Business Briefcase: Wal-Mart to bring back holiday layaway service


NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is bringing back a service its customers have been asking for since the Great Recession: layaway.

The world's largest retailer, which ditched the pay-as-you-go plans in 2006, is rolling out a holiday layaway plan from Oct. 17 through Dec. 16. Wal-Mart is following rivals that brought back the service during the thick of the recession.

Stocks skid late, following Fed chief's comments

NEW YORK -- Stocks closed sharply lower Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no new insight into whether the central bank will act soon to prop up the economy.

Investors received mixed economic data before the market opened. First-time applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to 414,000. Economists had expected 405,000.

Google is gobbling up Zagat restaurant guides

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google said Thursday it is buying Zagat, maker of the slender guidebooks that offer one-paragraph reviews and numerical ratings of eateries, peppered with partial quotes from the people who love and hate them.

Google plans to integrate Zagat's online reviews into its Google Maps service and its basic search results. It said Zagat's style, drawing on snippet-sized customer reviews, was mobile before mobile was cool.

Founders Nina and Tim Zagat said they will remain co-chairs of the company and will use Google's resources and expertise to expand.

Bankrupt manufacturer of solar panels is raided by feds

FREMONT, Calif. -- FBI agents executed search warrants Thursday at the headquarters of California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which received more than $500 million in federal loans before filing for bankruptcy last week.

Agents swarmed the company's headquarters as part of an investigation with the Department of Energy into the manufacturer once touted by President Obama as a beneficiary of economic stimulus, said FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn.

Sohn said she could not provide details about the investigation. Solyndra spokesman Dave Miller said agents were collecting documents but the company did not know the reason for the search.

Consumer borrowing up in July, but credit card use falls

WASHINGTON -- Americans borrowed more money in July than any in other month in more than three years. But they cut back on using their credit cards.

Consumer borrowing rose nearly $12 billion in July, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Greater demand for school and auto loans fueled the increase. A category that measures credit card use fell in July after large increases in May and June.

Total consumer borrowing increased to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $2.45 trillion. That's barely 2 percent above the four-year low reached in September. Borrowing is usually a sign of confidence in the economy.

Saab's bankruptcy filing is rejected, appeal likely

STOCKHOLM -- Troubled automaker Saab edged closer to financial collapse Thursday after a Swedish court rejected its request for bankruptcy protection.

The ruling means the Swedish brand, which has struggled financially since GM sold it to what is now Swedish Automobile in 2010, is now only days away from facing bankruptcy action from unions. Swedish Automobile said it would appeal the decision by Sept. 29.