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AP Financial News Summary at 8:49 a.m. EST

December 18, 2006

U.S. Trade Deficit Soars to Record

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ America’s deficit in the broadest measure of trade shot up to an all-time high in the summer, reflecting the huge jump in the country’s foreign oil bill.

Investors Look for Rally to Continue

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LONDON (AP) U.S. stock futures rose Monday as investors hoped the year-end rally would continue, with an upgrade for Citigroup, the world’s biggest bank, and continued talk of a Harrah’s Entertainment deal in focus.

Horseradish Growers Worry After Drought

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COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ In this kitschy town where a giant ketchup bottle doubles as a 100,000-gallon water tower, Barry McMillin regards the sinus-clearing horseradish as the true king of condiments.

Reports: Minister Bullish on Russia

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s economics minister said Monday that the economy could grow 7 percent this year, beating the government’s original forecasts, news reports said.

EU Seeks to Avert Russia Beef Trade Ban

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The EU’s food safety chief visits Moscow on Tuesday to try and keep Russian authorities from imposing a ban on all EU beef and other animal products as of Jan. 1.

Norwegian Oil Companies Plan Merger

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OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norwegian oil companies Statoil ASA and Norsk Hydro ASA on Monday announced plans to merge their offshore oil and natural gas units in a nearly $30 billion (23 billion euro) deal they said would create the world’s largest offshore oil operator.

VNU Says It Plans to Cut 4,000 Jobs

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ VNU Group BV, which owns Nielsen’s television ratings service, said Monday it will cut 4,000 jobs, or around 10 percent of its work force, as part of a major reorganization.

Delphi Accepts $3.4 Billion Investment

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DETROIT (AP) _ Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp. said Monday it has accepted a $3.4 billion investment from a group of private equity companies to support its emergence from bankruptcy protection.

Oil Prices Retreat From Last Week’s Gain

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SINGAPORE (AP) _ Oil prices retreated from highs last week but stayed above $63 a barrel in early Monday trading.

U.S. Retail Gas Prices Rise Slightly

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CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) _ The price of gas inched up just over 2 cents a gallon around the nation in the past two weeks.

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