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From The Sip Trunking Experts

TMCNet:  Business Highlights

[December 18, 2012]

Business Highlights

(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ___ Cerberus to sell gun company that makes Bushmaster The company that makes one of the weapons used to kill elementary school children in Connecticut is being sold by its owner, which called Friday's tragedy a "watershed event" in the debate over gun control.


The private-equity group Cerberus Capital Management said Tuesday that it will sell its controlling stake in Freedom Group International, maker of Bushmaster rifles. Investors continued to bail out of other gun makers while retailer Dick's Sporting Goods said it will stop selling military style rifles.

Some Republicans and Democrats who previously opposed gun control measures now say they're willing to discuss it _ along with mental health issues and violent video games.

___ Fiscal cliff efforts ongoing, Boehner offers plan WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner pushed ahead on negotiating a broad deal to avert the "fiscal cliff," even as the GOP leader readied a backup plan Tuesday to pressure the White House with little time left to avoid a double hit on the economy.

With exactly two weeks until automatic tax hikes and spending cuts take effect, Boehner offered a measure called "Plan B," that would cancel tax increases due to take effect Jan. 1 on everyone earning $1 million or less.

Boehner insisted that his plan would address the burgeoning deficits and that the president has failed to produce a balance plan in weeks of postelection negotiations.

The White House rejected Plan B.

___ Facebook users hit `like,' stores jump into action NEW YORK (AP) _ Facebook isn't just for goofy pictures and silly chatter. Whether shoppers know it or not, their actions online help dictate what's in stores during this holiday season.

After polling customers on the social media site, Macy's decided to carry denim jeans in bright neon hues rather than pastels. Wal-Mart for the first time decided to let customers vote on which toys they want discounted. And to better plan orders for the decorative flags she sells, a small business owner in Mississippi is running a contest that encourages customers to chime in about how they're decorating their homes this winter.

The impact of social media on a company's bottom line is tough to quantify, with no hard data on how millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers translate into sales for stores. But during the holiday shopping season, a roughly two-month period when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue, stores are uncovering a valuable use for all the seemingly useless online muttering: market research.

The result is that whenever folks press the "like" button to give their seal of approval for a particular company's page or make a comment on how much they like the leather boots they just bought, they're helping everyone from independently owned small shops to the nation's biggest retailers make decisions about what products to stock up on, what to play up on the sales floor and what promotions to offer online.

___ Too big to jail Execs avoid laundering charges NEW YORK (AP) _ When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement with British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico's murderous drug cartels.

But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives, at least in part on the rationale that such prosecutions could be devastating enough to cause such banks to fail.

They say it sounds a lot like the "too big to fail" thinking that kept big but sickly banks alive on the support of taxpayer-funded bailouts. They call the latest cases, "Too big to jail." ___ US current account deficit fell in third quarter WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the July-September quarter to the smallest level since late 2010, but the improvement may not last.

The deficit fell to $107.5 billion in the third quarter, down 9 percent from the second quarter imbalance of $118.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the lowest trade gap since the final three months of 2010.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade. It tracks the sale of merchandise and services between nations, as well as investment flows. Economists watch the current account as a sign of how much the U.S. needs to borrow from foreigners.

___ US homebuilder confidence at 6 1/2-year high LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Confidence among U.S. homebuilders inched up this month, to the highest level in more than six and a half years, as builders reported the best market for new homes since the housing boom.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday increased 2 points to 47 from a revised 45 in November. That's the highest reading since April 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.

Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. It has been trending higher since October 2011, when it stood at 17.

___ US fines Toyota again for delayed safety reports DETROIT (AP) _ The U.S. government has slapped Toyota Motor Corp. with a record $17.4 million fine for failing once again to quickly report problems to federal regulators and for delaying a safety recall.

The fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the maximum allowed by law. It's the fourth fine levied against Toyota in the past two years for similar infractions, and it's the largest single fine ever assessed against a car company over safety defects. In 2010, Toyota paid a total of $48.8 million in fines for three violations.

The latest infraction raises questions about whether the fines are big enough to deter automakers that withhold information from NHTSA, and whether the government agency can do enough to stop repeat offenses. The fine, announced Tuesday, is a tiny fraction of Toyota's earnings. The company, which this year regained its position as the world's biggest automaker, posted $3.2 billion in profit in the third quarter alone.

___ Oracle 2Q earnings rise 18 percent to top Wall Street view SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Oracle quarterly earnings rose 18 percent as companies splurged on more software and other technology toward the end of the year.

The results announced Tuesday are an improvement from Oracle's previous quarter, when the business software maker's revenue dipped slightly from a year earlier.

The latest quarter covered September through November. That makes Oracle the first technology bellwether to provide insights into corporate spending since the Nov. 6 re-election of President Barack Obama and negotiations to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff began to heat up in Washington.

___ Instagram says users' photos won't appear in ads SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Instagram says it will revise a planned update to its service agreement after confusion about its intent led to a flood of user complaints.

At issue is whether users' photos can be part of advertisements, on or off Instagram. The mobile photo-sharing company said in a blog post Tuesday that it has no plans to put users' photos in advertisements.

Still, Instagram maintains that it was created to become a business and would like to experiment with various kinds of advertisements.

___ Smartphone makers post wins on separate continents SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The world's top two smartphone makers have each scored significant victories on different continents that will enable Apple and Samsung to keep selling their products without legal interference this holiday season.

Late Monday, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., rejected Apple Inc.'s demands to block U.S. sales of three smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Corp.

The ruling came weeks after a jury found that Samsung infringed six Apple patents.

Hours later Samsung announced it was dropping its demands that several European countries prohibit sales of Apple smartphones that Samsung claims infringe its patents.

As a result Apple phone sales will continue in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones industrial average rose 115.57 points to 13,350.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 16.43 points to 1,446.79. The Nasdaq composite rose 43.93 points to 3,054.53.

Benchmark crude finished up 73 cents at $87.93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose $1.20 to end at $108.84 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Heating oil rose 4 cents to finish at $3 a gallon. Natural gas gained 6 cents to end $3.42 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 4 cents to finish at $2.69 a gallon.

(c) 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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