Trade deficit falls to lowest in seven months

The U.S. trade deficit declined in September to the lowest level in seven months as exports rebounded while imports shrank, reflecting the smallest monthly foreign oil bill in more than a decade. The trade deficit narrowed to $40.8 billion in September, down 15 percent from a $48 billion deficit in August, the Commerce Department reported. Exports rose 1.6 percent to $187.9 billion, helped by stronger sales of commercial airplanes and jet engines. Imports contracted 1.8 percent to $228.7 billion. The big drop in oil prices sent petroleum imports down 8.3 percent to $13.8 billion, the lowest level since May 2004. The U.S. deficit with China rose 3.8 percent to an all-time high of $36.3 billion in September as imports from China hit a record. The U.S. deficit with China is running 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

Frontier raising fees in time for holidays

If you fly Frontier or Spirit Airlines, the two ultra-low-fare carriers have a holiday surprise for you: higher bag fees. Denver-based Frontier is following the lead of Spirit by hiking bag fees for the holiday period, from Nov. 19 through Jan. 5. At Frontier, the fee of $25 to $30 for the first checked bag will increase by $5 to $10, depending on how early you pay and whether you pay online or at the check-in counter. The hike extends to the second and third checked bags. Spirit began raising fees for the holiday last year, saying it wanted to encourage fliers to pack lighter during the crowded travel season. This year, the bag fees at Spirit are going up $2, starting Dec. 16 through Jan. 4.

Wisconsin's Quad/Graphics to close 2 plants

Quad/Graphics Inc. plans to close its printing plants in Augusta, Ga., and East Greenville, Pa., this year. Chief Executive Joel Quadracci announced the locations Wednesday in a conference call with analysts. On Tuesday, the Sussex, Wis.-based printing company, one of the largest in the country, said it would shut down some of its operations in an effort to cut costs by $100 million. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that together, the two plants employ about 650 people. A company spokeswoman says Quad will move the work from the soon-to-be-closed facilities to its other U.S. plants, including those in Wisconsin. The latest shutdowns follow two other plant closings by Quad. Last month, the company shuttered plants in Colorado and Connecticut.

Expedia to buy rental marketer HomeAway

Travel booking site Expedia says it's buying short-term rental marketplace HomeAway for $3.9 billion to boost its presence in the vacation rental market. The Bellevue, Wash., company said it's paying roughly $38.31 in cash and stock for each share of HomeAway, of Austin, Texas. Both companies' boards have approved the deal, which they expect to close next year. HomeAway Inc. says it has more than 1 million paid listings of vacation rental homes in 190 countries. Along with its namesake site, Expedia Inc.'s portfolio also includes Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity. In after-hours trading, HomeAway's shares added 22 percent to $39.05. Expedia's shares rose 2.8 percent to $137.95.

Growth in U.S. service sector accelerates

U.S. services companies grew at an accelerated pace in October as business activity, new orders and employment all strengthened, suggesting that the economy is building momentum from consumer demand in the final months of 2015. The Institute for Supply Management said that its services index climbed to 59.1 last month from 56.9 in September. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. The figures raise the prospect that consumer spending will anchor growth during the October-December quarter at a time when manufacturing, hurt by global economic turbulence, has slowed. The gap between how the ISM measures services and manufacturing has reached its widest point in roughly 14 years.

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