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AP Financial News Summary at 2:16 p.m. EST

January 5, 2006

Service Sector Grows, Jobless Claims Fall

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NEW YORK (AP) _ The nation’s service sector grew more rapidly in December and the number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in five years, signs the economy enters the new year on fairly strong footing.

Retailers Look to Face an Uncertain 2006

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Retailers faced an uncertain 2006 Thursday after December sales figures showed that the holiday shopping season, while overall respectable, was disappointing for some of the nation’s most prominent merchants. As expected, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was one of the stragglers, falling short of Wall Street’s expectations and warning about its fourth-quarter profits.

Stocks Are Mixed on Retail Sales Reports

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks were mixed in erratic trading Thursday as retail issues fell while the tech sector rebounded on bullish news from chip maker Xilinx Inc.

S&P Lowers Ratings for Ford, Ford Credit

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DETROIT (AP) _ Standard & Poor’s lowered Ford Motor Co.’s corporate credit rating further into junk territory Thursday, citing concerns about the company’s ability to turn around its North American operations.

Natural Gas Futures Slump for Third Day

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Natural gas futures fell sharply for the third consecutive day on Thursday after the U.S. government said inventories rose last week, a reflection of the recent mild weather but still a surprise to the market.

Krispy Kreme Ends Franchisee’s Licenses

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. said Thursday it has terminated the license of its largest franchise operator, which means the franchise operator can no longer sell doughnuts under the famous brand name.

Google Set to Sell Video From CBS, NBA

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Google Inc. will let consumers buy video over the Internet from CBS, the NBA and other providers, becoming the latest company to explore the new method of distributing TV content, according to a report Thursday.

Boston Scientific Optimistic on Guidant

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BOSTON (AP) _ Boston Scientific Corp. said Thursday it hopes to reach a definitive agreement with Guidant Corp. by the end of next week to buy the rival medical device maker, whose shareholders are due to vote Jan. 31 on a competing but smaller offer from Johnson & Johnson.

Chicken Industry Plans to Test Flocks

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Chicken companies intend to test every chicken flock in the United States for bird flu before slaughter, an industry group said Thursday.

Constellation Profit Up on Acquisiton

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Constellation Brands Inc., the world’s biggest wine company, said Thursday its third-quarter profit surged nearly 13 percent, lifted by sharply higher sales of branded wines and imported beers and its acquisition of Robert Mondavi Corp.

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