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Economy Briefs: Minister wants steel firm kicked out of the country

- - Monday, November 26, 2012

PARIS — Many European countries with lagging economies are trying to draw in foreign investors. But in France, a Socialist minister says he wants the world's biggest steel-maker to leave, accusing it of lying to the government.

The invective from Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg has soured an already tense relationship between France's leftist leadership and steel powerhouse ArcelorMittal. The company says it will shut down a blast furnace in northeast France whose plight has captured the nation's attention — unless the government finds a new buyer by this week.

The showdown over the site in Florange, which is reportedly profitable but underperforming among ArcelorMittal assets, exposes the simmering mistrust of capitalism in France. It also raises the prospect that President Francois Hollande's Socialists may pay out to nationalize in an old-world, labor-intensive industry despite a push for austerity across much of Europe.

STOCKS

Yahoo hits $19 a share for 1st time since 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo's shares touched $19 Monday, the first time they have traded that high in more than 21/2 years.

The latest gains extend a rally that has been gaining momentum in recent weeks as Yahoo Inc. buys back its own stock and more investors bet on CEO Marissa Mayer's ability to turn around the long-struggling company.

Ms. Mayer, a former top Google executive, has vowed to make the Sunnyvale, Calif., company a better place to work, refine its online services, and roll out more products tailored for smartphones and tablet computers.

MACHINERY

Fiat Industrial and CNH reach merger agreement

MILAN — The Italian heavy-duty vehicles manufacturer Fiat Industrial reached an agreement Monday for a full merger with its U.S. subsidiary, the farm equipment maker CNH Global N.V., creating the world's third-largest capital goods company by sales.

Fiat Industrial had aggressively pursued the full merger of the 12 percent of CNH that it didn't already own, making a pitch in the spring and then raising the value of the offer by more than 25 percent last week after CNH advisers refused to endorse the deal.

Fiat Industrial earlier this month had streamlined the management structure to better integrate the two companies, placing the head of CNH, Richard Tobin, as group chief operating officer, second in command to Chairman Sergio Marchionne, who also runs the Fiat and Chrysler car companies.

CLIMATE

U.S. defends 'enormous' climate efforts at U.N. talks

DOHA, Qatar — Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed "enormous" strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite failing to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling climate change.

Speaking for a coalition of developed nations known as the G77, China's delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol — an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the Americans long ago rejected — or at least make "comparable mitigation commitments."

EUROPE

Euro officials seek way to unlock Greek crisis

BRUSSELS — Finance ministers from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro were poised for another marathon negotiating session trying to hammer out a deal late Monday on the next installment of bailout money for struggling Greece.

The ministers have failed twice in the past two weeks to reach an agreement to release some $56.8 billion for the cash-strapped country.

Greece is living on borrowed time — it still owes money it was supposed to repay last week.

INFLATION

'12 Days of Christmas' swans, geese, rings now cost $107K

PITTSBURGH — Add seven swans, six geese and five golden rings to the list of Christmas gifts that cost more than they did a year ago.

And if you get all 364 items repeated throughout "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol, you'll pay 6.1 percent more this year, according to the so-called Christmas Price Index that PNC Wealth Management updates annually.

That comes to $107,300.

INTERNET

Feds seize 132 domain names in counterfeit sales crackdown

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Federal law enforcement authorities have announced the seizure of 132 domain names in several countries to stop them from selling counterfeit merchandise online.

The Cyber Monday crackdown came on what was expected to be the biggest online shopping day of the year. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations coordinated the effort with Europol and police in Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom.

Authorities say it's the third consecutive Cyber Monday that websites selling knockoff sports jerseys, DVDs and other goods have been targeted.

RELIGION

U.S. probe targets halal meat producer in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The maker of a popular brand of food for observant Muslims says it is facing a potentially crippling investigation into whether it falsely labeled meat products as processed in compliance with Islamic law.

The Midamar Corp. said in federal court documents that investigators seized its main bank account and business records under search warrants executed last month. A judge last week upheld the government's seizure of $454,000 in bank funds and rejected the company's request to return the money.

No criminal or civil charges have been filed, and U.S. District Judge Linda Reade ruled that the government's affidavit supporting its search warrant can remain secret so as not to "compromise an ongoing investigation." The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment Monday on the investigation, which involves the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Internal Revenue Service.

SOUTH AMERICA

Debt-strapped Argentina seeks repayment relief

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is refusing to budge in its billion-dollar debt showdown in New York federal court, preparing an appeal Monday that it hopes will stave off another devastating default.

Judge Thomas Griesa left Argentina without any wiggle room, ordering the government of President Cristina Fernandez to pay $1.3 billion to the so-called vulture funds by Dec. 15, even as it pursues its final appeals.

If Argentina pays the plaintiffs, then lawyers representing other holders of defaulted debt, totaling more than $11 billion, are expected to demand immediate payment as well.

If it refuses, the judge said the Bank of New York Mellon must stop payment on the quotas Argentina has religiously honored to a much bigger group of bondholders who agreed to provide the country with debt relief in 2005 and 2010. That group together holds more than $20 billion in restructured debt.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.