- - Thursday, July 14, 2011

COMMERCE

Retail sales up after May drop

Consumers spent more on cars and in big chain stores in June but falling gas prices held back retail sales.

Retail sales rose a modest 0.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That follows a 0.1 percent decrease in May, which was the first decline after 10 straight gains.

When excluding autos, retail sales were flat in June. A rebound from spring supply disruptions stemming from the Japan crises helped pushed auto sales up 0.8 percent.

Sales at general merchandise stores, which include stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, rose 0.4 percent.

WALL STREET

Investors retreat from stock mutual funds

BOSTON — Mutual fund investors last month made their biggest retreat from stocks since the bull market began more than two years ago.

A net $17.3 billion was withdrawn from stock funds in June, while bond funds attracted new cash for the fifth consecutive month, industry consultant Strategic Insight said on Thursday.

It was the biggest monthly flow out of stock funds since March 2009, when stocks hit bottom after the financial crisis. Net withdrawals totaled more than $20 billion that month.

Last month’s withdrawals came as the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 1.7 percent amid a spate of disappointing jobs and manufacturing news suggesting the economic recovery may be stalling. Stocks fell sharply at the beginning of June, then rallied in the final week to recover most of the earlier loss.

SPLIT

Oil giant ConocoPhillips to split into 2

NEW YORK — Oil giant ConocoPhillips said Thursday it will split into two companies: One that produces oil and another that refines it into gasoline and other fuels.

The decision was cheered by Wall Street analysts and investors, who see advantages to running smaller, more focused operations.

The move continues an about-face for a company that spent billions of dollars during the past several years growing into America’s third-largest oil company. ConocoPhillips also said CEO Jim Mulva will retire when the spinoff is completed.

TECHNOLOGY

Spotify, digital music service, launches in U.S.

LOS ANGELES — Digital music service Spotify arrived in the United States on Thursday, aiming its addictive, free song service at American listeners in the hope that they will then pay for more features, just as nearly 2 million have done in Europe.

Spotify gives people access to more than 15 million songs on computers for free as long as they listen to a few 15-second ads. It then tries to persuade them to pay $5 a month for a computer-only version that strips out the ads, or $10 a month for one that can be used on mobile devices including iPhones and Android-powered devices.

CALIFORNIA

Plastic bag ban OK’d by state high court

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court says Manhattan Beach can ban retailers from using plastic bags without going through a lengthy environmental study on the increased use of paper bags.

The unanimous court said Thursday that “substantial evidence and common sense” show that the ban wouldn’t harm the environment. The ruling overturns an appellate court decision.

An industry group calling itself the Save the Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban enacted in July 2008. The coalition argued that paper bags have a greater negative effect on the environment than plastic bags and demanded an in-depth environmental study be done before the ban went into effect.

OHIO

Carbon capture project delayed by company

COLUMBUS — American Electric Power Co. said Thursday it was putting a hold on its plans for a commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage project in West Virginia because of uncertainty surrounding U.S. climate policy and what the company described as a weak economy.

Michael G. Morris, AEP’s chairman and chief executive said continuing to build the system at the utility’s coal-fired Mountaineer power plant in New Haven, W.Va., no longer makes economic sense.

Electricity demand is sluggish for AEP and other utilities across the country. Also, electricity prices have been kept low both by lower demand and by low natural gas prices, which often set the price for wholesale power.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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