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Economy Briefs: Consumer borrowing rises to record $2.75 trillion

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Americans swiped their credit cards more often in October and borrowed more to attend school and buy cars. The increases drove U.S. consumer debt to an all-time high.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumers increased their borrowing by $14.2 billion in October from September. Total borrowing rose to a record $2.75 trillion.

Borrowing in the category that covers autos and student loans increased by $10.8 billion. Borrowing on credit cards rose by $3.4 billion, only the second monthly increase in the past five months.

The strong rise in borrowing came in a month when American cut back on consumer spending, reflecting in part disruptions from Superstorm Sandy.

GEORGIA

Industry wants new rules for nuclear disaster plan

ATLANTA — If disaster strikes a U.S. nuclear power plant, the utility industry wants the ability to fly in heavy-duty emergency equipment to help.

That capability is part of an emergency plan being developed to meet new federal rules developed after a tsunami devastated the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan last year, leading to meltdowns and radioactive releases.

The tsunami exceeded what the nuclear plant was built to withstand. U.S. nuclear officials said the crisis showed how a utility can become overwhelmed by so large a disaster, especially when it wipes out roads and infrastructure needed for the emergency response.

Under the plan, nuclear plants are assembling extra emergency equipment to keep on site. They also could get equipment flown or trucked in from stockpiles in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix.

NEW YORK

Review of gas-drilling rules remains incomplete

ALBANY — New York regulators will begin taking public comments on revised gas-drilling rules this week, but an extensive environmental review outlining the basis for those rules remains incomplete.

Health and environmental groups have criticized the state's Department of Environmental Conservation for issuing the revised regulations before completing a health review or releasing a final version of a massive environmental impact study initiated in 2008. The state has had a moratorium on shale gas development since the study began.

Gas industry representatives say the revised regulations are stricter than those proposed in September 2011 and ignore numerous industry requests for changes to provisions they consider arbitrary and inflexible.

The revised regulations include new water-testing requirements, public input on permits and enhanced chemical disclosure.

PENSIONS

IBM shifts 401(k) policy to once-a-year matches

IBM is making changes to its employee benefits that may cause other large corporations to follow suit. The technology company will begin making contributions to employees' 401(k) accounts in lump-sum annual payments, rather than at the time of each paycheck. It's a move that will help the company cut retirement plan expenses.

Employees were notified this week that matching contributions will be made just once annually, on Dec. 31, beginning next year. "This change reflects our continuing commitment to invest in our employee 401(k) plans while maintaining business competitiveness in a challenging economic environment," IBM Corp. spokesman Doug Shelton said.

The end-of-the-year 401(k) match won't be unique to IBM, but analysts say the company's move could lead other major employers to consider making less-frequent contributions.

COURTS

Goldman Sachs fined $1.5 million in case of ex-trader

Goldman Sachs & Co. is paying $1.5 million to settle civil charges that it failed to properly supervise a former trader who cost the firm more than $118 million.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced the action Friday. The CFTC says Goldman also agreed to make changes in its supervision procedures for futures trading.

The CFTC last month filed civil fraud charges against the former trader, Matthew Marshall Taylor. Regulators said he failed to disclose an $8.3 billion position on a futures contract that came back to hurt Goldman in December 2007. The agency is seeking unspecified penalties against Taylor.

Taylor's trading didn't affect customer funds, Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally said Friday. The firm discovered his activity on Dec. 14, 2007. Mr. Taylor eventually admitted misconduct and was terminated, Mr. DuVally said.

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