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Around the business world

Staff and Wire Reports

Slowdown in construction, manufacturing suggest economy downshifting: WASHINGTON ” The economy appears to be shifting into a lower gear, with home construction falling and manufacturing slowing.

Wall Street keeps marching forward: NEW YORK ” Wall Street extended its advance despite fresh economic data giving Wall Street mixed signals on inflation a day after the Federal Reserve said it was more concerned about rising prices.

Retailers report better-than-expected sales in May: NEW YORK ” Consumers apparently shook off their worries about higher gas prices during May, shopping with enthusiasm at clothing stores and malls and giving many retailers better-than-expected results. A big exception was Wal-Mart Stores Inc., whose low-income consumers are feeling the biggest financial squeeze from $3-a-gallon gas.

OPEC poised to keep production steady, Iran blames U.S. for high world prices: CARACAS, Venezuela ” Oil-rich nations are poised to keep production steady at an OPEC meeting as Iran blames the United States for sky-high world prices, saying U.S. threats against the Iranian nuclear program are the driving a wave of nervous speculation keeping petroleum hovering above $70 a barrel.

Oil prices rise slightly: NEW YORK ” Crude-oil futures rose slightly, gaining strength from a rally in gasoline futures after weekly U.S. government data showed rising demand. The weekly report from the Energy Department’s statistical division also showed rising oil and gas inventories, and increased output from the nation’s refineries.

Mortgage rates rise again: NEW YORK ” Mortgage rates rose again this week on worries about what the Federal Reserve will do next. One-year adjustable rate mortgages hit the highest level in nearly five years. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.67 percent, up from 6.62 percent last week.

High gas prices ding auto sales: DETROIT ” Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales dropped 2 percent in May as high gas prices accelerated a trend away from sport utility vehicles, a trend expected to be widespread in the industry as automakers release their sales figures for May. Some analysts are predicting that General Motors Corp. will be hit hardest because it is trying to wean itself off incentives and fleet sales, and because it relies heavily on truck-based SUVs.

Heinz foods to cut jobs: PITTSBURGH ” Food producer H.J. Heinz Co. said fiscal fourth-quarter profit dropped 19 percent, and said it plans to cut 2,700 jobs, or 8 percent of its work force, and exit 15 plants this year as part of a plan to cut costs and resume earnings growth.

Exxon hammered for Valdez damage: ANCHORAGE, Alaska ” Federal and state authorities will seek more money from Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday to rehabilitate wildlife populations and clean up remaining oil from a devastating spill nearly 20 years ago, Alaska officials said. Developing from 2 p.m. EDT conference call. AP Photo NYBZ101

Jack Daniels profits soaring: LOUISVILLE, Ky. ” Brown-Forman Corp. posted a 29 percent rise in its fourth-quarter profit, citing strong sales of its Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and other premium liquor brands.

Bank of China’s IPO surges 15.3 percent in Hong Kong: HONG KONG ” Bank of China’s initial public offering ” the world’s biggest in six years ” from soaring 15.3 percent in Hong Kong.

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