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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
Oil tops $81 barrel; prices expected to climb further


Advertiser News Services

NEW YORK Oil started the new year yesterday trading above $81 a barrel. That's almost double what it fetched at the beginning of 2009, even though the U.S. is using much less.

Prices, which have been propped up by a weak dollar, will get even more support as winter weather chills the country. The U.S. may be using less crude, but China and other developing nations are using more to fuel their burgeoning manufacturing industries, and that can push prices higher in the U.S. as well.

Gasoline, heating oil and other fuels are already heading higher and may continue to do so as the market tests how much people are willing to pay for energy, analysts said.

NEW YORK TOP U.S. TOURIST DESTINATION

The number of visitors to New York City fell last year for the first time since 2001 when terrorists struck. But tourism declines elsewhere across the U.S. made it the most popular destination in the country for the first time in almost 20 years, tourism officials said yesterday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the 3.9 percent decline an estimated 45.3 million visitors a victory, saying that amid the recession the city had anticipated a decline of up to 10 percent.

Other hot spots were hit harder, making New York America's No. 1 destination for the first time since 1990, the mayor said. For nearly 20 years that title was held by either Las Vegas or Orlando.

MANUFACTURING UP 5TH STRAIGHT MONTH

WASHINGTON An unexpectedly strong report on manufacturing activity yesterday bolstered confidence that the nation's factories will help sustain an economic recovery.

The report by a private trade group signals that industrial production is likely to keep expanding in coming months, economists said. That could lead, in turn, to increased hiring and job creation.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index read 55.9 in December after 53.6 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

It was the fifth straight month of expansion and the highest reading for the index since April 2006.

NOVARTIS WILL BUY OUT ALCON FOR $38.5B

GENEVA Drugmaker Novartis AG made a bid to become a leading player in the growing global market for eye-care products yesterday with an announcement that it plans to take over Alcon Inc. by paying $38.5 billion for the 77 percent stake it does not already own.

Novartis will buy Nestle SA's 52 percent stake for $28 billion in cash before carrying out a merger with Alcon that would give it control of the remaining 23 percent held by minority shareholders.

The Basel-based drugmaker had already purchased 25 percent of Alcon from Nestle in April 2008 for $11 billion, with the option of buying the food and drink company's remaining stake later.

RESORT OWNERS SUE CREDIT SUISSE GROUP

BOISE, Idaho Property owners at four struggling and bankrupt resorts in Idaho, Montana, Nevada and the Bahamas have filed a $24 billion federal lawsuit against Credit Suisse Group, saying the banking giant made predatory loans to the resorts' investors as part of a scheme to take over the properties.

Property owners at Idaho's Tamarack Resort, the Yellowstone Club in Montana, Nevada's Lake Las Vegas resort and the Ginn Sur Mer Resort in the Bahamas contend that Credit Suisse set up a branch in the Cayman Islands to skirt U.S. federal bank regulations and appraised the resorts at inflated values as part of a plan to foreclose. The lawsuit, filed in Boise on Sunday, seeks class-action status.

A spokesman for the Switzerland-based bank said the lawsuit is without merit and the company will fight the claims.