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has to pay out compensation to passengers that were stranded due to the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland.

— BRITAIN-FSA INVESTIGATION — The Financial Services Authority says that it is reviewing practices of the U.K.'s big retail banks after finding serious problems with the sale of interest rate hedging products to small businesses.

— JAPAN-ECONOMY — Japan's industrial production picked up pace in December from the month before, in a sign the world's third-largest economy may be stabilizing. AP photo.

— INDONESIA-BANKRUPT AIRLINE — Indonesia's commercial court has declared budget carrier Batavia Air bankrupt just months after AirAsia, Southeast Asia's top low-cost airline, aborted a deal to invest in it, officials say.

— BANGLADESH-FACTORY FIRE — Police in Bangladesh have arrested two owners of a garment factory where a fire killed seven workers last weekend.

INTERNATIONAL EARNINGS:

— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-SHELL — Royal Dutch Shell PLC says that it plans to continue investing aggressively in new projects in the coming years, as it sees a bright future for the oil and gas industry despite ongoing economic uncertainties around the world.

— GERMANY-EARNS-DEUTSCHE BANK — Reducing the value of assets and lawsuit expenses pushed Deutsche Bank into a big and unexpected fourth quarter loss of $2.91 billion.

— BRITAIN-EARNS-DIAGEO — Distiller Diageo PLC, whose brands include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, says its net profit rose to $2.43 billion in the six months ending on Dec. 31.

— JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA — Honda's quarterly profit surged nearly 63 percent as production recovered after disruptions from natural disasters.

— BRITAIN-EARNS-ASTRAZENECA — Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC warns about expiring patents on its medicines as the company announced a 37 percent fall in full-year net profit.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

OF MUTUAL INTEREST-MONEY FUNDS

BOSTON — The more informed an investor is, the better. Yet there's no practical reason to pay attention to new disclosures that money-market mutual funds are making as regulators consider further steps to improve the stability of money-market funds. Companies like Fidelity and Charles Schwab are beginning to post data online about daily changes in the value of assets that each money fund owns. It's about more than just an investor's need to know. The industry is trying to become more transparent to head off new money fund rules that it opposes. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell.

___

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CENTERPIECE

The January effect?

The stock market has posted its best year-opening returns in years. Highlights of the major news events this month.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

DOJ sues to block beer deal

The U.S. Justice Department is challenging Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion purchase of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo. Shares of Constellation Brands plunged on the news.

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