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IN BRIEF

HONG KONG

Wynn unsure when Macau slump will end

Casino developer Steve Wynn said Wednesday he couldn’t tell when Macau’s slowdown might let up, but expressed confidence in its long-term fortunes and backed government measures to curb travel to the Chinese gambling city.

Wynn, who has one resort open in Macau and a second on the way, said the government has handled “practically everything beautifully” and been “more than accommodating, more than understanding.”

He agreed with recent measures to limit travel as a way to help soften the impact of the industry’s spectacular growth on Macau society and prevent its economy from overheating.

“The fact that the economy and the development and expansion of Macau occurred at such a rapid rate has created a great deal of stress on the community,” Wynn told The Associated Press. “The central government and the Macau government putting … a slowdown in visitation was an attempt to give the community a chance to absorb the stuff that had been built.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn.

Harrah’s will close office in Tennessee

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. is closing its Memphis office and data center, leaving 250 employees without jobs.

Fifty others will be moved to Harrah’s Las Vegas headquarters in early 2009.

Harrah’s employs more than 4,000 people at three properties in nearby Tunica, Miss.

BELLEVUE, Wash.

Microsoft done chasing Yahoo, executive says

Microsoft Corp. is no longer interested in buying all of Yahoo Inc., Chief Executive Office Steve Ballmer said Wednesday, though he told shareholders that the company would still be “very open” to a collaboration on Internet search.

His comments sent Yahoo shares diving more than 20 percent.

“Let me be clear,” Ballmer said at Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting. “We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo.”

Yahoo spurned a $47.5 billion takeover offer from Microsoft in May, and later rejected Microsoft’s bid to buy only its search engine. Ballmer has said repeatedly of late that the buyout remains off the table, though a search-related deal is possible.

MGM Grand, union begin contract talks

Representatives from Culinary Local 226 and MGM Grand have begun negotiating a new contract for nearly 3,000 workers at the Strip property.

The current five-year deal expired Nov. 12 and the workers are now under extended contracts.

The two sides have already met once and are working out dates for future meetings.

D. Taylor, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said even with the state of the economy it would be hard to imagine the 3,300 workers receiving anything less than what other MGM Mirage employees got last year when those contracts were renewed.

MGM Grand employees are on a different contract schedule than other MGM Mirage properties.

Those workers received five-year contracts with full health benefits and cost-of-living raises.

WASHINGTON

New-home building at lowest point in decades

Construction of new homes plunged last month to the lowest level on records going back nearly 50 years as U.S. builders slashed production.

With construction dropping, the number of unsold homes should fall quickly in the coming months, wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “But right now housing is a disaster area,” he said.

The Commerce Department reported construction of new homes and apartments fell 4.5 percent in October, the fourth straight monthly decline. Construction sank to an annual rate of 791,000 units from an revised September rate of 828,000 units.

The results were the lowest on government records dating back to January 1959. Previously, the slowest pace had been in January 1991, when the country was in recession and going through a similar housing correction.

Atlantic City casinos post quarterly loss

Casinos in Atlantic City collectively lost $78.5 million in the third quarter as rising unemployment and near-record home foreclosure rates deterred gamblers.

The casinos posted net income of $120.8 million in the same quarter a year earlier, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. Net revenue in the three months through September fell 6.1 percent to $1.27 billion.

The quarter saw the steepest monthly decline on record in September when revenue plunged 15 percent. Mounting job losses and an ever-extending time line for an economic turnaround have led gamblers to play slots closer to home or avoid casinos altogether.

Revenue from the 11 casinos in Atlantic City, the second-largest U.S. gambling center behind Las Vegas, decreased 4.8 percent to $3.5 billion in the year through September.

Last year, revenue in the New Jersey city fell 5.7 percent, the first annual decline, because of greater competition from slot machines in Pennsylvania and Yonkers, N.Y.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.

After housing report, oil prices head down

Oil slipped below $54 a barrel Wednesday as stock markets across the globe fell and yet another U.S. government report illustrated the disarray in the housing market.

U.S. drivers, stung by record gasoline prices, job losses and falling home prices, left the roadways in droves, logging almost 11 billion fewer miles in September, according to the Transportation Department.

Governments, businesses and consumers have slashed energy expenditures, which has halved the price of crude since record highs in July.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery fell 77 cents to settle at $53.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

NEW YORK

Treasury prices rally after economic news

Treasury bonds continued to rally Wednesday on another dose of negative economic reports and a plunge in stocks.

The 10-year note soared to 103.63 and yielded 3.38 percent, down from 3.53 percent.

The 30-year bond rose to 110.03 and yielded 3.91 percent, down from 4.12 percent.

The 2-year Treasury note was up at 100.84, and yielded 1.06 percent, compared with 1.14 percent late Tuesday.

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