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Business in brief: Spending slows, jobless claims up

Buffeted by soaring fuel prices and tighter credit, consumers increased their spending at the weakest pace in six months. In other signs of trouble, applications for unemployment benefits last week soared by the largest number since Hurricane Katrina.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that consumer spending edged up just 0.2 percent in December – the year’s peak shopping season. That was down sharply from a 1 percent gain in November. The increase in jobless claims was more than triple what economists had been expecting, although part of the increase was blamed on technical difficulties in adjusting the figures around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Bid for airwaves hits $4.7 billion

A bid on the largest portion of public wireless airwaves, now being auctioned by the federal government, reached $4.7 billion on Thursday.

While bidding is anonymous, analysts speculate that Google Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC., are the likely bidders on that swath, which is about one-third of the total spectrum currently being auctioned.

However, winners won’t be known until the entire Federal Communications Commission auction ends, a process that could take several more weeks. The FCC is selling off the spectrum that’s being freed as part of the switch to digital television in February 2009.

TiVo wins appeal vs. Dish Network

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld TiVo Inc.’s claims that Dish Network Corp. infringed on one of its patents, skyrocketing TiVo’s shares more than 30 percent.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with a lower court that digital video recorders distributed by Dish, formerly known as EchoStar Communications Corp., violated the software elements of TiVo’s patent. The court overturned the lower court’s ruling that Dish infringed on the hardware elements of the patent.

But the three-judge appeals court panel said the violation of the software claims was sufficient to uphold the $74 million in damages the lower court awarded TiVo. That has increased to $94 million due to interest accruals, a Dish Network spokeswoman said.

TiVo sued EchoStar Communications in 2004, alleging it infringed on TiVo’s patented technology that allows viewers to record one program while watching another.


Amazon to buy Audible Inc.

Web retailer Inc. said Thursday it will buy online audio book seller Audible Inc. for $300 million in a bid to expand its reach in digital audio content.

Amazon said it agreed to buy Newark, N.J.-based Audible for $11.50 per share, a 23 percent premium over Wednesday’s closing price.

Audible’s catalog includes about 80,000 audio books, radio programs, spoken word selections and other digital content for download.