Gas prices in Maine remain above the national average

Gas prices in Maine essentially remained steady in the past week, but still exceed the national average.

Price-monitoring website MaineGasPrices.com reported Monday that the average retail cost of a gallon of gas rose just one-tenth of a penny, to an average of $3.49. The national average is $3.43.

Including the change in gas prices in Maine during the past week, prices are 51 cents per gallon higher than the same day a year ago and almost 4 cents per gallon lower than a month ago.

A company analyst said retail prices have remained steady despite the rising cost of crude because of lower demand.

Buffett surprises investors with purchase of IBM stock

Warren Buffett said Monday that his company has spent $10.7 billion to buy more than 5 percent of IBM’s stock this year, a surprising move by the billionaire investor.

Most of the details emerged from the quarterly update Berkshire filed with regulators on its $59 billion U.S. stock portfolio. Buffett disclosed some details in interviews Monday.

Buffett has long refused to invest in high-tech companies because he has said it’s too hard  to predict which ones will prosper in the long run.

But he said he recently realized his view of IBM was wrong based on what he read in the company’s annual reports and what he learned by talking to information-technology departments at Berkshire subsidiaries. He said he should have realized years sooner that hardware is no longer the heart of IBM’s business.

“Now they’re very much a services company, and they’re very intertwined with their customers,” he said.

Dow falls nearly 75 points over concerns about Italy

The stock market fell Monday after a jump in Italy’s borrowing costs reminded investors of how much work remains to be done to contain Europe’s debt problems.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 75 points. Bank stocks fell the most. European markets fell, and the euro weakened against the dollar.

Major indexes closed higher last week as Greece and Italy formed new governments and took other steps to control their debt troubles.

But on Monday, the Italian government had to pay 6.29 percent at an auction of five-year bonds, the highest rate since 1997. That’s a sign investors are still concerned about Italy’s ability to repay its debts.

The Dow fell 74.70 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,078.98. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 12.06 points, or 1 percent, to 1,251.79. The Nasdaq composite index fell 21.53, or 0.8 percent, to 2,657.22.

Target employee protests late Thanksgiving hours

A Target employee is protesting the retailer’s decision to open its doors at midnight on Thanksgiving, saying the demand on its employees is going a step too far.

Target said it would open its doors five hours earlier this year for Black Friday shoppers eager to hunt for discounted gifts. But employee Anthony Hardwick says that’s unfair to employees who want to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.

More than 6,700 people have signed his petition on advocacy website Change.org, calling for Target to reverse its decision. Hardwick, who works for the Minneapolis-based retailer in Nebraska, hopes to get 50,000 signatures.

In Denver, Target is opening its 29 stores from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. According to a news release, this test will help Target decide whether to open in other markets on future Thanksgivings.

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said that employees who work on Thanksgiving will receive holiday pay and that store leaders each year work with employees to accommodate personal scheduling needs.

Regulators investigate cars for shift lever problems

Federal safety regulators are investigating problems with the automatic shift levers on several General Motors cars because drivers may think the cars are in park when they actually are in gear.

Seven crashes have been reported because of the problem, including one in which a driver put a car in park, got out and was struck and injured when the car rolled backward, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday.

No details were given on whether the driver was seriously hurt.

The complaints refer to the Saturn Aura midsize car from the 2007 and 2008 model years.

– From news service reports