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AP Financial News Summary at 8:36 a.m. EDT

August 3, 2006

Retailers Report Solid Sales in July

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Scorching heat in much the country sent consumers in search of summer clothes in July, giving many retailers a solid sales performance for the month. But the outlook for the back-to-school shopping season remained uncertain as higher gasoline prices and rising interest rates are still expected to challenge consumers.

Ford’s Quarterly Loss Balloons to $254M

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Ford Motor Co.’s second-quarter loss more than doubled from what the No. 2 U.S. car maker previously reported because of higher-than-expected pension costs. In a second piece of weak news, the company said its luxury car division won’t be profitable this year.

European Central Bank Raises Key Rate

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 3 percent on Thursday, the fourth such increase in eight months as it tries to curb inflation.

IBM to Buy MRO Software for $740 Million

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ARMONK, N.Y. (AP) _ International Business Machines said Wednesday it agreed to buy MRO Software Inc. for about $740 million in cash, expanding IBM’s consulting and computer-services businesses.

Puma 2Q Profit Falls on Marketing Costs

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BERLIN (AP) _ Sports apparel maker Puma AG said Thursday that its second-quarter profit slipped 15 percent, pulled down by hefty World Cup-related marketing costs, despite a strong rise in sales.

Oil Prices Drop, Hurricane Fears Recede

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LONDON (AP) _ Oil prices fell Thursday as fears receded that a tropical storm blowing through the Caribbean could damage oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Merck Not Liable for Man’s Health Woes

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Vioxx-maker Merck & Co. faces thousands of lawsuits nationwide over the once-popular painkiller, but the pharmaceutical giant’s strategy to fight each lawsuit one at a time has paid off in the first case to go to trial in California.

Warner Music 3Q Loss Narrows

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Warner Music Group Corp., one of the nation’s largest recording companies, said Thursday its fiscal third-quarter loss narrowed thanks to higher revenue and shrinking costs.

Starbucks’ Sales Slide on Frozen Drinks

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SEATTLE (AP) _ Feverish summer demand for frozen drinks in the morning gummed up lines at Starbucks Corp. last month, slowing sales and presenting a rare operational snag for the world’s largest specialty coffee retailer.

Wal-Mart’s Mexico Unit Eyes Banking

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MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The Mexican unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has filed for a banking license with local regulators, the latest retailer to enter the realm of financial services in Mexico in recent years.

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