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Consumer confidencereaches 6-year high

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. consumers are more confident about the economy than they have been in more than six years.

The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 85.2 this month from a revised 82.2 in May, the private research group said Tuesday. The June figure is the highest since January 2008, a month after the Great Recession officially began.

More Americans are optimistic about business conditions and the outlook for jobs, though fewer expect their incomes will grow over the next six months.

The index shows that confidence has been rising steadily since bottoming out at 25.3 in February 2009. It’s well above last year’s average of 72.3. But it still hasn’t returned to full health. Before the recession, the index usually topped 90.

Tops opens in Corning area

Tops Friendly Markets cut the ribbon on a new store Tuesday in the Corning suburb of Riverside.

The 24,576-square-foot store fits with Tops’ latest concept strategy of filling in its market with smaller-footprint stores that also have Tops gas stations on site.

The $4.9 million store has the store’s new decor package, which features more neutral colors, softer lighting, wooden and wicker display cases, as well as a Carry-Out Cafe, dining area and a section devoted to organic and natural foods.

The store employs 125 people.

Target free shipping grows

Target Corp. has broadened its free shipping policy to simplify online shopping for customers and better compete with Web retailers.

Now, nearly all online orders of $50 or more on Target.com, with the exception of oversized or heavy items, will qualify for free shipping. Previously, only some items were eligible, but online shoppers didn’t always realize that and were sometimes frustrated when they checked out and discovered they were being charged for shipping because only some of the items in their cart qualified.

– Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

Guilty plea linked to Madoff

NEW YORK (AP) – A senior partner at a New York accounting firm pleaded guilty to criminal charges Tuesday in a cooperation deal with the government, saying he unwittingly played a role in financier Bernard Madoff’s “horrific and evil Ponzi scheme.”

Paul Konigsberg, a 78-year-old accounting firm executive, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of falsifying books and records in federal court in Manhattan. He also agreed to forfeit $4.4 million in cash and property. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.

Walgreen profits jump 16%

Walgreen’s fiscal third quarter earnings jumped 16 percent compared with last year, aided in part by a lower income tax rate, but the drugstore chain’s performance again fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

The company also left investors and analysts hanging after announcing quarterly results Tuesday. Walgreen executives said they are considering their option to complete a takeover of Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots – a move that could involve an overseas reincorporation – but they won’t be ready to discuss their next step until late July or early August.

Walgreen Co. earned $722 million, or 75 cents per share, in the quarter that ended May 31. That’s up from $624 million, or 65 cents per share, a year ago.

AT&T deal will cut prices

AT&T Inc. said its growing power will be its customers’ gain.

The second-biggest U.S. mobile-phone carrier and operator of the television and Internet business U-verse made its case before Congress Tuesday that its $48.5 billion takeover of satellite-TV provider DirecTV will lower prices.

“The substantial cost savings and other synergies associated with the transaction will allow us to price all our services more competitively, which will drive cable and other competitors to lower their prices,” AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in written testimony to be delivered to a panel of the House Judiciary Committee.

– Bloomberg News

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