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In brief: Oil prices reach record closing

Oil futures resumed their march toward $100 a barrel Friday, rising to a record close in light holiday trading on concerns about tight heating oil supplies while also drawing support from a buoyant stock market.

At the pump, meanwhile, gas prices retreated further from their most recent peak, falling 0.1 cent overnight to a national average of $3.086 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices rose sharply from mid-October until last week, but have fallen 2.6 cents since, countering predictions that gas prices were destined to add another 10 to 15 cents a gallon to catch up with skyrocketing crude prices. The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.24 in Spokane on Friday, and $3.12 in Coeur d’Alene.

Analysts now say gas prices are likely to hold steady or even slide a little unless oil rises beyond $100 a barrel. Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 89 cents to settle at $98.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Topps Meat files liquidation papers

Topps Meat Co., which issued the nation’s second-largest beef recall ever, has filed papers to liquidate the company.

Elizabeth, N.J.-based Topps was one of the largest makers of frozen hamburgers before potentially fatal bacteria were found in its patties, compelling it to halt production and issue the recall on Sept. 29.

Six days later Topps said it was closing its business, after it was forced to issue the recall of 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger, which is one year’s worth of production.

Topps has up to 10,000 creditors and liabilities of $1 million to $100 million, according to its Chapter 7 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark. The company put its assets in the same range.


Weather Channel releases jazz CD

Umbrella? Check. Galoshes? Got ‘em. Scarf? Sure thing.

Smooth jazz? In the CD player.

The Weather Channel released its first CD this fall: “The Weather Channel Presents: The Best of Smooth Jazz.” Think of the 12 tunes as a soundtrack to the elements. Some are hot and sultry, others cool and crisp. Some are sunny, some blue.

The songs are among the channel’s most requested selections and play during the forecast fixture “Local on the 8s” that airs six times an hour.


United’s dinners sicken workers

Five United Airlines workers sought medical attention for nausea and vomiting after the company provided a Thanksgiving meal to employees.

United offered the turkey dinner Thursday to nearly 3,000 mechanics, baggage handlers and other employees working the holiday at O’Hare International Airport. Flight crews didn’t participate.

The dinner was seen as a conciliatory gesture from the company to its employees, said Don Wolfel, president of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 4, which represents mechanics at United.

From wire reports