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Buffeted by soaring fuel prices and tighter credit, consumers increased their spending at the weakest pace in six months. In other signs of trouble, applications for unemployment benefits last week soared by the largest number since Hurricane Katrina. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that consumer spending edged up just 0.2 percent in December - the year's peak shopping season. Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the number of laid off workers filing applications for unemployment benefits increased by 69,000 to 375,000 last week.


AT&T restores wireless services

AT&T Inc. said service for customers with Web-enabled wireless phones in the Midwest and Southeast was restored to normal Thursday. For most of the day, customers could make voice calls but experienced trouble getting e-mail or connecting to the Internet with their smart phones or laptop computer connection cards. The cause of the outage remained unknown as of late Thursday.


Bank CEO named chamber leader

Bill Short, president and chief executive of Old Harbor Bank, was sworn in as chairman of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce Thursday night at the chamber's 86th annual meeting at the Innisbrook Resort. The chamber's highest honor for community service - the Mrs. Clearwater award - went to Holly Duncan, a past chairwoman of the Clearwater chamber and current president and chief executive of the Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation. The chamber's annual award for large in-state businesses was a tie between Postcard Mania and JMC Communities. The out-of-state business award went to Sunbelt Software.


Medicare plan costs to drop

Medicare officials said the cost of the popular Part D drug plan is projected to be $117-billion lower than expected over the next 10 years due to slowing of drug cost trends, lower estimates of plan spending and higher rebates from drug manufacturers. About 39.5-million Medicare beneficiaries now have drug coverage, including 2.7-million Floridians. The cost projections did not include government reimbursements for Medicare Advantage plans, which are 112 to 119 percent higher than traditional Medicare.


Change at top for Florida chamber

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has a new president, Mark Wilson, promoted from his job as the Tallahassee-based chamber's executive vice president. Wilson replaces Frank Ryll Jr., a St. Petersburg native stepping down after 25 years. Wilson's duties include leading the advocacy efforts of the state's most extensive business organization. Before joining the Florida Chamber in 1998, the Illinois native was vice president of the Chicagoland Chamber. Ryll will continue to work with the chamber part-time as an adviser.


Terry Semel, right, has stepped down as Yahoo Inc.'s chairman seven months after resigning as chief executive under shareholder pressure. Another director, Roy Bostock, will replace Semel as nonexecutive chairman of its 10-member board.