Update on the latest business

WALL STREET

Stocks mixed after US unemployment rate drops

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow is sitting at its highest close since December 2007, ahead of this morning's opening bell on Wall Street.

Not far behind is the broader S&P 500. Both the Dow and S&P had their first positive weeks after two weeks of losses. The Dow rose 1.3 percent for the week, the S&P 1.4 percent.

The Dow Friday rose 35 points to close at 13,610. The S&P fell 0.47 points to 1,461. The Nasdaq dropped 13 points to 3,136.

ECONOMY-WEEK AHEAD

Business events scheduled for the coming week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bond markets are closed today for Columbus Day. But the stock market is open.

This week, the market's focus may well turn to earnings, with Alcoa poised to release quarterly numbers on Tuesday. It is the first of the Dow 30 members to report.

Economic reports on tap include wholesale trade for August, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book as well as international trade for August and the Producer Price Index.

WORLD MARKETS-WORLD BANK

Asian stocks down, World Bank cuts Asia growth forecast

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks fell Monday as Europe's debt crisis continued to roil markets and the World Bank cut its growth forecasts for Asia.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 percent. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.8 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX200 dropped 0.3 percent. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.8 percent and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.8 percent

The bank cut its growth outlook for Asia on Monday to 7.2 percent this year, down from its May forecast of 7.6 percent. It cut its outlook for China, the region's biggest economy, to 7.7 percent from May's 8.2 percent.

The bank said demand in key export markets has been hurt by the lackluster U.S. recovery and recession in Europe.

The bank said China faces the risk of a "more pronounced slowdown" than expected. Chinese growth has slowed largely due to government efforts to cool an overheated economy and inflation but also has been hurt by weak global demand.

OIL PRICES

Oil falls in Asia

BANGKOK (AP) — Multiple signs that the global economy is not headed for an upswing in the near term kept oil prices on their down trend Monday.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was down fell 37 cents to $89.51 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS

EU finance chiefs to discuss debt crisis, Greece

LUXEMBOURG (AP) — EU finance ministers are in Luxembourg to take stock of the debt crisis before a summit of EU leaders later this month.

The 17 eurozone ministers will look Monday at Greece's budget proposals. They will hear from the troika — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — about its negotiations with the Greek government. No final troika report will be submitted, so no decision on a new payout of aid will be made.

Finance ministers from all 27 EU countries meet Tuesday and are expected to grant Portugal an extra year, until 2014, to correct its excessive budget deficit. They will also see how many countries want to institute a financial transaction tax among just themselves, rather than all EU countries.

Meanwhile, Germany's finance minister is keeping the pressure on Greece to implement reforms and spending cuts before a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl).

Merkel travels to Athens on Tuesday.

SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS

Anti-austerity protests grip 56 Spanish cities

MADRID (AP) — Spaniards have been voicing their outrage over austerity cuts.

In more than 50 Spanish cities yesterday, tens of thousands of people marched to protest cuts that they say will increase unemployment -- in a country where the jobless rate is already nearly 25 percent.

Trade union leaders said the marches were a warning to the government that tempers are rising, and that a general strike is brewing -- possibly next month.

CALIFORNIA GASOLINE PRICES

Calif. Gasoline prices hit all time high - twice - over the weekend

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Relief may be on the way for California motorists, who saw gasoline prices hit a record high on Saturday and again Sunday.

With an average price of more than $4.65 for a gallon of regular, California's gasoline is the most expensive in the country. According to GasBuddy.com, one station in Long Beach was charging $6.65 a gallon.

The surge in prices came after a power outage Monday at a Southern California refinery. Analysts say it reduced supply in an already fragile market.

The refinery came back online Friday, and prices are expected to stabilize in the coming days.

CENTURYLINK STRIKE

CenturyLink, union fail to reach labor agreement

DENVER (AP) — CenturyLink and the union representing 13,000 workers in 13 states in the West and Midwest have failed to reach a contract agreement, but agreed to a day-to-day extension of the expired pact.

