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AP Financial News Summary at 7:12 a.m. EST

January 3, 2006

Russia, Ukraine to Resume Gas Talks

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian and Ukrainian officials agreed to resume talks Tuesday on resolving a dispute over the price of natural gas that has reverberated across the continent.

Stocks Set to Open Higher to Start 2006

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LONDON (AP) _ U.S. stock market futures were surging to a strong start in 2006, with views on the interest-rate cycle right back at the forefront ahead of the release of Federal Open Market Committee minutes. The health-care sector also is likely to draw attention Tuesday after an upgrade of Johnson & Johnson and another biotech pact inked by Wyeth.

Independence Air to Shut Down on Thursday

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CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) _ Independence Air, which won fans with its low fares, announced plans Monday to cease operations just days into the new year.

Natural-Gas Prices Move Lower

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LONDON (AP) _ Natural-gas prices fell Tuesday in electronic European trading as traders seemingly brushed off a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine that had threatened European gas supplies.

Report: Virgin Affiliate Docked for Taxes

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TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese affiliate of the Britain-based conglomerate Virgin Group has been ordered to pay about 1.5 billion yen, or $12.8 million, in additional taxes for allegedly concealing income from a stock sale, a newspaper said Tuesday.

China 2005 Growth Rate Lifted to 9.8 Pct.

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SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ China’s economy grew by a higher-than-forecast 9.8 percent in 2005, thanks to a startling new survey showing that authorities had underestimated the economy’s size, the official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.

Buybacks to Show Up in 4Q Earnings Gains

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NEW YORK (AP) _ The companies in Standard & Poor’s 500 index are expected soon to report fourth-quarter earnings that surged 14.9 percent from the previous year. Or is it 13.2 percent? In the flexible world of corporate accounting, it simply depends on how you count the shares.

Analysts: 2006 Pivotal Year for Airlines

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DALLAS (AP) _ The U.S. airline industry is coming off an up-and-down year that saw two major carriers file for bankruptcy but others begin to pull out of a nosedive that began in 2001. Losses at the biggest U.S. airlines since the economic downturn in 2001 were expected to approach $30 billion. Still, 2005 was nearly a good year.

Countries Report Gas Delivery Shortfalls

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VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The impact of Russia’s dispute with Ukraine over natural gas spread West, with European countries reporting delivery shortfalls as high as 50 percent. Moscow, facing angry customers and sharp criticism, promised to increase gas shipments to the continent by Tuesday.

ABN Amro to Launch Takeover Bid for Bank

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ROME (AP) _ Dutch bank ABN Amro Holding NV said Monday it will soon launch another takeover bid for Banca Antonveneta SpA after its earlier attempt spawned a scandal that prompted the resignation of Italy’s central bank chief.

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