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Around the business world

Staff and Wire Reports

WASHINGTON Is it reasonable to order a cigarette company to pay $79.5 million in punitive damages to a smokers widow? Several Supreme Court justices sound dubious as they move toward a decision.

CINCINNATI Procter & Gamble, the worlds biggest consumer products company, said fiscal first-quarter profits climbed 33 percent, boosted by sales from Gillette and improved margins. The maker of such products as Pampers diapers, Tide detergent and Crest toothpaste also lifts its full-year earnings outlook on a better commodity and energy cost forecast.

NEW YORK Americans wages and benefits are rising at the fastest pace in almost two years, but theyre still so worried about jobs that their confidence in the economy has waned. Economists said consumers seem obsessed with news about jobs losses at auto plants and other manufacturers, but arent seeing the real picture a steady labor market.

NEW YORK Stocks wobbled for a second straight session after a dip in consumer confidence countered better-than-expected quarterly results from companies such as Eastman Kodak Co. Oil prices dropped below $58 a barrel, extending a decline of more than $2 a barrel a day earlier as traders respond to mild weather on the East Coast and await fresh U.S. data that is expected to show rising inventories of crude.

DETROIT Stung by production cuts at Ford Motor Co. and other big customers, auto parts maker Visteon Corp. reported a narrower loss for the third quarter, but said it plans to cut its white-collar work force by 900 in the U.S. and Europe. Troubles at the major domestic automakers are wreaking havoc on their suppliers businesses and work force.

CHICAGO The parent of United Airlines posted a second straight quarterly gain for the first time in six years, a $190 million profit that puts the long-time industry laggard near the top of the earnings list among U.S. carriers. Higher fares and lower costs as the result of its three-year bankruptcy restructuring enable UAL Corp. to overcome soaring fuel expenses.

NEW YORK In a city where you can get just about anything delivered to your door groceries, dry cleaning, Chinese food marijuana is a telephone call away. Pot dealers are delivering neatly packaged weed to otherwise law-abiding professionals in New York and elsewhere.

SAN JOSE, Calif. Sony Corp. said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating its electronics business as part of an investigation into memory chip makers. The announcement came as European Union antitrust regulators announced theyve raided several semiconductor companies as part of a price-fixing probe.

DENVER Qwest Communications said it swung to a profit in the third quarter as it added more customers for Internet and data services, lowered expenses and recorded a tax-related benefit. It marked the third consecutive quarter of profit for the telecommunications company which has shifted its strategy toward selling packages of services amid competition from cable television and cell phones.

BEIJING China is making unusually lavish efforts to welcome officials from 48 African nations this week for a landmark summit. China has built an outsized presence in Africa, in a diplomatic and economic push that is helping to reshape the geopolitical map. To some, however, the issue isnt cooperation but whether African countries are getting the most out of China. And the billions of dollars China has poured into Africa is proving controversial even among Chinese.Vail, Colorado


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