Business highlights


Wall Street ended a tumultuous week with a sharp decline Friday, backtracking following two days of stunning gains as investors turned cautious and cashed in some of their winnings. The Dow Jones industrial average still managed to record its first weekly advance of 2008, even as it fell more than 170 points on the day.

The week, which started with a 465-point drop in the Dow soon after the market opened Tuesday, showed that the stock market is still fractious but may be going through healthy process of trying to establish a bottom following weeks of sharp declines.


Retirees living off Social Security are frustrated that they won't get tax rebate checks through a bipartisan economic stimulus package before the House. Senate Democrats Friday began efforts to include them.

The Senate is also considering an extension of jobless benefits to the $150 billion package of rebates and business tax cuts in a deal wrapped up Thursday between House leaders and President Bush.

Bush urged Congress on Friday to quickly pass the package without any further spending.


The success of the federal $150 billion emergency economic stimulus plan will hinge on whether American consumers do what they do best &

spend, spend, spend.

The stimulus has been debated in Washington for more than a week as the economic outlook worsened, and now Americans are armed with specifics: Individuals will get up to $600, working couples $1,200 and those with children $300 more per child.

President Bush and leaders in Congress hope people will spend those rebates &

a flat-screen television, maybe, or a trip to Disneyland &

to help revive an economy sagging from bad mortgage lending and a lack of confidence in the stock market.


The rogue futures trader who allegedly cost French bank Societe Generale $7.14 billion had been betting on an even larger scale &

with tens of billions in fraudulent deals, the bank said Friday.

France's No. 2 bank apologized to shareholders after discovering what appears to be the largest trading fraud in history to be carried out by a single person. The news Thursday rattled an already jittery banking sector at a time of global economic uncertainty.

A bank official said Friday that 31-year-old trader Jerome Kerviel's positions had reached "several tens of billions of euros" &

a staggering sum for a bank with a market capitalization of 35.9 billion euros ($52.6 billion).


Construction-equipment maker and economic bellwether Caterpillar Inc. said Friday that it expects resilient overseas economies to drive strong sales and profit growth this year, even as the United States teeters toward recession.

The company said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 11 percent on strong international sales, helped along by a weak U.S. dollar that makes American products more affordable.

Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar's earnings report followed similar, good-new-, bad-news reports from other major manufacturers this month, all of them struggling at home but riding a wave of growth abroad.


Oil futures jumped back above $90 a barrel Friday, adding to the previous session's sharp gains on a view that the recession worries that pulled prices lower in recent weeks may have been overblown.

At the pump, meanwhile, gas prices fell below $3 for the first time in weeks.

Energy investors were heartened by recent moves by the Federal Reserve and Congress to shore up the economy, which could prevent oil demand from slowing as much as many had feared.



Diversified manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. reported a 17.8 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit while recording growth in all four of its business segments. Its stock rose almost 4 percent Friday.

The Morris Township-based company late Thursday said it earned $689 million, or 91 cents per share, for the three months that ended Dec. 31, up from $585 million, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company had projected net income of 89 cents to 91 cents a share, while analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting 91 cents a share.



A fire on the roof of the 32-story Monte Carlo hotel-casino forced guests and gamblers to flee and sent flaming debris raining down, but the blaze eased after about an hour and no serious injuries were reported.

The mid-morning fire quickly spread across the rooftop facade, made of a foam building material. Orange flames lapped at the hotel's name in large script.

Five people were hospitalized, including four who reported difficulty breathing and one with an unspecified minor injury, said John Wilson, general manager of ambulance companies American Medical Response and Medic West.



Harley-Davidson Inc. says riders concerned about the economy are throttling big purchases, like the company's classic motorcycles, sending its profit down 26.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Sales in the U.S. were down 14.2 percent in the quarter, the company said Friday. That outpaces the domestic heavyweight motorcycle market's fall of 9 percent.

CEO Jim Ziemer called the retail environment "challenging" for this year and said dealers report consumers are worried about the direction of the economy.



Brewers Carlsberg and Heineken will buy beermaker Scottish Newcastle for $15.3 billion, the companies said Friday.

Scottish Newcastle PLC, which rejected two earlier bids, agreed to an all-cash offer of 800 pence ($15.68) per share.

The offer values the existing share capital of SN at 7.6 billion pounds ($14.9 billion), and the bidders said they plan to issue another 200 million pounds worth of shares.

The price is a premium of 50.7 percent over the closing share price on March 28, the day before speculation arose about a possible bid for SN.


The Dow fell 171.44, or 1.38 percent, to 12,207.17. The Dow had been up more than 100 points in the early going.

Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard Poor's 500 index fell 21.46, or 1.59 percent, to 1,330.61. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 34.72, or 1.47 percent, to 2,326.20.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose $1.30 to settle at $90.71 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after rising as high as $91.38. Oil futures last closed above $90 last Friday.

Other energy futures also rose Friday. February heating oil futures jumped 4.28 cents to settle at $2.5191 a gallon on the Nymex while February gasoline futures added 3.54 cents to settle at $2.3182 a gallon.

February natural gas futures rose 18.1 cents to settle at $7.983 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, March Brent crude rose $1.83 to settle at $90.90 a barrel Friday on the ICE Futures exchange.

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