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Industrial output takes tumble

WASHINGTON — Industrial output fell in January by the largest amount in 17 months, reflecting huge cutbacks at auto factories and weakness in housing-related industries.

The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities was down 0.5 percent in January, the biggest setback since Hurricane Katrina disrupted activity in the fall of 2005.

Half of last month’s decline reflected a drop of 6 percent in output at auto and auto parts factories, with smaller setbacks occurring in housing-related industries such as furniture, appliances and carpeting.

Overall, manufacturing fell by 0.7 percent.


Wall Street keeps rally going

NEW YORK — Wall Street extended its February rally, growing confident that interest rates will hold steady even as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tempered his forecast of slowly cooling growth and inflation with a reminder that price pressures remain a concern.

The Dow Jones industrial average stretched its three-day advance to more than 200 points, the first such jump since August 15-17 last year, and had its second straight record close. The rally, triggered Tuesday by signs of an uptick in mergers and acquisitions, was given new life Thursday by a report that the world’s two largest beermakers, InBev SA and Anheuser-Busch, are considering joining forces.

More Hershey melts into Mexico

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Hershey Co., whose name has been synonymous with U.S. candymaking for more than a century, is moving a bigger chunk of its production to Mexico.

A day after Valentine sweethearts across the country enjoyed bags of Hershey Kisses, the company announced a restructuring plan that will scale back its work force by 1,500 jobs and force some plants to close.

Hershey said the three-year blueprint would reduce the number of production lines by more than one-third while saving the company as much as $190 million a year.

The maker of Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s peanut butter cups and Mounds bars currently employs about 13,000 people at 20 plants in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. The planned cuts amount to 11.5 percent of that work force.


Northwest optimistic

MINNEAPOLIS — Northwest Airlines Corp. expects to be worth roughly $7 billion when it emerges from bankruptcy later this year, and will pay its unsecured creditors roughly three-quarters of what they are owed.

Northwest said Thursday it expects to issue new common stock that would cover about 74 percent of what its unsecured creditors are owed. Some of these creditors could get as much as 91 percent of what they’re owed if they choose to buy additional shares, an option Northwest is hoping will raise another $750 million.

The company said the stock offering would be for almost 27.78 million shares to be issued at $27 a share, underwritten by J.P. Morgan. Altogether Northwest plans to issue almost 272 million new shares, with most of the rest going to the unsecured creditors, and an unspecified number to managers. Secured creditors will be paid in full, Northwest said.

JetBlue: Delays unacceptable

NEW YORK — JetBlue Airways Corp. tried to calm a maelstrom of criticism after passengers were left waiting on planes at a New York airport for as long as 11 hours during Wednesday’s snow and ice storm.

The airline said Thursday that 10 incoming and outbound flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport were "significantly delayed" with customers on board during the storm. Reasons included congestion, frozen equipment and an effort to keep planes ready to go in case the weather broke, said JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin.

More than 250 of JetBlue’s roughly 500 flights nationwide were canceled Wednesday, but "fairly normal" service resumed Thursday, he said.


Calling Wednesday’s delays "unacceptable," the airline planned to offer the affected passengers refunds and free flights.

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