Tuesday's Business Highlights

For Sept. 24, 2013

Here are highlights from Tuesday's business news.

US consumer confidence dips as jobs outlook dims

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans’ confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September. That’s down from August’s reading of 81.8, which was slightly higher than previously estimated.

Consumers’ confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The September reading was only slightly below June’s reading of 82.1, the highest in 5 1/2 years.

While confidence has bounced back from the depths of the Great Recession, it has yet to regain a reading of 90 that typically coincides with a healthy economy.

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Burger King launching lower-calorie french fry

NEW YORK (AP) — Burger King wants people to feel less guilty about gobbling up its french fries.

The world’s No. 2 hamburger chain is launching a new crinkle-cut french fry on Tuesday that it says has about 20 percent fewer calories than its regular fries.

The chain says a small order of the new “Satisfries” clocks in at 270 calories because of a new batter that doesn’t absorb as much oil. By comparison, a small order of its regular fries, sans crinkles, has 340 calories.

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Applied Materials in takeover of Tokyo Electron

TOKYO (AP) — Chip-making equipment manufacturer Applied Materials is acquiring Tokyo Electron Ltd., a rival maker of equipment for production of semiconductors, flat panel displays and solar panels.

The two companies said Tuesday their $9.39 billion all-stock transaction will result in the creation of a new company with a market capitalization of about $29 billion.

Tokyo Electron’s chairman Tetsuro Higashi said the deal is meant to create a “truly global company” to meet the needs of companies supplying consumer electronics, such as smartphones and tablets.

The new company will have shared leadership, with Higashi as its chairman and Applied Materials’ president and CEO Gary Dickerson as its CEO.

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Fed concerned about early trading after meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is concerned about suspiciously heavy trading of gold futures after its meeting last week that may have been triggered by a premature release of market-sensitive information.

In a statement, the central bank said Tuesday that news organizations that receive embargoed information from the Fed agree to withhold information until the time set for its release. The Fed statement said, “We will be conducting follow-up conversations with news organizations to ensure our procedures are completely understood.”

Trading in financial markets is now dominated by automated computer systems, which make trades in tiny fractions of a second that can lead to millions of dollars in profit. Receiving the data early — even by a few milliseconds — can give an unfair advantage to some firms.

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Smithfield shareholders approve Shuanghui deal

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Shareholders of Smithfield Foods Inc. on Tuesday approved a plan to sell the world’s largest pork producer and processor to a Chinese company.

The Smithfield, Va.-based company said more than 96 percent of the votes cast during a special meeting in Richmond were in favor of Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.’s $34 per share offer, or $4.72 billion in cash.

The deal, which is expected to close Thursday, will be the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm, valued at about $7.1 billion including debt. Its sale to Hong Kong-based Shuanghui comes at a time of serious food safety problems in China, some of which have involved Shuanghui, which owns food and logistics enterprises and is the largest shareholder of China’s biggest meat processor.

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SKorea rejects Boeing, says F-15 not good enough

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Tuesday rejected Boeing Co.’s bid to supply 60 fighter jets in the country’s largest-ever weapons purchase even though it was the sole remaining bidder, and said it would reopen the tender.

Boeing had offered its F-15 Silent Eagle, but South Korean critics have said the warplane lacks state-of-the-art stealth capabilities and cannot effectively cope with North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said officials decided at a meeting Tuesday to delay naming a winning bidder for the 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) purchase, and would restart the bidding process at an early date.

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New Zealand airline plans Antarctic ice landings

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s flagship airline plans to fly planes to Antarctica that pilots would land on an ice runway.

But tourists wanting to travel to the frozen continent will need to keep their hopes in check. The chartered Air New Zealand flights would be for scientists and their support crews, and the airline said Tuesday it has no plans to begin commercial trips.

Many countries already fly scientists to Antarctica. But those flights are typically run by government or military agencies, or by specialized companies.

Air New Zealand plans to use one of its regular passenger jets for the Antarctic flights, a Boeing 767-300.

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Stocks

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 66.79 points to close at 15,334.59. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 4.42 points to 1,697.42. The Nasdaq composite edged up 2.97 points to 3,768.25.

U.S. benchmark oil for November delivery fell 46 cents to finish at $103.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to $2.66 per gallon. Natural gas lost 11 cents to $3.49 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil was flat at $2.96 per gallon.

Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries, rose 48 cents to $108.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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