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Top 10 business stories of 2004
Scripps Howard News Service


December 27, 2004

1. The plummeting value of the U.S. dollar had repercussions for both consumers and governments. The United States had trouble selling its debts, which contributed to higher interest rates and a rise in the cost of imported goods in the United States. On the upside, some U.S. companies had higher sales overseas and Europeans flocked to the United States to scoop up bargains.

2. Global demand and uncertainty in the Middle East sent energy prices soaring by more than a third. The price of gas at U.S. pumps topped $2 a gallon, and heating bills rose by as much as 38 percent.

3. Your pension may be at risk. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., the government agency that insures traditional pensions, saw its deficit double to $23.3 billion since last year.

4. Mortgage rates dropped and demand for housing soared. Rising housing prices helped buoy the U.S. economy.

5. New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer filed lawsuits stating that kickbacks and collusion between insurers and insurance brokers helped keep insurance rates artificially high.

6. Two of nation's most venerable companies, Sears Roebuck and AT&T, took part in mergers with Kmart and Cingular, respectively. The Sears-Kmart deal highlighted the value of prime real estate owned by retailers, while the merger of the phone companies raised concerns about consolidation leading to higher prices for consumers.

7. Broadcast communications companies grew wary of the Federal Communications Commission after CBS' parent company Viacom was fined $550,000 for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl. The threat of fines - and a $500 million contract - drove controversial radio personality Howard Stern to an unregulated satellite radio broadcaster.

8. Internet search engine Google went public for $85 a share, marking the first successful IPO by a major Internet business since the end of the tech boom.

9. Debate raged in the United States about "outsourcing," the practice of sending increasingly white-collar jobs such as computer programming to countries with lower wages.

10. Apple's iPod became the must-have gadget. The trendy, tiny accessory holds thousands of song files, creating portable music libraries. The iPod brought in $1.3 billion in sales for Apple in the fiscal year.



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Ketchikan, Alaska