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January 9, 2013

Briefcase

Average heating oil cost up, but climb apparently slowing

Maine's average price of home heating oil is up 4 cents from last week to $3.69 a gallon.

The results of a weekly survey released Tuesday show northern Maine had the highest average price while the lowest price was found in the western part of the state.

The average price of propane went up 2 cents a gallon, to $2.7, but remains much lower than a year ago. Kerosene rose 2 cents from last week to $4.13 a gallon.

The Governor's Energy Office said while prices are climbing, the upward trend appears to be slowing. 

Target pledges to match rivals' prices year-round

Target Corp. is pledging to match prices of select online rivals year-round, a move that underscores how physical and online retailing are being meshed together.

Matching online prices is rare but expected to become more common as shoppers move increasingly online. Minneapolis-based Target, the nation's second largest discounter behind Walmart Stores Inc., said it will match prices that customers find on identical products at top online retailers, all the time. The online list includes Amazon.com as well as the websites of Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Babies R Us.

Target's move follows a similar holiday price match that began Nov. 1 and ended Dec. 16. Target is also making permanent its holiday offer of matching prices of items found at its stores with those on its website. And for the first time it will include products that are out of stock on Target.com.

The moves follow a disappointing holiday shopping season for the retailer, hurt by stiffer competition from online rivals and stores like Walmart that have hammered its low prices. It's also the latest step from brick-and-mortar stores to combat "showrooming" -- a growing trend for customers to browse stores to check out products, and then go online to buy the same products for less. 

Stock market closes lower on pending earnings reports

U.S. stocks closed lower Tuesday as traders awaited the start of the corporate earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 55.44 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,328.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.74, or 0.3 percent, to 1,457.15. The Nasdaq composite index shed 7.01, or 0.2 percent, to 3,091.81.

Alcoa reported its fourth-quarter financial results after the market closed, marking the unofficial kickoff to weeks of earnings announcements from U.S. companies. The aluminum maker said its revenue results exceeded the expectations of Wall Street analysts, while per-share earnings were roughly in line with expectations. Alcoa rose 20 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $9.30 in late trading.

Alcoa is traditionally the first of the 30 companies in the Dow average to report earnings.

Market-watchers expect the quarter's results could include many surprises because of Superstorm Sandy, the presidential election and the narrowly avoided "fiscal cliff."

Trading has been cautious in the week since Congress and the White House struck a deal to maintain lower tax rates and postpone sweeping cuts in government spending. Enthusiasm about the compromise pushed the Dow up 300 points last Wednesday, its biggest gain since December 2011.

-- From news service reports





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