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Business Briefing

December 03, 2009

Fed finds modest growth

The economy expanded or improved modestly across the country from October to mid-November as consumer spending rose in most regions, the Federal Reserve said.

Eight of 12 regions "indicated some pickup in activity or improvement in conditions," while the four others said conditions were little changed or mixed, the Fed said in its "beige book" survey, which is published two weeks before central bankers meet to set monetary policy.

The labor and commercial real estate markets remained "weak," the report said.

RETAIL

Aeropostale sales result hurts shares

Shares of Aeropostale Inc., the U.S. teen clothing retailer with more than 900 stores, fell in late trading after the firm reported November sales that missed analysts' estimates.

Aeropostale shares declined $2.55, or 7.8%, to $30.15 after closing at $32.70, up 47 cents, during regular trading. The shares have more than doubled this year.

Sales at stores open at least a year climbed 7% in November, the New York-based retailer said. That missed the 8% average of analysts' estimates compiled by Retail Metrics Inc.

Third-quarter net income rose 47% to $62.6 million, or 92 cents a share, from $42.6 million, or 63 cents, a year earlier.

COURTS

Last suit in Enron failure dismissed

An 8-year-old lawsuit by Enron Corp. investors accusing various financial institutions of participating in the accounting fraud that led to the energy giant's downfall ended after claims against the remaining defendants in the case were dismissed.

Attorneys for the University of California, the lead plaintiff, asked U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston to drop claims against several financial institutions and individuals, including former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, because court rulings and the financial conditions of individual defendants had ended any chance of recovering additional money.

The decision will not affect a $7.2-billion settlement already approved by Harmon last year, lawyers said.

Wal-Mart agrees to settle lawsuit

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to 87,500 Massachusetts employees who claimed the retailer denied them rest and meal breaks, manipulated time cards and refused to pay overtime, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The settlement seeks to resolve a class-action lawsuit filed in 2001. It comes less than three months after the world's largest retailer reached a deal with state prosecutors to pay $3 million to settle complaints that it didn't give its Massachusetts workers proper meal breaks.

An affidavit filed by plaintiffs attorney Philip Gordon says people who worked for Wal-Mart between August 1995 and this year will receive payments of $400 to $2,500, depending upon their years of service.

TELECOM

Nokia forecasts flat market share

Nokia, the world's biggest maker of mobile phones, expects its share of the global handset market to remain flat next year amid mounting competition from Apple Inc.'s iPhone and lower-end Chinese devices.

Volumes in the mobile-phone industry will rise about 10% in 2010, the Espoo, Finland, company forecast. Nokia's share of the smart-phone market, the industry's fastest-growing piece, fell to 39.3% in the third quarter from 42.3% a year earlier, while Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion gained, according to researcher Gartner Inc.

-- times wire reports

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