Business news briefs: Halloween spending lower than last year's budget

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Halloween spending lower than last year's budget

Halloween spending may be down this year, as compared to last, according to a survey done for the National Retail Federation. Nearly 158 million consumers, down from 170 million last year, are expected to participate in activities around the holiday. This year's average budget is estimated at $75.03 for decorations, costumes and candy, as compared to $79.82 last year. Total spending will hit $6.9 billion. The survey was conducted the first week of September by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Gasoline prices in Pittsburgh fall by 4.1 cents

Gasoline prices in the Pittsburgh region fell to $3.58 cents per gallon over the past week, a 4.1 cent decrease. According to GasBuddy.com, gas stations in the area are now charging 30.8 cents per gallon less than they were during the same time last year. Across the country, gas station operators are reporting similar declines. Nationwide gas prices fell by 4.5 cents per gallon to $3.49 over the past week.

Microsoft releases two Surface tablets

On Monday, Microsoft introduced new Surface tablets, including the Surface Pro 2, a professional model that allows people to use it more like a laptop or a desktop computer. A cheaper model, Surface 2, offers a better screen and other improvements over last year's Surface RT. The Surface 2 starts at $449, and the Surface Pro 2 at $899. They are available starting on Oct. 22.

Airlines extend merger deadline for antitrust trial

US Airways and American Airlines are extending their merger deadline by a month to give themselves time for an antitrust trial. That trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 25. Their original agreement allowed either side to call off the merger on Dec. 17, but the trial might not be done by then. The new agreement extends that period until Jan. 18, or later if the court rules in favor of the airlines.

BlackBerry agrees to sell for $4.7 billion

BlackBerry has agreed to sell itself for $4.7 billion to a group led by largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. The Canadian company said Monday that a letter of intent has been signed and its shareholders will receive $9 in cash for each share. Trading of the company's stock was halted ahead of the news.

Wal-Mart prepares for holiday rush, opens doors to workers

Wal-Mart is hiring 55,000 seasonal workers and is elevating 70,000 more to part- or full-time positions as the holiday season ramps up. The world's largest retailer says 35,000 temporary workers will become part-time and 35,000 part-time workers will gain full-time jobs. The shift means that Wal-Mart will be offering more of its workers benefits.

Brazil last place to buy iconic 1960s Volkswagen bus

It carried hippies through the 1960s, hauled surfers in search of killer waves and served as a workhorse across the developing world, but the long, strange trip of the Volkswagen van is ending. Brazil is the last place in the world still producing the iconic vehicle, or "bus" as it's known by aficionados, but VW says production will end Dec. 31. Safety regulations mandate that every vehicle in Brazil must have air bags and anti-lock braking systems starting in 2014, and the company says it cannot change production to meet the law. VW produced more than 10 million Volkswagen Transporter vans globally since the model was introduced 63 years ago.

Also in business...

William Hernandez, retired senior vice president and chief financial officer of PPG Industries, was elected to the board of Northrop Grumman Corp. ... Wonder bread is back almost a year after it vanished from shelves. Flowers Foods Inc., which bought Wonder from Hostess Brands, said the bread started returning to supermarket shelves Monday.

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