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COMMERCE

August retail sales up 0.4 percent

Retail sales rose in August by the largest amount in five months, suggesting a late-spring economic swoon was temporary and not the start of another recession.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, the best advance since March. Excluding a big decline in autos, retail sales increased 0.6 percent. That’s double the amount economists had expected.

The strength came in a number of areas from department stores to clothing stores and sporting-goods outlets. The advance was the latest indication that the economy is regaining its footing after a dismal spring.

SUPREME COURT

Scalia gives tobacco firms a reprieve

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has temporarily blocked a state court order requiring tobacco companies to pay $270 million for a smoking-cessation program in Louisiana.

Justice Scalia granted a request from the companies on Tuesday, but said he would reconsider his order later this month after hearing from Louisiana plaintiffs who won a class-action lawsuit against the cigarette makers.

The companies lost their bid in state court to throw out the award or at least delay the payment. They want the high court to throw out the judgment against them and relieve them of having to pay out the money while the case is being appealed.

ENERGY

Oil industry: Fee hike could cost jobs

The oil and gas industry says an Obama administration plan to double fees charged for inspections of offshore operations could cost jobs.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard says the industry recognizes the need for improved inspections and oversight following the BP oil spill. But he says doubling the fees isn’t appropriate.

The White House has asked Congress to approve the higher fees as part of a request for $80 million in new spending for the agency that oversees offshore drilling.

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