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Wed., Nov. 30, 2011

S&P downgrades large U.S. banks

NEW YORK – Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has lowered its credit ratings for many of the world’s largest financial institutions, including the biggest banks in the U.S.

Bank of America Corp. and its main subsidiaries are among the institutions whose ratings fell at least one notch Tuesday, along with Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo & Co.

S&P said the changes in 37 financial companies’ ratings reflect the firm’s new criteria for banks, and they incorporate shifts in the industry and the role of governments and central banks worldwide. The agency did not release its evaluation of each company but said it plans to discuss the changes during a conference call today.

Bank of America’s issuer credit rating was cut to “A” from “A+,” while its Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. units and a series of related subsidiaries were cut to “A-” from “A.”

Associated Press

Cargill unit accused of discriminiation

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Labor officials have moved to cut off federal contracts held by one of the nation’s largest meatpackers, saying it discriminated against women and non-Asians.

The U.S. Labor Department claims Cargill Meat Solutions discriminated against more than 4,000 qualified people who applied for entry-level jobs at the company’s plant in Springdale, Ark., with women less likely to be hired and Asians and Pacific Islanders unfairly favored over other races.

Federal officials said Tuesday they want to cancel Cargill’s existing government contracts and prevent future contracts until the company stops what they call discriminatory practices. Cargill Meat Solutions currently holds contracts worth more than $550 million with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Cargill Meat Solutions, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Cargill, Inc., blamed the problem on “documentation,” saying there wasn’t a satisfactory record of why it didn’t hire certain candidates.

Associated Press

Cyber Monday shopping establishes new record

RESTON, Va. – Cyber Monday was the busiest online shopping day ever with consumers spending an estimated $1.25 billion. That’s up 22 percent from the total spent last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Research group comScore said Tuesday that it estimates 10 million people bought things online Monday.

The average shopper spent 9 percent more this year, or roughly $125.

Associated Press

Steuben Glass company ends 108-year operation

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It’s the end of the line for the Steuben Glass company, an American icon of handcrafted crystal for more than a century.

The company’s lone factory in Corning, in western New York, shut down on Tuesday, ending a high-end glassmaking tradition dating to 1903. Most of the company’s 60 workers were axed, but a few found jobs at glass pioneer Corning Inc., Steuben’s former owner.

Since 1903, Steuben glass has been fashioned into everything from fruit bowls and animal figurines to one-of-a-kind sculptures bestowed as official gifts of American presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. Art objects can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The matchlessly transparent Steuben lead crystal is still being sold at its flagship store in New York City. Owner Schottenstein Stores Inc. said sales have been brisk enough to keep the store open until at least the end of the year.

“We’ll see what the holiday season brings,” spokesman Ron Sykes said.

Associated Press


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