NEW YORK (AP) - Prices for gold and silver are rising ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting this week. Gold was up $9.80, or 1 percent, to $1,244.40 an ounce and silver rose 50 cents, or 3 percent, to $20.10 an ounce on Monday. The Federal Reserve will hold its last policy meeting of 2013 this week. The Fed will likely keep its economic stimulus measures in place at least through March, according to a recent survey of economists. That could affect the dollar and commodities such gold and silver, which are priced in dollars. In other commodities, crude oil was up 88 cents to $97.48 a barrel and natural gas fell 7 cents to $4.27 per 1,000 cubic feet. Corn and wheat prices fell while the price for soybeans was up.
DETROIT (AP) - General Motors says it will invest $1.3 billion at five factories in three states so they can build higher-quality trucks and more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions. About $600 million will go to the Flint, Mich., assembly plant for a new paint shop. The plant makes full-size pickup trucks. An engine plant in Romulus, Mich., near Detroit will get $493 million to build a new V-6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmissions. Around $121 million will go for a logistics center at a Detroit factory, while GM will spend $31 million in Toledo, Ohio, to build more six-speed transmissions. A casting plant in Bedford, Ind., will get $29.2 million to make transmission parts. It's unclear how many jobs will be added. GM would say only it will create or keep 1,000 positions.
WASHINGTON (AP) - State prosecutors are asking the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its approval of a powerful new painkiller called Zohydro, saying that the narcotic pill could add to the national epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The FDA approved Zohydro in October, making it the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug available in the U.S. The extended release pill is reportedly five to 10 times more potent than currently available hydrocodone combination pills, like Vicodin. The agency's decision surprised many doctors, since an FDA advisory panel voted overwhelmingly against the drug, citing its potential for abuse. The letter from 28 state attorneys general asks the FDA to revoke the drug's approval or require manufacturer Zogenix to reformulate the drug so it is harder to abuse. Zogenix did not immediately return calls for comment.
NEW YORK (AP) - Many Americans appear to be watching the annual holiday spending ritual from the sidelines this year. Money is tight for some. Others are fed up with commercialism. Still others are waiting for bigger bargains. And some are just more thoughtful about purchases. Used to be, stores counted on Americans to spend during the holidays. But this year, some are scaling back - or abstaining completely - from the U.S. year-end spending frenzy. Sales so far since the official kickoff of the season on Thanksgiving have been disappointing. That's bad news for retailers, which depend on the holiday season for up to 40 percent of their revenue. It also points to shifts in the attitudes of U.S. shoppers that could force stores to reshape their strategies.
NEW YORK (AP) - Microsoft says more than 2 million of its Xbox One consoles have been sold since the system's launch 18 days ago. That works out to an average of 111,111 units per day. And company officials say users have spent over 83 million hours with the games, TV, and apps on Xbox One since the Nov. 22 launch. Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of strategy and marketing for Xbox, says demand is exceeding supply in the 13 launch markets, with Xbox One sold out at most retailers. Its makers want the Xbox One to become a user's main entertainment hub. It supplies a program guide for browsing what's on TV and what's highlighted in apps such as Netflix and Amazon. You can listen to music, view photos and make Skype video calls.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is pushing to extend jobless benefits to long-term unemployed Americans. The argument is that if benefits don't get renewed by the end of the month, more than a million people will lose the assistance -- which will slow economic growth. The government released a report Thursday. It says Congress has renewed benefits when unemployment was lower than the current 7.3 percent. New jobless numbers are due out Friday. Democrats want to keep a program giving federal jobless benefits to people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out. The Congressional Budget Office says that would cost an estimated $25 billion -- but estimates say it would also stimulate the economy and create jobs.
COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Bell's Brewery Inc. in southwestern Michigan is unveiling a 1,400-pound artwork made from an elm tree from founder Larry Bell's yard. MLive.com reports the creation, named "From Seed to the Senses," is being shown off Thursday evening at 5 p.m. at the brewery Comstock Township, near Kalamazoo. The artwork is 11.5-feet tall by 4 feet wide, and started as part of an 80-year-old tree. It was created by artist Salem Barker of Rockford, Ill. During his work on the project, Barker has been participating in a documentary that focuses on him and his creative process.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose sharply last week, making home-buying slightly less affordable. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.46 percent from 4.29 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan increased to 3.47 percent from 3.30 percent. Rates have risen a full percentage point since May after the Federal Reserve signaled it might slow its bond purchases by year's end. Rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August. Mortgage rates have stabilized since September, when the Fed surprised markets by taking no action. And rates remain low by historical standards. The Fed meets later this month and could slow the bond purchases if the economy shows further improvement. The bond purchases are designed to keep long-term rates low.
FRANKENLUST TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Delta College in Frankenlust Township is starting a program to train older workers for new careers in health care, education and social service fields. The Saginaw News reports that the community college has joined the American Association of Community College's Plus 50 Encore Completion Program. It's a national effort to train 10,000 people age 50 and older for new jobs. A $15,000 grant is supporting the three-year Delta program to train baby boomers. Ed Oberski is director and CEO of Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works. He says younger people typically are more successful getting a job, but each group has something to offer.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. trade deficit fell in October, helped by a jump in overseas oil sales that lifted American exports to an all-time high. The Commerce Department says the trade gap narrowed to $40.6 billion in October. That's 5.4 percent lower than September gap of $43 billion, which was higher than initially estimated. Exports rose 1.8 percent to a record $192.7 billion, buoyed by a 9.3 percent gain in petroleum exports. America is experiencing a revival in domestic oil production. Imports rose 0.4 percent to $233.3 billion, the highest since March 2012. Oil imports rose 1.5 percent. A smaller trade deficit can boost economic growth because it shows American companies are earning more from sales overseas while U.S. consumers are buying fewer products from their foreign competitors.