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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 4, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
Official's remarks, Prius issues add to Toyota crisis


Associated Press

WASHINGTON Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Toyota owners yesterday they should stop driving their vehicles, then quickly took back his words, adding to confusion over the safety of millions of recalled cars.

Toyota, for its part, tried to reassure drivers that sticky gas pedals have been rare and the cars can be stopped in any event by firmly stepping on the brakes.

The back-and-forth play-ed out as word surfaced that Toyota Motor Corp. also has been the subject of more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid, which is not part of the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received about 100 complaints, two of them involving crashes that resulted in injuries.

SERVICE SECTOR SEES ERRATIC RECOVERY

NEW YORK The economy's service sector grew slightly in January, while the pace of job losses slowed, signaling a recovery still struggling to gain strength.

The Institute for Supply Management said yesterday its service sector index rose to 50.5 last month, from a downwardly revised 49.8 in December. Economists poll-ed by Thomson Reuters had expected a higher level of 51. Still, it was the index's strongest reading since May 2008.

Any reading above 50 signals growth. That threshold was broken in September for the first time in 13 months. But the service sector's recovery has been bumpy since, having shrunk in November and December. That's a concern for the broader economic rebound.

PFIZER'S REVENUE SURGES 34 PERCENT

TRENTON, N.J. Drugmaker Pfizer Inc., well into integrating its new Wyeth unit, posted a 34 percent jump in revenue yesterday, but $3.2 billion in acquisition and restructuring charges, and higher costs across the board, weighed down profit.

The maker of Viagra and cholesterol fighter Lipitor, which paid $68 billion to get Wyeth's vaccines, biologic drugs and consumer health staples such as Centrum vitamins and pain relievers Advil and Anacin, already has slashed about 4,200 jobs.

New York-based Pfizer said fourth-quarter revenue totaled $16.54 billion, $500 million above what analysts were expecting amid the lingering recession.

Ten Pfizer drugs had double-digit sales jumps, and Lipitor, the world[0x19]s top-selling drug, saw sales hold steady at $3.2 billion.

BERNANKE: FED ALONE CAN'T CURE ECONOMY

WASHINGTON [0x14]Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke expressed concern yesterday about the economic recovery during a ceremonial swearing-in for another four-year term.

One of the Fed[0x19]'s challenges is protecting its independence from congressional meddling, Bernanke said.

Another is making the Fed more open and accountable about its operations. And another is improving its oversight of banks. Lawmakers have complained about deficiencies in those areas.

The Fed[0x1c] cannot hope[0x1d] to solve the nation[0x19]'s economic problems on its own, Ber-nanke said. Both the nation and the central bank as an institution face enormous challenges, he said.

Vice Chairman Donald Kohn administered the oath of office.