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Corporate jet sales decline, ending streak

Battered by recession and bad publicity, sales of general-aviation aircraft favored by businesses fell last year for the first time in five years.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a trade group for the industry, said Tuesday that shipments fell 7.1 percent last year.

The decline was concentrated in the least-expensive planes, piston-driven models, but is spreading to more costly turboprops and jets, said an official of the group.

The trade group said shipments declined to 3,969 last year from 4,272 in 2007. But manufacturers’ billings rose 13.4 percent, to $24.8 billion, because of a backlog of orders.


Regulators OK delays for Louisiana casinos

In the face of the national credit meltdown, Louisiana gambling regulators have approved 90-day delays in the schedules for new casinos in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles being built by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.

Pinnacle officials told the Louisiana Gaming Control Board on Tuesday that although the Las Vegas-based company is in good credit shape, financing for gambling projects has evaporated. Officials said they are enthusiastic about finishing both riverboat-hotel projects — and will continue work while watching for possible openings in credit markets.

The delays, approved without objection, came the same day that the three Atlantic City casinos once run by Donald Trump filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the third time.


Officials charge financier with fraud

Federal regulators on Tuesday charged Texas financier R. Allen Stanford and three of his firms with a "massive" fraud that centered around high-interest-rate certificates of deposit, and raided some of the companies’ offices.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Dallas, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged Stanford orchestrated a fraudulent investment scheme centered on an $8 billion certificate of deposit program that promised "improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates."

Stanford’s assets, along with those of the three companies, were frozen. Stanford’s firms include Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, broker-dealer Stanford Group Co. and investment adviser Stanford Capital Management, which are both based in Houston.


Wal-Mart Stores posts loss, tops forecast

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it’s still pulling shoppers away from its main rivals and enjoying a rise in customer traffic as the world’s largest retailer released better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday.

Wal-Mart’s fourth-quarter profit fell 7.4 percent to $3.79 billion, or 96 cents per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 31, dragged down by the strong dollar and a charge from settling labor lawsuits. That compares with $4.096 billion, or $1.02 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the company to earn 99 cents per share, excluding the after-tax charge for the settlement announced in December of 63 class action wage and hour lawsuits. Excluding the impact of that, Wal-Mart earned $1.03 per share, which beat Wall Street earnings estimates.

Total sales rose to $109.12 billion from $107.34 billion.


Banks that received bailout aid cut lending

The 20 largest banks that received government rescue funds slightly reduced their lending to consumers and businesses in the last three months of 2008, the government said Tuesday.

The Treasury Department said the banks reduced their mortgage and business loans by a median of 1 percent each, while credit card lending rose by a median of 2 percent. The median is the point halfway between the banks that lent the most and those that lent the least.


Loan will let Sirius XM avoid bankruptcy

Liberty Media Corp. will invest $530 million in Sirius XM Radio Inc., fending off a likely bankruptcy for the satellite radio company and blocking a bid by a rival, Dish Network Corp.

Sirius had warned it could file for bankruptcy as early as Tuesday if it could not successfully negotiate with its debtholders. Sirius XM Radio has 20 million subscribers who use the service to listen to sports, music and talk, including Howard Stern’s show.

As part of the deal announced Tuesday, Liberty will provide a $280 million senior secured loan to Sirius, $250 million of which will be funded on Tuesday. Sirius will use the proceeds of the loan to repay $171.6 million of its maturing 2.5 percent convertible notes that had been due. The rest will be used for general corporate purposes.

Sirius XM shares rose 5 cents, or 52.53 percent, Tuesday to close at 16 cents on the Nasdaq National Market.


Crude oil prices decline amid economic reports

A new batch of economic news dragged oil prices down nearly 7 percent Tuesday, as signs from across the globe pointed to a prolonged and painful recession.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell $2.58 to settle at $34.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

A number of other commodities fell hard too as people sought less volatile investments.


Jolting joe: Starbucks sells instant version

Starbucks Corp. began selling its new instant coffee online Tuesday, ahead of a countrywide U.S. launch to coincide with the company’s first major ad campaign.

Customers will be able to buy packets of the new coffee in Starbucks’ Seattle and Chicago stores March 3 and the rest of the company’s U.S. stores in the fall when the advertising begins. Online orders will start shipping in March.

The water-soluble product, called Via, sells in packets of three for $2.95 or 12 for $9.95 — $1 or less per cup. Just Colombia and Italian Roast varieties will be available at first, but the company will add others later.


As investor pessimism mounts, Treasurys rise

Treasurys rallied Tuesday as investors grew more pessimistic about the economy.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 2.94 points to 100.84. Its yield fell to 2.66 percent from 2.88 percent.

The 30-year bond rose 3.63 to 100.38, and its yield fell to 3.48 percent from 3.68 percent.

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