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NEW THIS DIGEST:
Updates: WALL STREET; OIL PRICES
BERLIN — Samsung becomes the first major electronics company to launch a smart watch, edging rival Apple in the race to turn the venerable timekeeper into the must-have mobile gadget in time for Christmas. Earlier in the day Sony unveils a new smart phone with a camera capable of using add-on lenses. By Frank Jordans.
DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-SAMSUNG SMARTWATCH FIRST LOOK
SUWON, South Korea — The Galaxy Gear, a wearable computing device from Samsung that looks like a digital wristwatch, is certain to pique much curiosity when it starts being worn in public. Samsung will start shipping the $299 Gear in September, ahead of a similar product expected from Apple. With smartphones and tablets now ubiquitous, the mobile phone industry is creating a new category of products to wow consumers. It didn't take me long to see what Samsung was trying to achieve. It wants to attract not only tech addicts who must have the latest gadget but also young, design-conscious consumers. By Youkyung Lee.
AP photo planned.
DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-SAMSUNG'S HUGE PHONE
LOS ANGELES — The Mega shouldn't even be called a phone, if it weren't for the fact that it makes phone calls. With a screen measuring 6.3 inches diagonally, the Mega is more like a small tablet computer. It shares the tablet's advantages in showing more detail in photos and video. Text is larger and easier to read, too. That doesn't make the Mega practical, though. By Anick Jesdanun.
— GADGET SHOW-SONY XPERIA Z1 — Sony Mobile has unveiled a new addition to its Xperia smartphone line-up that sports a massive 20.7-megapixel resolution camera capable of taking add-on lenses.
OTHER TOP STORIES:
WASHINGTON — Something unfamiliar will be in the background as leaders of the Group of 20 major economies hold a summit in Russia starting Thursday: economic growth throughout the developed world. And something will be missing: Fear of a renewed financial crisis. Yet worries are rising about emerging nations, which have helped drive the global economy in recent years. The result is a more divided world than the leaders faced at previous summits. By Christopher S. Rugaber.
DETROIT — Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors all report double-digit U.S. sales gains last month as strong sales of pickup trucks and small cars led the industry toward its best month in six years. Industry analysts say August could be the best sales month since May of 2007, when $3-a-gallon gasoline set off panic buying of fuel-thrifty vehicles. By Tom Krisher.
TRENDY HOTEL LOBBIES
Large, traditional hotels are spending billions in renovations to try to mimic the style and financial success of luxury and boutique hotels, which have always drawn free-spending crowds to their lobbies. Companies like Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt are betting that more vibrant lobbies will leave guests — especially younger ones — with a better feeling about their stay, even if their room is bland. Hotel owners say the investments are beginning to pay off, not just in alcohol sales, but in their ability to charge higher room rates. By Scott Mayerowitz.
NEW YORK — McDonald's Corp. says a revamped version of its Dollar Menu that includes items priced as high as $5 could be launched nationally this year. The world's biggest hamburger chain says it's testing a version of its famous value menu that's called "Dollar Menu & More." By Candice Choi.
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
NEW YORK — A jump in U.S. auto sales and other good news on the economy helped drive the stock market higher. Shares of U.S. automakers rose sharply after the companies reported strong sales gains in August, leading the industry toward its best month in six years. By Ken Sweet.
— NASDAQ GLITCH — The Nasdaq Stock Market says one of its trading systems had a brief outage, but the problem was resolved and trading was not affected. The exchange suffered a three-hour outage last month that halted trading.
WALL STREET-BERNANKE METER
NEW YORK — Here come the September scaries. The month is historically the worst for the stock market. This year could be even worse. The next four weeks are packed with events that could derail stocks. If September is a powder keg for markets, the man holding the match is Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Here is a look at the events that could shake markets this September. In tribute to Bernanke's sway, the events are ranked on a scale of 1 Bernanke (No biggie) to 5 Bernankes (Uh oh). By Business Writer Matthew Craft.
WASHINGTON —The U.S. trade deficit widens sharply in July from a four-year low in June, as companies export fewer goods and import a record number of foreign-made autos. The larger trade deficit could dampen economic growth in the current July-September quarter. By Martin Crutsinger.
WASHINGTON — Economic growth held steady across the United States from July through late August, as Americans bought more cars and homes and auto factories added workers. A Federal Reserve survey shows that all 12 of the Fed's regional banking districts reported modest to moderate growth. That's roughly in line with the Fed's previous survey of those districts from late May through early July. By Martin Crutsinger. Eds: With breakouts on the 12 Fed regions and a glance showing how the data is compiled and distributed.
WASHINGTON — The No. 1 question about President Barack Obama's health care law is whether consumers will be able to afford the coverage. Now the answer is coming in. The biggest study yet of premiums posted by states finds that the sticker price for a 21-year-old buying a mid-range policy will average about $270 a month. That's before government tax credits that act like a discount for most people, bringing down the cost based on their income. List-price premiums for a 40-year-old buying a mid-range plan will average close to $330, the study by Avalere Health found. For a 60-year-old, they were nearly double that at $615 a month. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.
— OIL PRICES — The price of oil falls to close near $107 a barrel amid uncertainty over U.S. plans to launch a punitive strike against Syria.
