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September 22, 2004

* Holiday season sales are expected to increase 4.5% this year, less than their 5.1% gain in 2003, as higher energy costs, rising interest rates, anemic wage gains and geopolitical threats continue to curb spending, the National Retail Federation said.

* The California Board of Accountancy put Ernst & Young on three years' probation and required it to pay as much as $100,000 in investigation costs stemming from violations of independence rules in audits of PeopleSoft Inc. The accounting firm was sanctioned in April by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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