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NEW THIS DIGEST:
— Adds: LAY'S-NEW FLAVORS; DELL-ACQUISITION; VENEZUELA-ECONOMY
— Updates: WALL STREET
NORTHEAST SNOW-AIR TRAVEL
Most U.S. airlines were giving up on flying in and out of Northeast cities as a massive storm threatened to dump snow by the foot on the region. The carriers are shutting down operations at the three big New York-area airports as well as Boston, Providence, Portland, Maine, and other Northeastern airports. They're hoping to resume flights on Saturday. By Airlines Writer Joshua Freed.
NEW YORK — As the Northeast braces for its largest winter storm in more than a year, airlines are already employing a strategy that has served them well in recent years: Cancel flights early and keep planes and crews — and passengers — away from snowed-in airports. By Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz.
NEW YORK — The wind and snow bearing down on the Northeast are sure to knock down trees and power lines, leaving thousands of homes in the cold and dark. And high winds and snow-choked roads are likely to hamper power crews as they try to restore electricity. Still, the outages shouldn't be as widespread as those seen after Superstorm Sandy, and getting the lights back on should be a much faster job. Here are questions and answers about what utilities expect from the storm, along with some important things to remember if your power goes out. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey
— NORTHEAST SNOW-TELECOMS-TIPS — Here are some tips for communicating with emergency services and loved ones as a snowstorm bears down on the Northeast. AP photo.
— NORTHEAST SNOW — Blizzard churning toward NYC, New England could rewrite record books with up to 3 feet of snow. AP photos, video, audio.
GOP GOVERNORS-HEALTH CARE
DES MOINES, Iowa — Once largely united in resisting the federal health care overhaul, more Republican governors are buying into parts of the system as the financial realities of their states' medical costs begin to counterbalance fierce election politics. Michigan's Rick Snyder this week became the sixth GOP governor to propose expanding state health care programs to cover more low-income residents, in line with the Democratic administration's strong recommendation. About two dozen Republican governors have rejected the idea or not announced a decision. By Thomas Beaumont.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply in December because exports rose while oil imports plummeted. The smaller trade gap means the economy almost surely grew in the October-December quarter — an improvement from the government's estimate last week that it shrank in the final months of 2012. The Commerce Department says the trade deficit fell nearly 21 percent in December, to $38.6 billion, the smallest in nearly three years. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.
BRUSSELS — European Union leaders agree to a significantly reduced 7-year budget worth €960 billion ($1.28 trillion) — the first cut in spending in the 27-country group's history. By Don Melvin and Sarah DiLorenzo.
THE ENDURING IRON
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — When online voters axed the iron token from Monopoly, they implied the appliance was passé: something your grandmother once used to ease the wrinkles out of socks and handkerchiefs. But even with the rise of "wrinkle-free" fabrics, the iron, it seems, is holding its own. By Erika Niedowski.
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesalers cut their stockpiles slightly in December while their sales were unchanged, suggesting businesses were cautious at the end of a weak quarter. The Commerce Department says wholesale business stockpiles dipped 0.1 percent in December from November, after a 0.4 percent rise the previous month. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.
NEW YORK — The Standard and Poor's 500 edged up to a five-year high Friday, extending a rally that started in January. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.
— OIL PRICES — Oil prices slip back below $96 a barrel afternoon, reversing course after rising earlier in the day.
— RATINGS AGENCIES — New York's attorney general has begun examining the nation's biggest credit rating agencies' compliance with prior agreements that ended an investigation into mortgage-backed securities.
WALL STREET WEEK AHEAD
NEW YORK — It looks a little too familiar. Stocks scamper to historical heights to start the year then get knocked down. Last year, worries about Greece and the U.S. economy helped flatten a rally by June. The year before it was Japan's disaster and a political fight in Washington. This year, the stock market raced off to its best start since 1997. So, what could squash the good cheer this time? The same culprits: Europe and Washington. By Business Writer Matthew Craft.
Boeing is acknowledging that it may not be able to deliver its 787 as fast as hoped. The airplane maker has kept building the planes even though they're grounded because of battery problems. However, on says it is warning customers that deliveries may slip, too. Norwegian Air Shuttle says it has been told that its planes scheduled to arrive in April and June may be late. By Business Writer Joshua Freed. Incorporates: BC-EU--Norway-Dreamliners.
NEW YORK — McDonald's says a key sales figure dropped again in January as the world's biggest hamburger chain faced ongoing weakness in Japan and sales in China were hurt by a food scare and the timing of a holiday. Global sales at restaurants open at least 13 months dropped 1.9 percent for the month. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.
