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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

'Little Fockers' is tops in sales on slow weekend

NEW YORK (AP) -- On a weekend when Hollywood competed with Christmas gatherings and fierce snowstorms in the Northeast and Southeast, "Little Fockers" was no. 1 at the box office.

The third installment of the Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro series of in-law comedy was to earn $34 million over the three-day weekend, and $48.3 million since opening on Wednesday, according to studio estimates Sunday. That was less than the debut of the 2004 sequel, "Meet the Fockers," which opened to $46.1 million, but more than the original, "Meet the Parents," which made $28.6 million in its opening weekend.

It was an over-all down weekend for Hollywood, which saw the blockbuster "Gulliver's Travels" open Saturday to a weak two-day gross of $7.2 million and last week's top film, the 3-D sci-fi sequel "Tron: Legacy," fall more than 54 percent to $20.1 million on the weekend, and a total of $88.3 million.

The big success was the Coen Brothers' "True Grit," which was the no. 2 film of the weekend with a better-than-expected $25.6 million, and a five-day gross of $36.8 million. The movie gave Joel and Ethan Coen their best opening weekend ever.

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U.S. still in shopping mood

ATLANTA (AP) -- An East Coast snowstorm put a damper on after-Christmas shopping Sunday. But shoppers across the rest of the country scoured clearance racks and spent gift cards during the afterglow of the best holiday season for retailers since 2007.

Because the storm is after Christmas, the loss will hurt retailers less than last year's snowstorm the Saturday before Christmas that buried much of the same area. That one cost retailers about $2 billion. This time, there's no Dec. 25 deadline.

"People will just wait a day to do exchanges and use their gift cards. It's no big deal," said Greg Maloney, CEO of the retail practice of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages malls across the country.

He expects December revenue to grow a healthy 7 percent to 10 percent from last year.

Strong spending this week would build on the highest-spending holiday season since 2007, a record year. Dec. 26-Jan. 1 makes up less than 10 percent of the Nov. 1-Dec. 31 season but accounts for more than 15 percent of holiday spending, research firm ShopperTrak says.

Predictions call for retail revenue increase of 3 to 4 percent for the whole season, the best percentage increase since 2006.

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Inflation worries China

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao tried Sunday to reassure the public about the government's ability to control inflation, a day after China raised interest rates amid worries that rising prices could hurt social stability.

Wen's remarks underscore the government's concerns about anger over inflation -- an especially sensitive topic in a society where poor families spend up to half their incomes on food. Rising incomes have helped offset price hikes, but inflation undercuts economic gains that help support the ruling Communist Party.

"I can tell everybody, the government has complete confidence in tiding over this difficult stage together with the masses," Wen said while taking questions from callers during a visit to China National Radio's offices, according to a report on the station's website. The callers were not identified by name.

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Bonuses, performance tied

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will tie the bonuses of top executives more closely to the company's financial performance.

The investment bank, based in New York, said in a regulatory filing last week that bonuses will be linked to financial benchmarks that might include return on equity, earnings, or the market price of shares or other Goldman securities.

The plan applies to unspecified "key employees" starting this year. It gives Goldman the ability to take back bonuses from employees who violate company rules.

Goldman says the plan aims to "align compensation with long-term performance in a manner that does not encourage imprudent risk-taking."

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