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Business Notes

Kentucky

UK gets $1 million state grant for agriculture policy education

The University of Kentucky is getting $1 million to establish an endowment for the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program, which seeks to educate young farmers and agribusiness people on trade, state and federal policies and other matters important to the future of the profession. The grant to UK from the state was part of $10.3 million in agricultural grants announced Friday by the Agricultural Development Board. The grants included more than $200,000 for Fayette County to diversify agricultural products and to improve fencing and forage and to develop water supplies.

Mobile home maker lays off 90

Clayton Homes, the country's largest manufactured housing company, has laid off 90 people at its 1,500-employee headquarters in Maryville, Tenn. Jobs were cut at all levels of the privately held company. The layoffs follow the closing of two Clayton manufacturing plants in Hodgenville, Ky., and Milton, Pa., last month. The company continues to operate 41 plants employing 15,000 workers.

national

Citigroup stock decline stirs future fears

Pressure intensified on Citigroup to sell part or all of itself as its stock fell below $4 a share on Friday and fears escalated about future loan losses. CEO Vikram Pandit told managers earlier in the day that he opposes breaking up the company, but the bank's board of directors was meeting Friday to discuss whether to do exactly that, the Wall Street Journal reported. What investors are worried about is that all the risky debt sitting on Citigroup's balance sheet will eventually turn into losses as the economy worsens and the markets stay turbulent — losses that could be nearly impossible to reverse.

FDIC approves bank debt guarantee

The FDIC will guarantee up to $1.4 trillion in U.S. banks' debt for more than three years as part of the government's financial rescue plan. The directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted Friday to approve the plan, which is meant to break the crippling logjam in bank-to-bank lending. The FDIC will provide temporary insurance for loans between banks — except for those for 30 days or less — guaranteeing the new debt in the event of payment default by the issuing bank.

Bush signs bill to extend jobless benefits

With no end in sight to economic bad news, President Bush on Friday ensured that millions of laid-off workers will keep getting their unemployment checks as the year-end holidays approach. Bush signed an extension of jobless benefits into law just before 8 a.m., as he was preparing to leave the White House for a morning flight to Lima, Peru, to attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Wal-Mart CEO announces retirement

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, unexpectedly announced Friday that its chief executive, H. Lee Scott, will retire in February and be replaced by the head of its international division, Mike Duke. The surprise change in leadership right before the crucial holiday season comes as Wal-Mart has roared back to success as people looking for bargains shop more at discounters.

Average gasoline price below $2 a gallon

Only four months after peaking at an unheard-of $4.11 a gallon, the national average price for gasoline tumbled below $2 Friday, its lowest point in more than three years.

Heinz, Smucker's profits up on strong sales

Food makers H.J. Heinz Co. and J.M. Smucker Co. posted higher earnings Friday and said they're benefiting from price increases and the trend of more people eating at home. Sales in the recent three-month quarter were strong for Heinz's core products such as its namesake ketchup and T.G.I. Friday's frozen meals, and Smucker's fruit spreads, Hungry Jack potatoes and pancakes.

Verizon fires workers for privacy breach

Verizon Wireless on Friday fired an unspecified number of employees it said had accessed President-elect Barack Obama's old cell phone records without permission. The firings ended an internal investigation into the matter. Verizon Wireless earlier had disclosed the privacy breach and apologized to Obama. Obama aides had said no voice mails or e-mails were accessed. Verizon Wireless chief executive Lowell McAdam had said Obama's account has been inactive for several months. Obama had been using a simple voice flip-phone without e-mail capabilities.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports

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