Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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In 2014, US economy began shaky, finished strong

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than five years removed from the Great Recession, worries had taken hold at the start of the year that perhaps the world's largest economy had slid into a semi-permanent funk.

But consumers, businesses and investors, after enduring a brutal winter, showed renewed vigor as the year wore on. Stocks repeatedly set record highs and employers were on pace to add nearly 3 million jobs, the most in 15 years.

All told, the United States remained insulated from the financial struggles surfacing everywhere from Europe and Latin America to China, Japan and Russia.

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Will 'The Interview' change how Hollywood does business?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "The Interview" was never supposed to be a paradigm-shifting film.

But the unusual series of events over the past few weeks culminated in the unprecedented move by a major studio to release a film in theaters and on digital platforms simultaneously. The Sony film earned $1.04 million from 331 locations on Thursday, according to studio estimates, in addition to the untold video-on-demand grosses.

The industry is watching closely to see just where audiences will choose to place their dollars in the coming days and weeks. The big question is whether or not this strategy could be viable for major releases in the future.

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Sony film mess reflects gadgets-entertainment gap

TOKYO (AP) -- Sony's iconic gadgetry and the star appeal of Hollywood may have appeared to be a perfect match when the electronics giant bought Columbia Pictures in 1989. A quarter century later, it's apparent that Sony Corp. has not attained the magic synergy it was hoping for.

The stolid silence of Sony's Tokyo headquarters over the hoopla surrounding Sony Pictures Entertainment's "The Interview" underscores the longstanding divide between the Japanese parent company and its U.S.-led and -run motion pictures subsidiary, successor to Columbia Pictures.

As entertainment has shifted to digital delivery systems, technology analysts say it has become increasingly clear that Sony botched an opportunity to outdo Apple in creating a far more influential and valuable business from melding its consumer electronics expertise with ownership of a major movie studio and recording label.

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Holiday deliveries improve but hiccups continue

NEW YORK (AP) -- After FedEx and UPS failed to deliver some presents in time for Christmas last year, the two package carriers improved their performance this holiday season.

FedEx delivered more than 99 percent of express packages as promised on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, according to shipment tracker ShipMatrix. UPS delivered 99 percent of express packages as promised on those days.

Last year, the percentage of express packages delivered on time those days was in the "low 90s," said Mark D'Amico, a spokesman for ShipMatrix.

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Missouri 1st state to see average gas price below $2

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri became the first state Friday to have an average statewide gas price fall below $2 per gallon since 2009, while Oklahoma's average was expected to drop below that threshold sometime over the weekend, according to AAA.

The national average gas price was at $2.32 per gallon Friday, which AAA spokesman Michael Green said was the lowest since May 2009. That average has dropped for 92 days in a row, he said, which is the longest streak since AAA started keeping daily records in January 2000.

Gas prices have fallen every day since Sept. 25, for a total of $1.02 per gallon, Green said.

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S. Korean official arrested over nut rage incident

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korean prosecutors on Friday arrested a government official who allegedly leaked information about an investigation into former Korean Air Lines executive Cho Hyun-ah, who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts.

The transport ministry official was sent to a Seoul detention facility after a local court issued a warrant for his arrest. The official was suspected of providing the information to a Korean Air Lines executive, who allegedly tried to cover up the incident.

Cho, the daughter of Korean Air's chairman, resigned as vice president at the airline earlier this month amid mounting public criticism that she forced a Dec. 5 plane bound for South Korea from New York to return to a gate and kicked off a flight attendant because the nuts were served in a bag, not on a plate.

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3 SKorea workers die at nuke plant construction site

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Three South Korean workers died Friday after apparently inhaling toxic gas at a construction site for a nuclear plant being built by South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company, a company official said.

The accident at the construction site in the southeastern city of Ulsan came as the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. was on high alert over a series of threats by hackers who claim they can disable the control systems of its plants. Choi Hee-ye, a company spokeswoman, said there was no reason to believe that Friday's accident was linked to the cyberattack threats.

The victims were working at the construction site when they fell unconscious and were taken to a hospital, where they later died, Choi said.

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Japan stimulus mulled as inflation, output weaken

TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning about $29 billion in fresh stimulus, including subsidies and job-creating programs, to help pull the world's third-largest economy out of recession.

Officials said Friday that details of the plan would be approved by the Cabinet on Saturday as it wraps wrap up work for 2014. The plan reportedly includes $3.5 billion in help for stagnant regional economies.

Abe took office for a third term on Wednesday and faces strong pressure to do something to restore growth after a sales tax hike in April put Japan back in recession.

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Sony's PlayStation network still out; Xbox back online

Sony's PlayStation network remains offline in an outage that began as video game players unwrapped new consoles on Christmas.

Microsoft's Xbox Live service, which had also gone down, is back online but the company says some applications aren't fully functioning.

A group calling itself Lizard Squad claimed responsibility on Twitter for causing the disruption by overwhelming the companies' servers with a flood of Internet traffic.

A group that called itself Lizard Squad in August also took credit on Twitter for disrupting the PlayStation network.

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Japan's McDonald's to put big fries back on menu

TOKYO (AP) -- Big fries are going back on the menu in Japan.

McDonald's Japan said Friday it will resume serving all portion sizes of fries on Jan. 5 after resolving shortages due to labor disruptions on the U.S. West Coast.

The fast-food giant began limiting customers to orders of small fries earlier this month.

The company said in a notice on its website that its fry inventory had improved thanks to air shipments and extra sea shipments from the U.S. East Coast. It apologized and said it would try to avoid further shortfalls at its 3,100 outlets in Japan.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial gained 23.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 18,053.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 6.89 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,088.77. The Nasdaq composite rose 33.39 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,806.86.

U.S. crude fell $1.11 to close at $54.73 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 79 cents to close at $59.45 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 cent to close at $1.509 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.6 cents to close at $1.908 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2.3 cents to close at $3.007 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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