WASHINGTON (AP) - The sales job is on for a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year. The massive measure contains a dozens of trade-offs between Democrats and Republicans as it fleshes out the details of the budget deal that Congress passed last month. That pact gave relatively modest but much-sought relief to the Pentagon and domestic agencies after deep budget cuts last year. The GOP-led House is slated to pass the 1,582-page bill Wednesday, though many tea party conservatives are sure to oppose it. Democrats pleased with new money to educate preschoolers and build high-priority highway projects are likely to make up the difference.
CHICAGO (AP) - The billionaire creator of Beanie Babies will soon learn whether he'll have to spend up to five years in prison for evading taxes on $25 million in income. H. Ty Warner's sentencing on Tuesday will also give him a chance to apologize at length for hiding his millions in Swiss bank accounts. The 69-year-old apologized and wiped away tears when he pleaded guilty last year. But the judge in Chicago stopped him and said he could explain himself fully at sentencing. Defense attorneys are arguing for probation, pointing to Warner's unhappy childhood and his charity work. Prosecutors say Warner should spend some time in prison, though they haven't recommend how much. They also say his philanthropy shouldn't be "a get-out-jail card."
NEW YORK (AP) - A major retail trade group says holiday sales rose 3.8.percent, just below the group's 3.9 percent forecast. The National Retail Federation said Tuesday that retail sales for November and December combined totaled $601.8 billion, according to the federation's analysis of government data. The 2013 figure is higher than last year's 3.5 percent pace. But sales came at the expense of profits as stores had to discount early and often to get shoppers to buy in an economy that is still challenging for many Americans. In fact, last week, a slew of major retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, and Pier 1 Imports slashed their profit forecasts. The figures include online sales.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. companies continued to build up their stockpiles in November as their sales improved, a sign that businesses believe consumers will increase spending in the months ahead. The Commerce Department says business stockpiles grew 0.4 percent in November. That follows a strong 0.8 percent gain in October. Sales increased 0.8 percent in November after a 0.5 percent gain the previous month. Rising stockpiles should help keep growth solid in the October-December quarter. Several economists project growth at a 3 percent annual rate in that period after a 4.1 percent rate in the previous quarter. Greater restocking boosts growth because it requires more factory production. Retailers led much of the gains in inventories ahead of the holiday shopping season. Wholesalers also increased their stockpiles. Stockpiling by manufacturers was flat.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google workers commuting from San Francisco to the company's Mountain View campus can now make the trip on an 83-foot, Wi-Fi-equipped catamaran. The San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday that Google has launched a free ferry service from San Francisco's ferry terminal to the Port of Redwood City, where employees can hop a private bus to work. The chartered ferry can carry up to 150 passengers. The newspaper says Google is hoping to defuse a controversy over the shuttle buses that several Silicon Valley companies use to carry thousands of employees to work from San Francisco and the East Bay. San Francisco announced plans earlier this week to start regulating those shuttles, charging a fee for those that use public bus stops and controlling where they load and unload.
ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) - A federal agency is trying to allay concerns of three U.S. senators who asked for evidence that an oil pipeline crossing a section of the Great Lakes is safe. Cynthia Quarterman, the head of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, wrote U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow recently to say "significant safety improvements" have been made. The request from Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan along with Richard Durbin of Illinois came in December. Enbridge Energy Partners LP last year boosted capacity of its Line 5 pipe roughly 10 percent. It runs from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario, passing through Michigan's Upper Peninsula and crossing the Straits of Mackinac. Another Enbridge pipeline ruptured in southern Michigan in 2010, spilling about 843,000 gallons of oil.
NEW YORK (AP) - Apple says people spent more than $10 billion in its app store last year, on apps such as "Minecraft," "Angry Birds Star Wars" and "Sleep Cycle" alarm clock. December was the most successful month in the store's history, as customers spent $1 billion that month. Apple says the year's total was also a record. There are more than a million apps available in the app store for the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch. Besides games, there are newspapers, magazines, travel, business and health and fitness apps, among others. Apple launched the app store in 2008, a year after the iPhone with 500 apps.
BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) - T-Mobile has reached deals to buy spectrum licenses from Verizon Wireless for $2.37 billion in cash. T-Mobile is also transferring other kinds of spectrum licenses to Verizon Wireless that the companies value at about $950 million. The deals, combined with T-Mobile's existing holdings, will give T-Mobile low-band spectrum in nine of the top 10 U.S. markets. Low-band spectrum boosts cellular coverage inside buildings and in rural areas. It also has the ability to travel greater distances than high-band spectrum, making it a more efficient way to provide coverage at the edge of cities and in less densely populated areas. T-Mobile US Inc., owned by Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG, plans to roll out service and compatible phones as early as the fourth quarter of 2014. The deals are expected to close in mid-2014 and remain subject to regulatory approvals.
MILWAUKEE (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is opening the door to commercial sales of genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds that are resistant to a weed killer best known as an ingredient in the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange. The weed killer is called 2,4-D. It's legal and commonly used in the U.S. by gardeners, and scientists don't believe it was responsible for the health problems linked to Agent Orange. The USDA, which has oversight over the seeds and not the herbicide, released an environmental impact statement Friday. It says the biggest risk from the seeds is that greater use of the herbicide could hasten the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. But the agency also says resistance is inevitable because the herbicide is already the third most-used weed killer in the U.S.
The price of oil fell below $98 a barrel Thursday amid reduced trading volumes and the impact of a strengthening dollar.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for February delivery was down 72 cents to $97.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the Nymex contract fell 87 cents to close the year at $98.42. Markets were closed Wednesday for New Year's Day.
The Nymex contract gained 7 percent in 2013 on hopes for stronger demand in the coming months pegged to the signs of a recovery in the U.S., which is expected to help revive other major global economies.
The brighter prospects for the U.S. economy have also helped boost the dollar over the past few trading sessions. A stronger dollar tends to push down oil prices by making crude more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
"Further improvement in the U.S. economy should be supportive of the U.S. dollar and that will continue to play against oil demand in emerging markets," said Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Petromatrix in Switzerland. He highlighted recent protests in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, against rising gasoline prices.
On Thursday, the euro was down 0.7 percent against the dollar, at $1.3647.
Meanwhile, traders are monitoring data on supplies. The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute reported late Tuesday that U.S. crude stockpiles fell 5.7 million barrels the week ended Dec. 27. The report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration - the market benchmark - will be out on Friday.
A survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., showed analysts are expecting a draw of 1.5 million barrels in crude stocks.
While the Nymex contract rose above $100 last week for the first time since October, trading volumes on Thursday were around half of usual levels.
"Volume should remain low in crude oil futures until Monday," Jakob said. "The short-term momentum is disappearing."
Brent crude, a benchmark used to price international crudes used by many U.S. refiners, was down $1.29 to $109.51 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Disruptions in oil production and exports in Libya and South Sudan were keeping a floor under the Brent price, which was also affected by the dollar's rise.
In other energy futures trading:
- Wholesale gasoline was down 3.51 cents to $2.7508 a gallon.
- Natural gas futures added 4.7 cents to $4.277 per 1,000 cubic feet.
- Heating oil lost 4.63 cents to $3.0189 a gallon.