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Business Highlights

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2015 at 4:49 pm •  Published: January 29, 2015
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For traders, oil's plunge takes a toll on egos and accounts

NEW YORK (AP) — The plunge in oil has crushed the Russian ruble, erased $80 billion from Exxon Mobil's market value and pushed Venezuela to the brink of economic collapse.

But to Justin Thomas, the real drama in oil unfolds on a smaller scale, a story told in tiny, second-by-second moves in prices on his computer screen. Lately, most of the moves have been down, taking a toll on him and other traders who believe oil should have turned up by now.

Thomas is one of thousands of oil traders who have helped turn market fundamentals — lots of oil, not enough demand — into a plunge of nearly 60 percent in the price of crude in seven months, a drop with few precedents.

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McDonald's new CEO faces onslaught of competition

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's new boss must feel like a freshly crowned king under siege.

The world's biggest hamburger chain is facing an onslaught of competition, from better-burger chains like Five Guys to brands like Chipotle that tout the superior quality of their ingredients.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are selling more on-the-go food, too. Last year, visits to convenience stores for prepared foods rose 3 percent, while visits to supermarkets were up 1 percent, representing millions of visits, according to The NPD Group.

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Alibaba run-in with China regulator signals tougher scrutiny

BEIJING (AP) — For years, Alibaba faced complaints it failed to stamp out sales of counterfeit goods on its e-commerce websites. But Chinese regulators stayed silent, apparently reluctant to disrupt the rise of an Internet star even as they accused foreign automakers, dairies and others of violating anti-monopoly or consumer protection rules.

That honeymoon ended this week. In a stinging report, a Cabinet agency accused Alibaba Group Ltd. of allowing sales of fake goods and hurting consumers. It was a warning that Alibaba and other private Chinese companies face tougher scrutiny at a time when they are moving into new markets from retailing to banking to taxi hailing.

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Google delivers another earnings letdown, stock sinks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google has gotten into the habit of missing analysts' earnings targets, frustrating investors who believe the online search leader would be more profitable it wasn't pouring so much money into far-flung projects such as Internet-connected eyewear and driverless cars.

The latest letdown came Thursday with the release of Google's fourth-quarter earnings report. The earnings were well below analysts' predictions, marking the fifth consecutive quarter that Google Inc. hasn't cleared a key hurdle for publicly held companies.

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Amazon's big spending pays off in 4th quarter

NEW YORK (AP) — It was a Prime quarter for Amazon.

Amazon surprised investors on Thursday with a fourth-quarter profit that soundly beat expectations, despite a continued increase in spending and a slight sales miss, partly linked to the strong dollar. Investors drove shares up over 8 percent in aftermarket trading.

The results seem to indicate that areas in which Amazon has been investing in heavily for years, its $99 annual loyalty program and its Amazon Web Services cloud computing offerings for businesses, are finally helping out its bottom line.

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Almost half of US households exhaust their salaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite signs that the economy is returning to health, two new reports suggest that most Americans are walking a dangerous financial tightrope.

An analysis of Fed survey data by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds 47 percent of U.S. households say they spend all of their income, go into debt or dip into savings to meet their annual expenses.

The Pew analysis found that if a typical middle-class household had to weather a period of joblessness without any income, its available savings would be exhausted within 21 days. And if that same family also cashed in all their retirement investments to get by, they would burn through those assets within four months.

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US unemployment benefit applications plunge to 15-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment aid plunged last week to the lowest level in almost 15 years, a sign hiring will likely remain healthy.

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