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Business news briefs — Dec. 31

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RETAIL

Target has new problem

Target said Tuesday that an unidentified number of gift cards sold over the holidays were not properly activated. The Minneapolis chain says the number of cards affected was less than 0.1 percent of the total sold and that it will honor the affected cards.

Holders can check the balance by following instructions on the back of the card. Customers can bring faulty cards to any Target service desk or call 800-544-2943.

The problem comes less than two weeks after Target announced it was hit with a massive data security breach that affected about 40 million debit and credit card holders who shopped at its stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

LEGAL

Horse slaughter halted

Commercial horse slaughter operations scheduled to start today at a New Mexico plant were blocked by a judge until a Friday hearing on whether a longer halt is merited.

The court order stops Valley Meat Co. in Roswell from beginning operations as planned, state Attorney General Gary King said. King opposes commercial horse slaughter, saying the animals aren’t raised for U.S. human consumption and are given drugs banned for use in food animals.

Congress from 2006 to 2011 halted funding for horse slaughter plant inspections, which are required to sell the meat. The prohibition on funding for inspections wasn’t extended for 2012 and 2013, allowing the practice to resume legally.

RESTRUCTURING

Revlon exits China

Revlon Inc., the maker of cosmetics under its namesake and Almay brands, will cease operations in China and eliminate about 1,100 positions, including 940 beauty advisers, as it restructures its struggling business.

China makes up about 2 percent of Revlon’s net sales, and the restructuring will result in about $22 million of pretax charges, the New York-based company said. The changes are expected to reduce costs by about $11 million a year, Revlon said.

Revlon, which has posted profit declines the last two years, has been making acquisitions and introducing new products as sales in some of its larger brands slow. In 2013, it bought Colomer Group, giving it Creative Nail professional and Shellac nail polishes, as well as American Crew men’s hair-care products.

GASOLINE

Price drops 5 cents

Drivers in the U.S. will probably pay an average of 5 cents a gallon less in 2014 than this year as refineries produce more fuel, AAA said.

The price of regular gasoline averaged $3.49 a gallon, making 2013 the least expensive year to fill up since 2010, according to Heathrow, Fla.-based AAA, the nation’s largest motoring club. Prices in 2012 averaged a record $3.60 a gallon and $3.51 in 2011.

U.S. gasoline production jumped 4.3 percent to 9.72 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 20, the most in data going back to 1982, the Energy Information Administration reported on Dec. 27. Refiners have ramped up operations to benefit from a flood of less-expensive domestic crude oil as U.S. output reached the highest level in 25 years.

ECONOMY

Consumer confidence up

Consumer confidence jumped in December on a better outlook for hiring and overall growth, supporting other signs that show the economy could accelerate in 2014.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in the previous month. November’s figure was revised up from 70.4.

Consumer confidence is nearly back to where it was before the partial government shutdown in October. Steady job gains and a surging stock market have made Americans more optimistic about the economy and hiring both now and in the next six months.

Optimism about the job market is at a five-year high.

Oil prices fall

Oil retreated from its recent high to end the year at $98.42. The price fell 87 cents from Monday’s close and was down from Friday’s settlement of $100.32, the first triple-digit close since Oct. 18.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.


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