The Communications Workers of America made the announcement after the existing labor contract just before midnight Saturday.

CWA spokesman Al Kogler said in a statement that negotiations will continue and workers will remain on the job during the extension.

Kogler has said the union opposes a proposed increase in health care premiums and wants to bring more jobs back to the U.S. The union had authorized a strike in the event that a new deal couldn't be reached with the Monroe, La.-based telecommunications company.

CenturyLink workers in Montana, who are negotiating a separate contract, agreed to the extension.

BAE-EADS

UK threatens to veto BAE-EADS merger

LONDON (AP) — Britain's defense secretary has warned that the French and German governments must reduce their stakes in defense company EADS for the U.K. to allow a proposed merger with BAE Systems to go ahead.

Philip Hammond says Britain will veto the mega-merger of the aeronautics and defense companies if this requirement isn't satisfied.

In a BBC interview Sunday, Hammond said it was "necessary to reduce that stake below the level at which it can control or direct the way the company acts."

On Friday, 45 British lawmakers wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that the deal would hand control of British defense industry to a company that would not safeguard the country's interests.

The firms have until Wednesday to say whether they want to continue with the talks.

US-CHINA-TECH COMPANIES

US panel: China tech giants pose security threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Intelligence Committee is warning that China's two leading technology firms pose a major security threat to the United States.

The panel says regulators should block mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. by Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp. It also advises that U.S. government systems not include equipment from the two firms, and that private U.S. companies avoid business with them.

The results of the committee's yearlong probe, due to be released Monday, could hamper Huawei and ZTE's ambitions to expand their business in America.

A draft of the panel's report was obtained by The Associated Press.

Huawei and ZTE are among the world's leading suppliers of telecommunications gear. Both deny being influenced by the Chinese government and posing a security threat.

DYING GREETING CARDS

Social media among threats to greeting card makers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fewer people are sending paper greeting cards, a worrisome challenge for the nation's top card company.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark Cards Inc. announced last week it's closing a Kansas plant that produced a third of its signature product. Hallmark is shedding about 300 jobs as it shifts work to two other plants.

Hallmark and companies like it are dealing with a cultural shift in which consumers are increasingly choosing cheaper and quicker ways to communicate.

Hallmark says that over the past decade, the number of greeting cards sold in the U.S. has dropped from 6 billion to 5 billion. An industry trade group puts the figure at 7 billion.

Hallmark executive Pete Burney says competition in the industry is "formidable" and that consumers have more ways to connect digitally.

EINSTEIN LETTER

Einstein letter on God to be auctioned on eBay

LONDON (AP) — A letter in which Albert Einstein dismissed the idea of God as a product of human weakness is being sold on eBay for a starting price of $3 million.

The letter, handwritten in 1954, a year before Einstein's death, was addressed to philosopher Eric Gutkind. In it, Einstein discussed his views on religion, including calling "the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

An anonymous collector who bought the letter in 2008 is putting it on sale on online auction site eBay from Monday. The auction closes Oct. 18.

Eric Gazin, a spokesman for the sale, said Sunday: "With the interest in Einstein, along with the questions this (letter) touches on, we feel it is well worth the price."

BOX OFFICE

Neeson doubles the take with $50M 'Taken 2' debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Critics don't like "Taken 2," but Liam Neeson's action sequel proved twice as popular as the original movie was.

According to studio estimates Sunday, "Taken 2" led the box office with $50 million domestically over opening weekend. That's double the haul for Neeson's "Taken," which took in $24.7 million in its U.S. debut in early 2009.

Released by 20th Century Fox, "Taken 2" gave a big boost to Hollywood revenues, which have lagged most weekends since late summer.

Neeson returns as a retired CIA agent using his expert espionage and killing skills to take on a gang of thugs out for revenge against him and his family.

While the first movie got respectable reviews, "Taken 2" was panned by critics as a replay of the original.

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