Brunswick’s sinking boat sales

Illinois-based Brunswick Corp., the largest U.S. maker of pleasure boats, said it will close four more plants and lay off up to 2,700 workers as the falling economy and rising gas prices crimp sales. Brunswick said the move should save $300 million a year. (Chicago Sun-Times) The slowdown in discretionary spending is “happening in all the leisure products industries,” said Morningstar analyst Marisa Thompson, and pleasure boats “are entirely leisure products.” (Chicago Tribune, free registration)

Foreign airlines settle U.S. price-fixing suit

Four international airlines—Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific, Dutch carrier Martinair, and SAS—agreed to pay $504 million to settle criminal price-fixing charges from the U.S. Justice Department. Air France-KLM was responsible for $350 million of the settlement, in the second-largest criminal award won by the Justice Department’s antitrust division. (The Washington Post, free registration) The guilty pleas were the latest in a worldwide conspiracy involving about 30 airlines accused of inflating cargo shipping rates and fuel and security surcharges by as much as 1,000 percent. So far, the Justice Department has won $1.2 billion in fines. (Financial Times, free registration)

New oil record hits Asian markets

Crude oil prices hit a new record early today, approaching $142 a barrel in London. (Reuters) The rising oil and sharp losses in U.S. stocks yesterday sent Asian markets plummeting today. China’s Shanghai index sank 5 percent, to its lowest level since February 2007, Japan’s Nikkei 225 has its seventh consecutive loss, and markets in Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand, and the Philippines all closed down about 2 percent. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) European indexes were also broadly lower early today. (MarketWatch) “Obviously the longer oil stays at a high level, the more a recessionary impact that has,” said Bob Parker at Credit Suisse Asset Management in London. (Bloomberg)

The other rising fuel

A winter frost in Brazil is pushing coffee futures to their highest levels in months, as lowered production in the largest coffee-growing nation would put further pressure on declining supplies. Global coffee demand has been outpacing production for the past couple of years, and the stock levels at the end of 2008 are expected to be at their lowest level in 48 years. “There is an underlying situation of tight supply, demand,” said Jose Sette at the London-based International Coffee Organization. “Any supply-side shock will really have a strong effect on prices.” Shares of Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and other coffee retailers dropped yesterday. Sugar and cocoa futures rose. (MarketWatch)