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Business Briefing

November 28, 2009

Kohl's site overwhelmed by shoppers

Kohl's Corp.'s website crashed because of a surge in online traffic on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Kohl's online traffic was "significantly higher" this Friday than on Black Friday last year, said Julie Gardner, chief marketing officer of the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer.

Top U.S. retailers saw a 27% rise in online traffic as consumers flocked to promotions, according to ShopLocal, Gannett Co.'s online marketing service.

Kohl's enabled customers to create shopping lists online this holiday season for the first time. Starting Sunday, users could print pictures and prices of items available Black Friday.

COURTS

Hershey drops suit against Lindt

Hershey Co. has dropped its trademark-infringement lawsuit against Swiss rival Lindt & Sprungli over wrapper designs for their competing peanut butter candies.

The Hershey, Pa. company sued Lindt and its U.S.-based Ghirardelli unit in January for allegedly copying the "distinctive" orange wrappers used for Hershey's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Reese's Pieces products.

Hershey, without giving a reason, agreed to drop the claims, according to a Nov. 25 filing in federal court in San Francisco.

BANKING

Banks get more in emergency loans

Banks borrowed slightly more from the Federal Reserve's emergency lending program over the last week.

The Fed said commercial banks averaged $19.9 billion in daily borrowing over the week that ended Wednesday. That's up $139 million on average from the previous week, but $73.7 billion lower than the borrowing pace set a year ago at the peak of the financial credit crisis.

Banks' use of the program has been declining for the last several months, reflecting more stability in the banking system. Banks pay just 0.5% interest for the emergency, overnight loans.

Fed's balance sheet declines

The Federal Reserve's balance sheet fell by $2.4 billion to $2.21 trillion in the latest week, the central bank said.

The Fed, after completing its Treasuries-purchase program last month, is buying housing debt through March as part of efforts to expand credit, support housing markets and revive the economy. Borrowing from the Fed under emergency lending programs has declined, reflecting lower funding costs outside the central bank.

Mortgage securities held by the Fed rose to $852 billion from $847 billion the previous week. Treasury-bond holdings were little changed at $776.5 billion.

The purchases helped push 30-year fixed mortgage rates to a fourth consecutive decline this week. The rate dropped to 4.78%, matching a record low set in April, from last week's 4.83%, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Nov. 25.

Swiss bank tones down the luxury

The days of endless stone crabs and free-flowing champagne are over. UBS, the beleaguered Swiss banking giant, remains the main sponsor of Art Basel Miami Beach this year -- but with a lower profile.

Hit by steep losses from the financial crisis and a tarnished image after its private bankers helped wealthy Americans dodge taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts, UBS is lowering the flash at this year's Dec. 3-6 art extravaganza.

Gone is the chic air-conditioned tent-turned-lounge on the sands of South Beach and the buffet of seared tuna, grilled vegetables, caviar and mountains of jumbo shrimp designed to woo wealthy clients.

Instead of showy events every night, the bank this year plans to entertain small groups of clients at private dinners at area restaurants.

-- times wire reports

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