— PROCTER & GAMBLE-CHEAPER TIDE — Procter & Gamble will introduce a lower-priced version of Tide in 2014, a liquid detergent called "Tide Simply Clean and Fresh," as it seeks to attract shoppers on a budget.
— CAMPBELL SOUP-GREEN MOUNTAIN — Campbell Soup Co. says it will start offering K-cup soup packs that can be made with Green Mountain's popular single-serve coffee machines. The soups include a K-cup pack of broth that is brewed over a packet of dry pasta and vegetables.
— CHICAGO-WHOLE FOODS — Whole Foods executives say they're committed to making a planned 18,000-foot store in an impoverished Chicago neighborhood affordable. But they aren't providing details on how they'll do it.
— SOUTHERN AUTOMAKERS-UNIONS — The prospect of the United Auto Workers gaining a new foothold at Volkswagen's plant in Tennessee worries some Southern Republicans, who say laws banning mandatory union membership have helped lure foreign automakers.
— GULF OIL SPILL-SETTLEMENT — Plaintiffs' attorneys who brokered a multibillion-dollar settlement with BP following the company's 2010 Gulf oil spill have asked a federal appeals court to uphold a judge's approval of the deal.
— IRELAND-RYANAIR — Shares in Ryanair have suffered their biggest drop in four years after the budget airline issued a rare profit warning over weaker-than-expected autumn ticket sales.
— JAPAN-TOYOTA RECALL — Toyota is recalling 200,000 vehicles worldwide for a hybrid-system problem and another 169,000 vehicles for an engine bolt defect. By Yuri Kageyama.
— MICHIGAN DONATION-ROSS — New York real estate magnate and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is donating $200 million to the University of Michigan for its business school and athletics programs, the largest single donation to the school and among the most generous in higher education history.
— CONOCO-VENEZUELA SEIZURE — Venezuela failed to fairly compensate ConocoPhillips for its seizure of three crude oil projects in 2007, according to a ruling from a World Bank arbitration panel.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
— FTC-VIDEO CAMERA HACKING — The government is settling with the marketer of Internet-connected home security cameras after feeds from consumers' homes — video from baby monitors and home security systems — were posted online for public view.
— SOFTWARE PIRACY-SENTENCE — A federal judge sentences a former electronics engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for his role in a software piracy scheme. By Randall Chase. Developing from 10 a.m. sentencing hearing.
NEW YORK — Revenue at LaJuanna Russell's management consulting firm has dropped by a third, or $1 million, since federal budget cuts widely known as sequestration took hold this spring. Bob and Bonnie James' training company had to put off expansion plans after the cuts took away $71,000 in revenue just a year after it had won new government contracts. Six months after the slashing began, these small business owners tell AP how it has hurt their professional and personal lives and share their strategies for survival in leaner times. By Joyce M. Rosenberg.
GENEVA — The United States' competitiveness among global economies is rising again after four years of decline, though northern European countries continue to dominate the rankings published annually by the World Economic Forum. In its latest survey, released Wednesday, the Forum ranked the U.S. — the world's largest economy — in fifth place for overall competitiveness, up from seventh last year. By John Heilprin.
— GLOBAL-COMPETITIVENESS-GLANCE — As a look at the world's top — and bottom — 10 countries in term of competitiveness.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is trying to strengthen oversight of "shadow banking," a sector of the financial system that holds trillions of dollars in assets but is not bound by the same rules as banks. The EU Commission says investment vehicles such as money-market funds or hedge funds active on credit markets are welcome because they provide extra sources of financing for the economy, but they can also pose threats to long-term financial stability. By Juergen Baetz.
— AFGHAN-BANK THEFT — Afghan authorities are scrambling to track down a bank employee they believe fled with $1.1 million.
— AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY — Australia's economy grew in the second quarter but not strongly enough to prevent unemployment rising as a mining boom fades.
— CHINA-BANK OF AMERICA-CCB — Bank of America sold a $1.47 billion stake in China Construction Bank, the latest foreign institution to shed its investment in a Chinese lender after initial optimism about the potentially lucrative market wore off.
— VENEZUELA-POWER OUTAGES — Venezuela's main power distribution network failed Tuesday, depriving 70 percent of the country of electricity and creating traffic chaos in much of Caracas.
— SOUTH AFRICA-MINERS' STRIKE — Tens of thousands of South African gold miners are striking for higher wages in the latest blow to a once-robust industry.
— IRAQ-OIL — Iraq has awarded oil drilling deals worth a combined $348 million to two Chinese firms and Swiss-based oilfield services company Weatherford.
ON THE MONEY-CAR COSTS
When figuring out the cost of car ownership, consider where you live along with how much you drive. A new study by the online service Bankrate.com found that Georgia is the most costly state in the country for car owners, followed by California. Oregon and Alaska are the cheapest. By Tom Krisher.
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Investors are on edge. Tough talk about a possible military strike in Syria has fueled uncertainty, but the stock market has proven several times that it can rise when the U.S. military is in action. Stocks rose at least 10 percent in the three months following each of the last three U.S. military engagements, according to Russell Investments.
COMPANY S POTLIGHT
Dollar General beats estimates
Bargain hunters visited Dollar General stores in bigger numbers in the second quarter. The discount retailer's net income rose 15 percent.