AmEx promotes small businesses

Hoping to drum up support for independent merchants, American Express’ CEO said Monday that his company will promote “Small Business Saturday” on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

“This is the start of a movement,” said Kenneth Chenault, who joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a City Hall news conference to announce the effort.

Chenault said that large retailers have Black Friday and online retailers have Cyber Monday, “and now, starting on Nov. 27 of this year, small business owners will have Small Business Saturday.”

Chenault said the first 10,000 small business owners who sign up to participate will get $100 worth of Facebook advertising. American Express will give a $25 credit to 100,000 of its cardholders who pledge to use their cards at independent businesses on Nov. 27.

Bloomberg said small businesses “are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together.” 

New Jeep helps Chrysler narrow loss, lift outlook

A year and a half ago, Chrysler almost went under. Now, a new version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is helping turn its fortunes around by narrowing its third-quarter loss and raising its confidence as it rolls out an unprecedented 10 new models before the end of this year.

Chrysler said Monday it cut its losses in half between the second and third quarters, to $84 million. The automaker raised its 2010 profit forecast, saying it will end the year with more than triple the operating profit it previously forecast.

Even though the company is still losing money, the push for good vehicles seems to be paying off.

Broadband usage growing even as racial gaps persist

The U.S. still faces a significant gap in residential broadband use that breaks down along incomes, education levels and other socioeconomic factors, even as subscriptions among American households overall grew sevenfold from 2001 to 2009.

What’s more, even when controlling for key socioeconomic characteristics, the U.S. continues to confront a racial gap in residential broadband use, with non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian-Americans more likely to go online using a high-speed connection than African-Americans and Hispanics.

Those are some of the key conclusions of a new analysis of Census data released Monday by the Commerce Department.

ImmuCell shows profits, revenue drop since ’09

Portland-based biotechnology firm ImmuCell announced a net loss of $197,000 in the third quarter of 2010 on revenue of $874,000. The company, which develops and manufactures products that help prevent, diagnose and treat cattle diseases, reported a net loss of $19,000 and revenue of more than $1 million during the same period last year.

ImmuCell President and CEO Michael Brigham said the company’s losses result largely from development of Mast Out, a drug for cattle that is in the last stages of development and is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Brigham said the company should return to profitability in 2012.

ImmuCell’s primary product is First Defense, a drug that prevents diarrhea in newborn calves. 

Heating oil prices take hike of 5 cents in past week

Energy officials say the average home heating oil price in Maine has risen 5 cents over the past week.

The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security said the average statewide cash price Monday was $2.81 a gallon, compared to $2.76 per gallon a week earlier.

Within the sample, the lowest heating oil price of $2.60 per gallon was found in western Maine, while the highest, $3.03 per gallon, was in the central region.

Officials said kerosene was selling for $3.17 a gallon on average, up 5 cents from last week.

Propane was selling for $2.60 a gallon, up 6 cents from a week ago.

Irish bank prices dive as investors fear EU bailout

Shares in Ireland’s banks hit record lows and national borrowing costs reached new euro-era highs Monday as the government presented its latest plans for financial survival to the European Union’s economic commissioner, who has the power to order changes.

Investors are shunning Ireland’s government and bank debt in expectation that the country will eventually require a bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund, as happened to Greece in May.

“It is increasingly looking like the European Financial Stability Facility is the most likely scenario,” said Brian Devine, chief economist at NCB Stockbrokers in Dublin.