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Byline: - Staff and Wire Services

Storm fears drive pump prices up

Fears of hurricane-related supply disruptions sent Southern California gasoline prices rising this week for the fourth consecutive week, the Automobile Club of Southern California reported Friday.

But prices could begin falling within a couple of weeks, according to the Auto Club.

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in the Los Angeles area was $2.571 Friday morning - 8 cents more than last week, 22 cents more than last month and 35 cents more than at this time last year, the Auto Club reported.

``The upward trend likely will persist another week, but there are signs that our prices could be near a plateau,'' said Auto Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp.

Chains face fines in grape labeling

SACRAMENTO - Three grocery chains owned by Kroger Co. face fines of up to $3,000 per bag of Mexican-grown grapes they sold as California produce, state agriculture officials said.

The investigation into the grapes mislabeled by Ralphs Grocery Co., Food 4 Less and Foods Co. could take months to complete, the Department of Food and Agriculture said. The three stores are all divisions of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co.

Ralphs spokesman Terry O'Neil said fliers promoting the grapes as part of the California Grown campaign were drafted several weeks early under assumptions the stores would buy California grapes.

More brands tied to juice bacteria

WASHINGTON - Orchid Island Juice Co. on Friday expanded the list of brands involved in its recall last week of unpasteurized orange juice that has been linked to more than a dozen illnesses from possible salmonella contamination.

Fifteen cases of illness have been linked to the juice products in Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts from mid-May to June, the Food and Drug Administration said.

At least 16 other states have reported illnesses involving the same strain of salmonella, a germ that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, particularly in children and frail or elderly people, the agency said last week. Those cases are being investigated for possible connections to the juice products, the FDA said.

The recalled unpasteurized orange juice, with date codes of July 25 or earlier, was sold under the following labels: Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company, Ultimate Juice, Albritton Fruit, Finagle A Bagel, Gourmet Garage, Kings Market, Nino Salvaggio, Schnucks, Wegmans, Balducci's and Zabars.

Signs of rebound in manufacturing

WASHINGTON - Industrial production, helped by a jump in utility output, surged in June at the fastest pace in 16 months, providing the strongest evidence yet that U.S. manufacturing is rebounding.

Meanwhile, wholesale prices were flat last month, matching the benign performance turned in by consumer prices during June.

Taken together, the two reports Friday helped to ease fears that manufacturing, hardest hit in the 2001 recession, was in danger of faltering again or that inflation, battered by high energy prices, was threatening to get out of hand.

New depression treatment OK'd

CHICAGO - Cyberonics Inc. received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Friday for a pacemaker-like treatment for depression, the first such device.

The news comes after a long and twisted process that includes last year's FDA decision to turn down the Houston-based company's application, despite an earlier recommendation in favor of the device by an FDA panel of medical experts.

Earlier this year, the FDA reversed course and told Cyberonics the product was approvable, which in turn inspired an inquiry by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which is ongoing.

Cyberonics' vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, device for treatment- resistant depression, or TRD, is the first implantable device approved in the United States for treatment of depression.

Clothing chain's chief sells shares

WASHINGTON - As Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reported sizzling early summer sales figures, the company's top executive was logging some sales of his own.

Since July 7, when the clothing chain reported better-than-expected June sales, Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Jeffries has sold 1.44 million shares for $104 million, according to regulatory filings.

The sales came from exercising 1.6 million stock options with strike prices of $8 and $23.41 and selling most of the resulting shares for $70.75 to $73.80 apiece.

News Corp. ready to spin off Net unit

NEW YORK - News Corp., the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is launching a new unit grouping together the Internet properties owned by its Fox entertainment, news and sports businesses.

The new unit, to be called Fox Interactive Media, will be headed by Ross Levinsohn, formerly chief of Fox's online sports business. In addition to sports, the group will also oversee the online operations of the Fox television network, cable TV's Fox News Channel and the Web sites of Fox's local TV stations.

The division will coordinate back-office functions such as advertising sales across the Web sites, and also make it easier for browsers to move from one Fox-owned site to another, personalize what they see and get access to a greater variety of content.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 16, 2005

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