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Business Briefing

November 21, 2009

INTERNATIONAL

Rebound begins in Mexico

Mexico's government says the country's economy grew 2.9% in the third quarter, marking a turnaround.

Mexico has suffered a severe economic crisis for more than a year, but the new figures confirm what officials have been saying in recent weeks: The rebound has begun.

The gross domestic product was 6.2% lower for July through September 2009 than it was for the same period in 2008.

SHIPPING

UPS raises rates for next year

United Parcel Service Inc., the world's largest shipping carrier, is hiking rates next year for ground packages by an average of 4.9%.

The Atlanta company said there also would be an average net rate increase of 4.9% on international shipments that originate in the U.S. and on all air express shipments.

The rate increase for air express and international shipments is based on a 6.9% increase in the base rate, less a 2% reduction in the air and international fuel surcharge index.

Fuel surcharge tables for air express and ground services will also be adjusted.

The new rates take effect Jan. 4.

BANKING

Small bank is seized in Florida

Banking regulators shut down Commerce Bank of Southwest Florida, the 124th U.S. bank to succumb this year to the struggling economy and rising loan defaults.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the small bank in Fort Myers, Fla., with $79.7 million in assets and $76.7 million in deposits.

Central Bank, based in Stillwater, Minn., agreed to assume the Florida bank's deposits and assets.

Chase is dropping arbitration clause

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it was dropping a clause from its credit card contracts that requires disputes with customers to be handled through binding arbitration, a move that could lead to consumers' filing lawsuits.

A spokesman for the New York bank's Chase Card Services unit confirmed the change after a law firm that sued banks over arbitration clauses announced a tentative settlement with JPMorgan Chase.

Banks say arbitration is less costly for everyone than lawsuits. They also argue that banks' increased legal costs would be passed on to consumers.

Consumer groups have criticized arbitration, saying it is tilted in favor of banks.

AUTOS

Ford to expand Brazil operations

Ford Motor Co. said it would spend $2.3 billion to expand in the growing Brazilian market, the largest investment it has made in that country.

The five-year plan includes boosting the capacity of the Camacari factory that makes the Fiesta small car and modernizing the Troller plant that builds utility vehicles, a spokeswoman said.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based company also will invest in new models for Brazil.

GROCERS

Whole Foods to reward health

Whole Foods Market Inc., the largest U.S. natural-goods grocer, plans to sweeten store discounts to employees who lose weight and measurably improve their health.

Workers will receive discounts of 20% rising to 30% based on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body-mass index and whether they smoke, Chief Executive John Mackey said.

The program is voluntary.

-- times wire services

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