ATLANTA — Soon after her surgery, Susan Harrison had a string of infections that caused intense pain, leaving her weak, often keeping her from her job as a kindergarten classroom assistant. For years, Harrison thought it was just an unfortunate consequence of the surgery to repair weak muscles in her pelvic region, but later discovered she was one of thousands of women who say their pain was caused by surgical mesh implanted to fix the problem. Some doctors believe women benefit from the mesh surgery, and they say a warning from the Food and Drug Administration — and the lawsuits — are misguided. By Kate Brumback.
— LAY'S-NEW FLAVORS — The next Lay's potato chip will taste like chicken and waffles. Or cheesy garlic bread. Or Sriracha, a hot sauce often used in Thai dishes. Lay's is letting potato chip fans taste each and decide which one sticks around. AP photos.
— EARNS-MOODY'S — Moody's stock dips 5 percent as Justice investigation of rival, and outlook, overshadow strong quarter.
— POSTAL PROBLEMS — The U.S. Postal Service lost $1.3 billion in the final three months of last year, despite a blizzard of campaign advertising and a big holiday mail and shipping season. AP photo.
— COAL ROYALTIES — U.S. investigates coal exports over lawmakers' concerns, but no royalty violations yet issued. AP photo.
— GERMANY-THYSSENKRUPP — ThyssenKrupp to cut at least 2,000 jobs by 2015 as the German steel maker copes with high commodity costs and the struggling European economy.
— SUPER BOWL-POWER OUTAGE — Entergy traces Super Bowl power outage to fault in device installed by utility to prevent problems.
— GENERAL MOTORS-BRAKE LIGHTS — U.S. safety regulators may expand a Pontiac recall to as many as 550,000 vehicles. GM recalled 8,000 of the midsize cars in 2009 because the brake lights and cruise control didn't work properly.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
SAN FRANCISCO — Dell Inc.'s decision to sell itself for $24.4 billion to a group led by its founder and CEO is being ridiculed as a rotten deal by a major shareholder who estimates the slumping personal computer maker is really worth more $42 billion. The missive launched Friday by Southeastern Asset Management Inc. threatens to complicate Dell Inc.'s efforts to end its 25-year history as a public company. By Michael Liedtke.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Dr. Watson is accepting new patients. The Watson supercomputer is graduating from its medical residency and is being offered commercially to doctors and health insurance companies, IBM says. By Jim Fitzgerald.
— HP-CHINA SUPPLIERS — Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest personal computer maker, is vowing to crack down on its Chinese suppliers in an effort to reduce the use of low-paid student interns and other temporary workers.
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's government announced Friday that it is devaluing the country's currency, a long-anticipated change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy. By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela's dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help alleviate a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations. By Fabiola Sanchez.
BEIJING — China's trade picked up and inflation eased in January as a shaky economic recovery gained traction. Much of the change was due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which distorts China's economic data each year. But analysts said the figures looked promising. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.
— CHINA-INFLATION — China's inflation eases ahead of Lunar New Year but vegetable prices spike up.
— CHINA-TRADE — China's January trade soars on Lunar New Year; exports up 25 percent, imports 28 percent.
MADRID — It's not as though Spain doesn't have enough to worry about — two years of recession, harsh austerity programs, sky-high unemployment and an unstable footing on the world's markets. Now comes a corruption scandal that has shaken the top levels of government. By Alan Clendenning.
MADRID — Las Vegas Sands casinos and Madrid officials choose Alcorcon, a suburb on the outskirts of Madrid, as the site for the multibillion-dollar "EuroVegas" casino project. Authorities hope it will bring much-needed jobs and investment to the recession-wracked country. By Harold Heckle.
— SWEDEN-HORSEMEAT — Lasagna containing horsemeat recalled in Sweden as frozen-food scandal spreads.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — Exports from Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rose 3.4 percent last year, to a record high of nearly $1.5 trillion, thanks to strong demand from outside Europe.
— CHINA-AUTO SALES — China's auto sales rise 46 percent in January to a monthly record on strong demand for SUVs in pre-Lunar New Year shopping.
— JAPAN-EARNS-NISSAN — Nissan's latest quarterly profit plunges 35 percent to $579 million as Chinese sales suffered.
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IPOs: A strong start
There are encouraging signs for companies that want to make their market debut. The most recent came Wednesday when, riding a U.S. housing recovery and a booming stock market, Boise Cascade, a maker of plywood and other building materials, jumped 25 percent in its first day.
McDonald's sales drop, again
The world's biggest hamburger chain says a key sales figure dropped again in January.