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Shoppers Go Nuts, Chinese Go South
Retail
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EWS AT A GLANCE

Black Friday gets an early start
 
Stores opened as early as midnight today to ring in the holiday shopping season, as retailers worry about what is forecast to be a sluggish buying season. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Up to 133 million Americans are expected to go shopping today, with many of them waiting hours in line to get in and snag early-bird specials. (MarketWatch) A growing number of stores were also open for holiday shopping yesterday. “It’s become a tradition,” said FAO Schwarz CEO Ed Schmults on his store’s fourth year being open on Thanksgiving. “It’s a family holiday, and if you look around, what do you see? Families.” (The New York Times, free registration required)

Chinese automaker deals in Mexico
 
First Automobile Works, one of China’s Big Three automakers, is breaking ground on a plant in Mexico today, in partnership with Mexico’s Grupo Salinas. The plant should start turning out 100,000 cars a year in 2010, but First Automobile will start importing cars for sale right away. (The New York Times, free registration required) The Chinese cars, sold for as little as $6,000 through Salinas’ Elektra stores, are aimed at Mexico’s growing middle class. Salinas spokesman Daniel McCosh said it wasn’t such a stretch for the appliance and electronics store to sell cars. “People have traditionally looked to Elektra for big-ticket items that they couldn’t otherwise afford,” he said. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)

Air France profit soars
 
Air France-KLM, Europe’s largest airline, reported that its profits almost doubled in the second quarter, to a greater-than-expected $1.09 billion. The airline locked in 75 percent of its fuel at $60 a barrel, and was able to successfully pass on the modest cost increase through a fuel surcharge. (MarketWatch) An 8.2 percent increase in traffic to Asia, especially extra flights to Hong Kong and Shanghai, also helped boost the bottom line. “Things look pretty favorable,” said Guillaume Duchesne at Fortis Private Banking in Luxembourg. “Air France has a strong position in the long-haul market and has benefited from the development of Asian economies.” (Bloomberg)

Tithing pains
 
Americans gave $97 billion to their religious congregations last year, about a third of all U.S. charitable giving. But like other philanthropists, churchgoers are starting to question how their donations are being used. The sometimes obligatory Christian tradition of tithing — giving the church 10 percent of your income — is coming under special criticism, with some arguing it isn’t theologically sound and other saying the money shouldn’t be used on megachurch coffee bars. (The Wall Street Journal) With church donations slowing, some megachurches are expanding into real estate, banking, and other investment opportunities. (The New York Times, free registration required)

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