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Business Briefing

THE ECONOMY

Firms cut 22,000 jobs in January

Companies in the U.S. cut an estimated 22,000 jobs in January, in line with forecasts, according to data from a private report based on payrolls.

The drop was the smallest in two years and followed a revised 61,000 decrease in December, data from ADP Employer Services showed. ADP figures overstated the Labor Department’s estimate of private payroll losses by 500,000 in the six months that ended in December.

INTERNET

Yahoo sells jobs website to rival

Yahoo Inc. is selling its online help-wanted site, HotJobs, to rival Monster Worldwide Inc. for $225 million in cash.

The deal reflects HotJobs’ diminishing value as the high employment rate undercuts the demand for help-wanted advertising. Yahoo bought HotJobs for $439 million in 2002.

The sale is part of Yahoo’s effort to jettison services that aren’t doing well or don’t fit with its focus on news, entertainment and communications.

FOOD

3 Cadbury execs to step down

Three top executives at Cadbury announced their intention to step down after the British candy maker’s shareholders approved Kraft Foods Inc.'s roughly $19.5-billion offer to acquire the company.

Todd Stitzer will leave his post as chief executive, Cadbury said. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Bonfield, who joined the company last year, and Chairman Roger Carr also said they were resigning.

The executives had opposed the takeover and criticized Kraft’s offer for weeks, saying the bid by the world’s second-largest food maker undervalued the company. They finally agreed to the takeover when Kraft raised its offer by 9% to $19.5 billion.

RETAILING

Stores warned on mislabeling

The Federal Trade Commission warned Wal-Mart Stores Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and 76 other retailers that they could face fines if they try to lure environmentally aware customers by selling rayon clothing labeled as bamboo.

“We need to make sure companies use proper labeling and advertising in their efforts to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers,” said David C. Vladeck, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Rayon is rayon, even if bamboo has been used somewhere . . . in the manufacturing process.”

Besides Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney, the companies that received the warning include Sears Holdings Corp., Saks Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Zappos.com Inc., Target Corp., Kohl’s Corp. and Toys R Us Inc.

Wal-Mart cuts corporate jobs

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said a cut of 300 workers at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters completes a yearlong series of changes to its corporate structure that included laying off thousands of workers.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke told employees of the latest cut in a memo and said the last major change was done.

The 300 workers include people in corporate affairs, finance, human resources, information systems and legal departments, Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar said.

AGRICULTURE

Organic sales top $3 billion

Sales of organic farm products to companies including Hain Celestial Group Inc. and Dean Foods Co. totaled $3.16 billion in 2008, according to the Department of Agriculture.

About 14,540 farms or ranches were producing organic goods on 4.1 million acres, the USDA said in its first survey of organic operations.

Overall, there were about 2.2 million farms or ranches in the U.S. in 2007, with about 922 million acres and total product value of $297.2 billion, according to a USDA census for that year.

The survey covers production and marketing practices as well as income and expenses both for current organic farms and operations switching to that type of agriculture.

TAXES

Sex-change costs ruled deductible

Costs incurred in sex-change operations and procedures are tax-deductible, the U.S. Tax Court in Washington ruled.

The court decided hormone therapies and sex reassignment surgeries were necessary to treat gender identity disorder in the case of a Boston-area man who became a woman named Rhiannon O’Donnabhain.

“The court is persuaded that petitioner’s sex reassignment surgery was medically necessary,” Judge Joseph Gale wrote in a 69-page decision for the majority.

The decision is the first to rule that sex-change operations qualify as medical care and overturns a 2005 Internal Revenue Service policy that denies medical expense deductions in such operations on the grounds that they are cosmetic.

-- times wire reports


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