Retail analysts expessed cautious optimism after a surge of holiday buying by weekend shoppers. Early sales data from ShopperTrak, which measures store traffic for clients, showed Friday sales rose 10.8 percent from those of a year ago, to $8 billion. Visa USA said activity on its 450 million credit cards rose 15.5 percent to $4.1 billion. An easing of oil prices and growing consumer confidence were cited as possible factors in the rise. As expected, stores were quieter Saturday. Tempering optimism was a report by Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, that it was lowering its November sales estimates.
An oil tanker sailing under the Cypriot flag near Philadelphia spilled 30,000 gallons of crude into the Delaware River Friday, causing the Coast Guard to close a section of the river to commercial traffic. Three companies were enlisted to handle the cleanup, for which authorities said the shipper would be billed.
Federal Aviation Administration procedures fall short in monitoring shipments of hazardous materials, a Department of Transportation audit said Friday. The report recommends developing new guidelines and deadlines for conducting investigations of dangerous cargo. The FAA, which disagreed with the audit's conclusions, says it has collected more than $35 million in fines while investigating more than 11,000 enforcement cases between 1999 and 2003.
Bridges TV, claiming to be the first English-language lifestyle network for Muslims in the US, is expected to begin broadcasting this week from Buffalo via Comcast to about 50,000 cable and satellite subscribers. Inspired in the post- 9/11 era to serve as a bridge between Muslims and other Americans, the channel will carry educational shows, cartoons, and animated stories from the Koran.
Mt. St. Helens, which has been spewing ash and steam since early October in southwestern Washington State, registered a 3.1 magnitude earthquake that split the lava dome in its crater Saturday. The US Geological Survey issued a mid-level volcano alert, which means an eruption could occur without warning but is not imminent. The mountain has been closed to hikers and visitors.