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McDonald's, hoping a leadership shakeup in its U.S. business will help it fight off intensifying competition, said Thursday that Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, will be replaced by Jeff Stratton, its global chief restaurant officer, effective Dec. 1. The announcement comes less than a week after the fast-food giant reported its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade. After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has struggled recently amid intensifying competition at home and a persistently weak economy abroad.

Amazon started shipping the larger version of its Kindle Fire HD tablet computer Thursday, five days ahead of schedule. Amazon is short on stock, though, so new orders won't ship until Dec. 3. The Kindle Fire is one of several tablets challenging Apple's iPad. The tablet, which has an 8.9-inch screen measured diagonally, is available on Amazon's website for $299. The tablet will be available at Best Buy stores starting today and at more retailers in the coming weeks.

Hostess Brands said late Thursday that it likely won't make an announcement until this morning on whether it will move to liquidate its business, after the company had set a Thursday deadline for striking employees to return to work. A liquidation by the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread would result in the loss of about 18,000 jobs. Thousands of members of Hostess' second-biggest union - the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union - went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits.

Wal-Mart Storesreported its third-quarter net income rose 9 percent to $3.63 billion, but revenue for the world's largest retailer fell below Wall Street forecasts as its low-income shoppers continue to grapple with an uncertain economy. For the entire U.S. business, sales at stores opened at least a year rose 1.7 percent, below the 2.1 percent Wall Street estimate.

$498

MILLION

THIRD-QUARTER LOSS FOR SEARS HOLDING CORP., compared with a loss of $421 million a year earlier, on higher tax expenses and falling sales at its struggling Sears and Kmart stores

tHE BOTTOM LINE: Third-quarter net income for Target, the second-largest U.S. discount retailer, rose 15 percent to $637 million ...Chrysler to add up to 1,250 jobs at three Detroit-area factories as it prepares for rise in pickup sales ... GameStop, the world's largest video game retailer, plans to close 200 stores by next year ... Gap's third-quarter net income soared 60 percent to $308 million

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