IN BRIEF

TOKYO

New iPhone begins world debut in Japan

The iPhone went on sale at a Tokyo store today, making its debut in Japan, amid swirling smoke after a 30-second countdown chanted by hundreds of people lined up, some for days, snaking around the block.

Japanese carrier Softbank Corp.’s store in downtown Tokyo started selling the much-awaited cell phone five hours ahead of the other stores in the nationwide chain.

The celebration, which included a digital clock display ticking away over the entrance, was part of a global rollout in 22 nations of the 3G, or third-generation, wireless connecting iPhone, an upgrade of the model that went on sale last year in the U.S. and several other nations.

The phone will also make its debut in the United States today.

DETROIT

As car market slows, Toyota makes changes

Stung by rare double-digit sales declines and burdened by a growing inventory of slow-selling pickups, Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it will start producing the Prius hybrid in the United States and will shut down truck and sport utility vehicle production to meet changing consumer demands.

Toyota said the moves will not affect any full-time workers, who will get training and do other projects during the shutdown. But the company is laying off around 700 temporary workers at the affected plants.

NEW YORK

Political-tension worries spark oil-price increase

Oil prices rebounded by more than $5 a barrel Thursday, as another missile launch by Iran stoked worries that escalating political tensions in the Middle East could cut off supplies out of the region.

A day after Iran tested a missile capable of reaching Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the oil-producing nation that the United States will defend its allies. Iran then responded with another missile launch.

After falling by nearly $10 a barrel on Monday and Tuesday, light, sweet crude for August delivery rose $5.60 to $141.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was crude’s largest daily leap since June 6, when the July contract jumped by $10.75 a barrel.

Jobless benefits claims climb during week

The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits climbed to the highest level since December 2003, reflecting a deteriorating job market that threatens to hurt consumer spending.

The total number of people collecting benefits rose 91,000 to 3.202 million for the week ended June 28, the Labor Department said Thursday in Washington. First-time jobless claims fell more than forecast in the week ended Saturday to 346,000, a figure distorted by annual July shutdowns at auto plants.

Rising unemployment will contribute to the weakest gain in consumer spending since 1991 by the final three months of the year, a monthly survey of economists by Bloomberg News shows.

RENO

Nevada gasoline prices keep marching higher

AAA Nevada says Nevada gasoline prices are continuing an upward climb, but the rate of increase has eased.

The statewide average for a gallon of regular, self-serve unleaded rose to $4.25 in July, up 10 cents from the previous month.

But AAA notes the increase is modest compared with the 43-cent spike in June.

In Las Vegas, the average price rose 11 cents in July to $4.23.

The price in Reno increased 4 cents to $4.16.

Elko had the state’s largest increase; the price shot up 22 cents to $4.49.

Nationally, gasoline prices average $4.11, up 7 cents from a month ago.

DALLAS

CEO of GM dismisses talk of bankruptcy

The chief executive of General Motors Corp. dismissed speculation that the largest U.S. automaker might soon seek bankruptcy protection.

Comments in the past week about a potential bankruptcy are “not at all constructive or accurate,” Rick Wagoner said Thursday in Dallas.

GM has $24 billion in cash and $7 billion in unused credit facilities, he said.

Last week, a Merrill Lynch analyst cut his rating on GM stock and said “bankruptcy is not impossible” if the auto market continues to weaken.

GM shares kept sliding Thursday, falling 64 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $9.69 on the New York Stock Exchange. Last week, GM stock closed under $10 for the first time since 1954.

It gets 12 mpg, but U.S. sales surge 20 percent

Fiat SpA has figured out how to beat the slump in U.S. auto sales caused by a slowing economy and record gasoline prices: sell a $115,000 sports car that gets 12 miles a gallon.

Sales of Fiat’s Maseratis jumped 20 percent in the U.S. last month and are up 16 percent for the year to 1,353 vehicles, Autodata Corp. in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., reports.

The Grand Prix-inspired Maseratis serve a niche of buyers who want something more exotic than Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, yet more affordable than Italian competitors Ferrari and Lamborghini, said Wes Brown, automotive analyst at Iceology, a Los Angeles-based market research firm.

“If you’ve got money, you want people to know you’ve got money, and people want to find something that not everybody has,” Brown said.

NEW YORK

Treasury prices rise after volatile session

Treasury prices rose slightly Thursday after spending the session responding to swings on the stock market.

In late-day trading, the 10-year note rose 0.06 points to 100.59. Its yield fell to 3.80 percent from 3.82 percent on Wednesday, according to BGCantor Market Data. Yields move in the opposite direction from prices.

The 30-year long bond rose 0.03 points to 99.38. Its yield fell to 4.41 percent from 4.42 percent on Wednesday.

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