Business Highlights


US unemployment falls to 7.8 percent, a 44-month low


WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years and giving President Barack Obama a potential boost with the election a month away.

The rate dropped from 8.1 percent because the number of people who were employed according to a government survey soared by 873,000 - the biggest monthly jump since 2003.


It was an encouraging sign for an economy that's been struggling to create enough jobs. So was the fact that more people decided to look for work in September.


California refinery back online amid soaring prices

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Californians woke up to a shock Friday as overnight gasoline prices jumped by as much as 20 cents a gallon in some areas, ending a week of soaring costs that saw some stations close and others charge record prices.


The average price of regular gas across the state was nearly $4.49 a gallon, the highest in the nation, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.

In Southern California, the price jumped 20 cents a gallon overnight to $4.53 in Ventura. And in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area prices went up 19 cents to nearly $4.54. It wasn't any better to the north, as a gallon of regular in San Francisco averaged nearly $4.60.


CBO tallies 2012 deficit at $1.1 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) - A new estimate puts the deficit for the just-completed 2012 budget year at $1.1 trillion, the fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits on President Barack Obama's watch.

The result was a slight, $207 billion improvement from the 2011 deficit of $1.3 trillion.

The bleak figures from the Congressional Budget Office, while expected, add fodder for the heated presidential campaign, in which Obama's handling of the economy and the budget is a main topic. Friday's release came as the government announced that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent last month, matching the rate when Obama took office.



US consumer credit up $18.1 billion in August

WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans boosted their borrowing in August by the largest amount in three months with strong gains in the category that covers auto and student loans and in credit card debt.

Total consumer borrowing increased $18.1 billion in August compared to July, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. In July consumer borrowing had fallen for the first time in nearly a year.

The rebound in August along with a separate report that showed the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September were viewed as encouraging signs for the economy.


Avon Products chairman to step down

NEW YORK (AP) - Beauty products seller Avon Products said Friday that its chairman and former CEO Andrea Jung will step down at the end of the year, ending her 18-year tenure at the company.

Jung will be replaced as chairman by lead director Fred Hassan. Hassan joined the board in 1999 and has served as lead independent director since 2009. He is a managing partner at private equity firm Warburg Pincus and a former chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corp.

Jung will continue to be an adviser to the board. She joined Avon in 1994 and became the first woman CEO for the 126-year-old company in 1999. She came under fire for failing to stem the company's declines and wrap up a bribery investigation.


Wet Seal chairman, 3 board members step down

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. (AP) - In a win for The Clinton Group, the chairman of Wet Seal and three other directors have stepped down from its board, replaced by four nominees of the activist investor group unhappy with the struggling teen retailer's performance.

Wet Seal Inc., based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., and The Clinton Group have been in a proxy fight. The Clinton Group holds about a 7 percent stake in Wet Seal. As a result of the board changes, Clinton Group has agreed to terminate its effort to get support from shareholders for its nominees, Wet Seal said Friday.

In addition to a shake-up on the board, changes are afoot in the company's merchandising division. The chief merchandising officer for the company's namesake division is leaving for a job at jeans company True Religion Apparel Inc., Wet Seal said late Friday. Harriet Sustarsic will remain at Wet Seal until Oct. 19. Kim Bajrech and Debbie Shinn will take over her responsibilities. They had been the interim merchandising heads of the division from November 2009 to November 2011, when Sustarsic came on board.


Feds studying problems with Ford Escape throttles

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. safety regulators are looking into throttle problems in older Ford Escapes at the request of a consumer group.

The nonprofit North Carolina Consumers Council has asked federal regulators to investigate two complaints from drivers who say the small SUV stalled or surged forward.

The government will look at 1.6 million Escapes from the 2005 to 2012 model years. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decides to launch a formal investigation, it could lead to a recall of some of the popular SUVs.


US probes Hyundai Veloster for shattering sunroofs

DETROIT (AP) - Drivers of the Hyundai Veloster could be in for a surprise while cruising down the highway.

The panoramic sunroof on the funky hatchbacks may shatter without warning, showering the driver with glass.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating the problem, although they have not recalled the cars. The probe affects about 18,000 vehicles from the 2012 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday.


Salmonella confirmed in peanut butter plant

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Food and Drug Administration says it has found salmonella in a New Mexico plant that produces nut butters for national retailer Trader Joe's and several other grocery chains. The Trader Joe's peanut butter is now linked to 35 salmonella illnesses in 19 states.

The FDA said Friday that Washington state health officials have also confirmed the presence of salmonella in a jar of the Trader Joe's peanut butter found in a victim's home.

Sunland Inc. has expanded its recall to include all products manufactured in the plant in the last two and a half years, since March 2010. Whole Foods Market, Target, Safeway and many other national chains have used Sunland products in their own brands.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 34.79 points to close at 13,610.15. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.47 points to 1,460.93, and the Nasdaq dropped 13.27 points to 3,136.19.

Benchmark oil closed down $1.83 to $89.88 per barrel in New York. In London Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 56 cents to $112.02.

Natural gas gave up a penny to end at $3.396 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 3.25 cents to $3.16 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline gained a tenth of a penny to settle at $2.95 per gallon.