National Business Update

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In this Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009 file photo people walk past a huge Christmas tree installed in Red Square, with St. Basil Cathedral,  center, the Kremlin's Spassky Tower, right back, and Lenin Mausoleum, right, in Moscow, Russia. By all accounts, President Vladimir Putin has had a horrible year: Russia’s currency has lost more than half its value, the economy is heading toward recession and he has become a pariah in the West. And yet so far, Putin’s tough, anti-Western rhetoric and aggressive actions in neighboring Ukraine have helped him weather the storm, with a new Associated Press-NORC Center poll showing that 81 percent of Russians still support their president. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)

Poll: 81 percent back Putin even as ruble falls

From a Western perspective, Vladimir Putin's days as president of Russia should be numbered: The ruble has lost more than half its value, the economy is in crisis and his aggression in Ukraine has turned the country into an international pariah. And yet most Russians see Putin not as the ...

Kraft Foods CEO to retire; Cahill named successor

Kraft Foods Group Inc. says that CEO Tony Vernon plans to retire later this month. The company named Chairman John Cahill as his successor. Vernon has served as CEO since the consumer packaged food and beverage company's spinoff from Mondelez International Inc. in October 2012. Before that, he was the ...

FILE - In this Oct.11, 2005 file photo, the Colgate Clock sits atop the Colgate-Palmolive Plant, in Clarksville, Ind. France's antitrust authority has slapped penalties totaling some 950 million euros ($1.2 billion) against 13 consumer-goods makers for illegally colluding on prices for hygiene and cleaning products including shampoos, toothpaste and detergents. The wrongdoing involved, among others, U.S.-based Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee, Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever and Britain's Reckitt Benckiser. (AP Photo/Brian Bohannon, File)

France fines 13 firms $1.2 bln for price-fixing

Penalizing a dirty business involving cleaning products, French regulators fined 13 consumer-products makers about 950 million euros ($1.2 billion) for price fixing on goods like shampoos, detergents and toothpaste. France's competition authority said Thursday that the companies sought to maintain "artificially high" prices in negotiations with supermarkets which filtered down ...

US stocks open higher, building on Fed gains

The U.S. stock market is opening sharply higher, building on gains from the day before after the Federal Reserve indicated it was in no rush to raise interest rates. The market is coming off its biggest one-day rise since October 2013. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 224 points, or ...

FILE - In this May 2, 2014 file photo provided by Frank Caprio, performers hang during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Providence, R.I. Eight acrobats fell to the Dunkin' Donuts Center floor during the same stunt in Providence two days later. A spokesman for the circus' parent company told The Associated Press Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, that it is contesting a citation from federal regulators for the accident. The spokesman also said there are no plans to put on a hair-hanging act in the future. (AP Photo/Frank Caprio, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

Circus disputes citation for hair-hanging accident

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has contested a citation it received from federal regulators for an accident that sent eight hair-hanging acrobats plummeting to the ground during a live performance, severely injuring most of them. Stephen Payne, a spokesman for circus parent company Feld Entertainment, said this week ...

Vegas hotelier faces gambling commission scrutiny

The man who started a hospitality empire with a Los Angeles nightclub and turned the Sahara Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip into a hipper, sleeker destination is facing questions from gambling regulators for the second time this month about his cocaine use and questionable business dealings. Sam ...

Ford expands drivers air bag recall nationwide

Ford Motor Co. has agreed to government demands to expand a driver's side air bag inflator recall to the entire U.S. The move announced Thursday adds 447,000 Ford vehicles to the list of those recalled due to driver's inflators made by Japan's Takata Corp. The inflators can explode with too ...

Gulf stocks gain with Dubai closing 13 percent up

Gulf equity markets made massive gains Thursday with Dubai's main stock market rising 13 percent, just two days after closing at its lowest point of the year. Abu Dhabi's stock market closed 6.7 percent higher on Thursday while the Saudi index closed 8.9 percent higher. The upswing in Gulf equities ...

In this Nov. 25, 2014 photo, former student Nathaniel Simmons operates a crane during a day of training at Georgia College of Construction. The  Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

US jobless aid applications decline to 289,000

Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of solid job security and growing confidence among employers. Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is the lowest level since late October. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Russia's chief rabbi Berel Lazar and Chairman of Federation of Russia's Jewish Organizations Alexander Boroda in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Putin: West is trying to 'defang' the Russian bear

President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fix Russia's economic woes within two years by diversifying away from its heavy reliance on oil and gas and voiced confidence that the plummeting ruble will soon recover. He also promised never to let the West chain or defang his proud nation, evoking the ...

