OIL PRICE GUSHES TO RECORD NEAR $124: Oil futures extended their seemingly relentless advance Wednesday, rising to a record near $124 a barrel as investors captivated by the market's upward momentum looked past the government's report of an increase in crude and gasoline supplies. Light, sweet crude for June delivery hit a trading record of $123.93 in after-hours activity on the New York Mercantile Exchange after settling up $1.69 at a record close of $123.53 a barrel. Analysts attributed oil's rise to continued buying from the surge that pushed prices past $120 for the first time earlier this week. The fact that prices didn't decline sharply after the inventory report was released signaled to some investors that the market was ripe for another rally.
BORROWING RISES AT FASTEST RATE IN MONTHS: Consumer borrowing rose in March at the fastest pace in four months, more than double the increase of the previous month. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that consumers increased their borrowing at an annual rate of 7.2 percent, compared with a 3.1 percent rate of increase in February. The gain was much larger than economists had been expecting and reflected strong borrowing on credit cards and also in the category that includes auto loans. The increase in consumer debt totaled $15.3 billion at an annual rate in March, much bigger than the $6 billion increase that economists had been expecting. Economists said consumers were being forced to make greater use of their credit cards during hard economic times when they are being battered by job losses, soaring gasoline prices and higher food costs.
'GRAND THEFT AUTO IV' MAKES A KILLING: "Grand Theft Auto IV" raked in more than $500 million in its first week in stores, selling more than 6 million units worldwide, the video game's publisher said Wednesday. The highly anticipated title from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. has received stellar ratings along with criticism for its violent content. The game follows Eastern European immigrant-turned gangster Niko Bellic on crime missions around a fictional Liberty City. The title sold about 3.6 million units on April 29, its opening day, bringing in roughly $310 million. This is $10 million more than Microsoft Corp.'s "Halo 3," another blockbuster game, took in during its first week last fall. The game has lifted sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, the two consoles for which it is available. Without giving numbers, Microsoft said Xbox 360 sales jumped 54 percent in the week following the title's launch, compared with the prior week, and more than 2.3 million people played it on its Xbox Live online service.
COMCAST CONSIDERS SETTING DATA LIMITS: Comcast Corp., the nation's second-largest Internet service provider, is considering setting an official limit on the amount of data that subscribers can download per month and charging a fee for those who go over. As more consumers download movies and music online, Internet service providers have to grapple with how to manage their traffic so that bandwidth hogs don't slow down the network for the lighter users among the company's 14.1 million subscribers. For years, Comcast directly called customers who used up several times more bandwidth than the typical subscriber's 2 gigabytes per month. The big users were asked to reduce their use or have their accounts canceled. Some Comcast customers have griped that the company hasn't been more forthcoming about the bandwidth ceiling.
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SINATRA STAMP TO BE UNVEILED: The price of a first-class stamp goes up a penny, to 42 cents, Monday, and the next day, a new stamp honoring Frank Sinatra goes on sale. First-day-of-sale ceremonies for the 42-cent stamp will be held Tuesday at three locations familiar to the famed singer and actor. The first ceremony for the performer will be held at Gotham Hall in New York City. Stamp dedication ceremonies also will be held later in the day in Las Vegas and Hoboken, N.J., Sinatra's hometown.
BEE NEWS SERVICES
80: Percentage of parents and teens who agree that kids are not as careful as they should be about information they give out online, according to a survey by McAfee.
70: Estimated percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds who have received messages online from someone they didn't know.
55: Percentage of teens who use social networking sites.
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