Mid-day Update

PODCAST: French banks downgraded, a North Korean cruise ship

Mary Dooe Sep 14, 2011

Here are today’s top headlines from the Marketplace Morning Report and from around the web.

Moody’s has downgraded the credit ratings of two major French banks, saying the banks are too exposed to Greek debt and don’t have enough cash. That could mean further trouble for European markets.

Toyota says its production in North America is back up to full capacity, six months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a worldwide slowdown. The company had originally expected it wouldn’t be back up to full speed in North America until the end of the year.

Midnight tonight is the deadline for the big three American automakers to reach new labor contracts with the United Auto Workers Union. And still no deals, though Ford has said it’ll keep talking past midnight.

Wholesale prices didn’t go anywhere in August, mostly because the government’s Producer Price Index (PPI) saw a hike in food prices, and a drop in energy prices.

More people applied for home loans last week as interest rates stayed near rock bottom.

Word came this morning from the government that retail sales were flat in August. The news comes as a disappointment, especially since August is a big month for the back to school crowd.

Some news from rental car land this morning. Avis Budget group says it’s no longer going to try to buy Dollar Thrifty because of market conditions. That’ll open things up for Hertz to pursue Dollar Thrifty.

A collectibles store in Las Vegas is selling a piece of literary history on eBay for $50,000. It’s a note written by the late reclusive author JD Salinger, to his maid. The memo instructs the housekeeper to get her work done before she goes on vacation, because he “doesn’t want to be bothered with insignificant things.” It’s formally signed, JD Salinger. While the note itself will cost you a fortune, that insight into his personality was free of charge.

North Korea has had a hard time getting tourists to come visit. Perhaps because of the cold weather, or maybe it’s the authoritarian regime — I don’t know. Well, North Korea has just launched a cruise ship. Now, it’s not exactly like the cruise ships that roam the Caribbean. According to a journalist who took a ride, the water faucets don’t work, and the cabins are dorm-like. And they take away your phones when you make a stop on shore. But the all-you-can-eat buffet! Oh, wait, there isn’t one of those either….

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