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Business update: Retail sales drop 1.2% in May

A big drop in May retail sales has raised new concerns about the durability of the economic recovery. Retail sales plunged 1.2 percent last month, the Commerce Department said today. It was the largest decline in eight months. Americans slashed spending on everything from cars to clothing to building materials. Auto sales fell 1.7 percent. Excluding autos, sales fell 1.1 percent.

Stocks pare losses as consumer sentiment climbs Stocks traded in a narrow range today after a report showed consumers are gaining confidence in the economy, even if they aren’t returning to stores. Stocks erased much of their early losses after the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index said confidence grew to its highest level since January 2008 and came in well ahead of forecasts.

BP shares rebound despite dividend suspension talk: Shares in BP PLC rose today despite suggestions by its chief executive that the company’s second quarter dividend may be suspended to calm political criticism in the U.S. over the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP shares closed up 7.2 percent at $5.70 on the London Stock Exchange after touching a 13-year low on Thursday. In New York, BP shares were up 3.3 percent at $33.85 at midday.

Wendy’s/Arby’s shares rise on takeover inquiry: Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. Chairman Nelson Peltz said he’s reviewing an overture from an unnamed group interested in acquiring the fast-food company. His disclosure, made late Thursday in a regulatory filing, sent shares up 19 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $4.53 in midday trading today. Peltz, whose investment firm owns 23.5 percent of the company’s shares, gave few details about the inquiry, which he disclosed in a regulatory filing late Thursday..

Obama urges Congress to help small businesses: President Barack Obama is again urging Congress to send him a package of tax breaks and other incentives to help small businesses grow and create jobs. The legislation would eliminate capital gains taxes for investments in such companies and encourage people to open businesses by offering tax relief to small startups. Obama says his administration is constantly hearing from small businesses that want to keep the workers they have and hire more employees, but are having trouble getting credit.


 

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