Portugal gov't issues order to stop airline strike

Portugal's government has issued an executive order to stop a planned four-day strike by national airline staff during the busy Christmas holiday season. Unions representing most of state-owned TAP Air Portugal's 7,500 or so employees, including pilots and cabin crew, intended to walk off the job Dec. 27-30. They want ...

FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2009 file photo the headquarters of the Swiss central bank is pictured in Bern, Switzerland. The bank has imposed negative interest rates on commercial bank deposits, with the aim of preventing the Swiss franc from gaining more strength against other currencies. In a statement Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, the central bank said it was introducing a rate of minus 0.25 percent on sight deposit account balances of more than 10 million Swiss francs ($12.5 million). (AP Photo/Keystone, Peter Klaunzer, File)

Swiss central bank imposes negative interest rates

Following the fallout of the slide in the Russian ruble, Switzerland sought Thursday to prevent the Swiss franc from breaching upper limits imposed on the currency by introducing negative interest rates on commercial bank deposits. The move forces commercial banks to pay to deposit their francs with the Swiss National ...

A man walks out from the headquarters of Sony Corp. in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Sony’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over a movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the hack, "The Interview."  (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

'Interview' ordeal at Sony just its latest crisis

How do you say "damage control" in Japanese? Sony Corp. is sealed within a hermetic cone of silence as executives try to prevent the slow motion train wreck at Sony Pictures from damaging the rest of the sprawling business empire. Sony's miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad ...

Shareholders back DP World's London delisting

DP World, one of the world's largest port operators, says its shareholders have approved delisting from the London Stock Exchange and the acquisition of a Dubai government-linked operator of free-trade zones for $2.6 billion. Chairman of DP World Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said in a company statement Thursday that the ...

European court rules obesity can be disability

The European Court of Justice says obesity can be a disability, a ruling that could have consequences for employers across the continent. The court ruled Thursday in the case of a Danish child-minder who says he was unfairly fired for being fat. The court said if obesity hinders "full and ...

FILE - In this July 16, 2013 file photo, a woman walks by a sign at Cyber Terror Response Center of National Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea. Most North Koreans have never even seen the Internet. But the country Washington suspects is behind a devastating hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment has managed to orchestrate a string of crippling cyber infiltrations of South Korean computer systems in recent years, officials in Seoul believe, despite North Korea protesting innocence. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

A look at North Korea's cyberwar capabilities

Most North Koreans have never seen the Internet. But the country Washington suspects is behind a devastating hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment has managed to orchestrate a string of crippling cyber infiltrations of South Korean computer systems in recent years, officials in Seoul believe, despite North Korea protesting innocence. Experts ...

Greek jobless rate dips further to 25.5 percent

Official Greek figures show unemployment in the country fell further to 25.5 percent in the third quarter from 26.6 percent in the previous quarter. Thursday's figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority, which are not adjusted for seasonal factors, show that just over 1.2 million people are unemployed in Greece, which ...

Iran to hold military drill near strategic passage

Iran's state TV says the military will hold a massive drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf next week. The report Thursday says the weeklong exercise will be carried out over 2.2 million square kilometers (0.85 million square miles) including the eastern part ...

A man watches an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Asian stock markets powered higher Thursday, sweeping aside worries about a flagging global economy after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would remain "patient" in its approach to raising interest rates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Fed rate wording boosts world stock markets

World stock markets powered higher Thursday, sweeping aside worries about a flagging global economy after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would remain "patient" in its approach to raising interest rates. KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 jumped 2.2 percent to 4,200.83 and Germany's DAX surged 1.9 percent to 9,727.83. Britain's ...

A man walks out from the headquarters of Sony Corp. in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Sony’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over a movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the hack, "The Interview."  (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Sony emails show a studio ripe for hacking

In the weeks before hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio suffered significant technology outages it blamed on software flaws and incompetent technical staffers who weren't paying attention, even as hackers targeted executives to trick them into revealing their online credentials. Its chief executive was regularly reminded in unsecure ...

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