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The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index for service companies rose to 53.3 in August, up from 52.7 in July. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The service sector includes everything from restaurants and hotels to health care firms and financial service companies. It has grown in all but one month over the past two years. The index reached a five-year high of 59.7 in February.

Still, overall growth among service businesses has declined in four of the past six months. High gas prices and scant wage gains have left consumers with less money to spend on services.


Shell to pay $500,000 for pollution

HOUSTON | Shell Chemical LP has agreed to pay $500,000 to a Texas county over five air-pollution events at its Deer Park refinery.

The settlement was reached after Harris County accused Shell Chemical, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, of failing to notify officials about the toxic releases. Two schools and many homes are close to the Shell refinery in Deer Park, about 18 miles southeast of Houston.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said he is pleased Shell agreed under the terms of the agreement to notify officials within 24 hours of any chemical releases. The law already requires petrochemical companies to notify the county, but Shell apparently failed to do so in five events between 2008 and 2010.


Report: Costs of leaving euro higher than bailouts

FRANKFURT, Germany | Leaving the euro would cost Europe’s indebted countries 40 percent to 50 percent of their entire economy in just the first year, with heavy costs continuing for years, economists for the Swiss bank UBS said in a report.

Leaving the euro would be so complicated legally, politically and financially that the report concludes it has “close to zero probability” and that some form of closer European cooperation between euro member countries on budgeting and spending is more likely.

Despite the low probability, economists Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan and Larry Hatheway tried to model what would happen if a country pulled out of the currency. Costs included a probable collapse of the departing country’s banking system and its trade with other euro countries, plus government debt default and widespread corporate bankruptcies.

The result: It would cost a financially weak euro country - such as Greece or Portugal between (euro) 9,500 to (euro) 11,500 per person, or 40 to 50 percent of annual gross domestic product in just the first year, with (euro) 3,000-(euro) 4,000 per person in costs each following year.