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December 19, 2006 > Inflation stayed docile

Inflation stayed docile

AP Wire Service

WASHINGTON (AP), Dec 15 _ Inflation stayed docile for a third straight month in November, helped by falling energy prices and lower costs for everything from new cars and airline tickets to food and clothing.

The Labor Department reported Friday that its closely watched Consumer Price Index was unchanged following sharp declines of 0.5 percent in September and October.

The good news on inflation reflected a big retreat for gasoline and other energy prices, which are down from the record highs set this summer.

Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was unchanged in November, the best showing in 17 months.

In a second report, the Federal Reserve said that industrial production rose 0.2 percent in November, the first increase following two months of declines.

The rebound was led by a 0.3 percent jump in output at factories as auto plants posted a strong 3.7 percent increase following two months of big declines.


TOKYO (AP), Dec 15 _ The reception of Nintendo's Wii video game console has been enthusiastic _ too enthusiastic, apparently, for the straps that are supposed to keep the game controllers in the hands of players.

After widespread reports of controllers flying out of the hands of overly energetic players to cause a Wii bit of damage to TV sets, walls and bystanders, Nintendo is recalling 3.2 million straps to replace them with tougher stuff.

The console's motion-sensitive remote controller can be swung like a tennis racket, golf club or sword, depending on the game. But soon after the Wii went on sale last month, the excesses of overzealous players became apparent.

Nintendo will now allow customers to exchange the old straps, which have a 0.024 inch diameter, for a beefed up strap that has a diameter of 0.04 inch, company spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said.


NEW YORK (AP), Dec 15 _ Wall Street extended its advance Friday after reports showed inflation remained tame in November and industrial production rose for the first time in two months amid increased output by automobile makers. The Dow Jones industrial average posted its second straight record close, and the major indexes closed the week with substantial gains.

The data underscored a sense in the market that the economy is slowing at a reasonable pace and that inflation, a key concern of the Federal Reserve, is in check. High inflationary readings would likely make the Fed hesitant to lower short-term interest rates; the Fed kept rates steady at its meeting on Tuesday.


BEIJING (AP), Dec 15 _ U.S. and Chinese officials pledged Friday to work on reducing China's swollen trade surplus, but ended two days of closely watched talks with little progress on currency and other disputes that are straining ties.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said China would pursue currency flexibility, long-sought by Washington. But he seemingly came away with little more than Beijing's standard statement that it will relax currency controls and enact market-opening reforms at its own pace.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, a member of Paulson's high-profile delegation, also urged Beijing to take faster action on its currency. He said a stronger yuan would boost living standards and help ordinary Chinese as well as promoting global economic stability.

The two sides promised to launch discussions on opening China's service industries wider to foreign competition and on cooperating in environmental protection and developing cleaner energy sources.


TRENTON, N.J. (AP), Dec 15 _ A former vice president at two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries claims in a lawsuit he was fired for seeking recalls of numerous faulty products, including the Ortho Evra birth control patch, itself the subject of at least 1,000 product liability suits.

New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson, one of the world's biggest drug and medical product makers, said Friday the ex-executive was fired for inappropriate conduct.

In his civil complaint, Dr. Joel S. Lippman alleges he was unlawfully terminated on May 15, after working for Johnson & Johnson for 15 years, because he repeatedly complained about product safety problems and urged several be recalled or not launched. Lippman declined to be interviewed.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP), Dec 15 _ Merck & Co. won its second Vioxx trial in less than a week Friday when jurors rejected the claims of a man who blamed the once-popular pain medication for a heart attack in 2001.

The jury of eight women and four men needed only 11/2 hours of deliberations to side with the drug manufacturer in the lawsuit filed last year by Gary Albright, 57, of Chelsea.

A federal court jury in New Orleans ruled for Merck on Wednesday.

Another trial continues in Los Angeles, and Merck spokesman Kent Jarrell said six more lawsuits are set for trial between now and June, with the next slated to start in New Jersey on Jan. 16.

The company is sticking by its plan of defending each of thousands of claim over Vioxx rather than settling the suits.


NEW YORK (AP), Dec 15 _ Three senior executives are leaving AOL following a recent shake-up that brought in a veteran NBC executive as the online company's new chief executive, two people familiar with the matter said Friday.

The executives are Joe Redling, who is chairman and chief executive of AOL International, Jim Bankoff, executive vice president for consumer and publisher services, and John Buckley, executive vice president for corporate communications.

The company had no official comment. The people who confirmed the changes spoke on condition of anonymity because they involved personnel matters not yet announced.

Over the past two years, the company has been giving away more of its services to drive traffic to its Web sites and boost online advertising dollars. In August, AOL accelerated the transition by deciding to give away e-mail addresses and software once reserved for paying customers.


TOKYO (AP), Dec 15 _ Japan Tobacco Inc., the world's third biggest cigarette company, is buying Britain's Gallaher Group PLC for about $14.7 billion in a deal that gives the maker of Mild Seven cigarettes a bigger stake in the Western European market. The deal would reportedly be the biggest Japanese overseas acquisition.

The move comes as Japan Tobacco, which already is the overseas distributor for Winston, Camel and Salem cigarettes, tries to bolster earnings by expanding outside of Japan, which has seen declining smoking rates. Like many tobacco companies worldwide, Japan Tobacco has also been looking to diversify outside cigarettes.

The deal would take Japan Tobacco into a Western Europe market where it has little presence. Japan Tobacco has operations in Russia but was rejected last year in a bid for Turkey's state-run Tekel tobacco company.

Tokyo-based JT is offering 1,140 pence for each outstanding share of its British rival, or a total of 7.5 billion pounds. It will also assume debt of roughly 2.25 billion pounds ($4.41 billion) in the deal.

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