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The combined US market share for the Big Three automakers fell to an unprecedented low of 56.9 percent in 2005, Autodata Corp. announced as the industry gathered in Detroit for the annual North American International Auto Show. As sales continued to decline for General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, the Asian builders of Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans saw their US market share climb to 36.5 percent. US manufacturers were boosting sales with summer employee-pricing discounts until sport/utility vehicle sales plunged and gasoline prices spiked after hurricane Katrina. Chevrolet was the best-selling US brand, besting Ford for the first time in 19 years.

Jobless claims by Americans fell by 35,000 to a five-year low of 291,000 last week, the Labor Department reported. Some economists said the drop was a sign of economic momentum heading into the new year, but others cautioned that there is often great volatility in the data around the holidays.

Sounding skeptical about European efforts to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used unusually blunt language Thursday to suggest that the US may be nearing a decision to take the Tehran government before the UN Security Council for possible imposition of sanctions.

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Defense attorneys for former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling asked that their clients' fraud trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 30 in Houston, be moved out of the city and postponed for at least one more month. Legal experts called the request a long shot. Although previous relocation bids have been rejected, the defense team based its latest request on a new wave of adverse local publicity stemming from last week's guilty plea by Richard Causey, the former energy trader's chief accountant.

Quarterback Vince Young led the University of Texas football team to a dramatic 41-38 comeback victory over top-ranked Southern California in the Rose Bowl Wednesday night, snapping the latter's 34-game winning streak and ending its bid for a record third consecutive national title. Young ran for 200 yards, eight of them on a game-winning scramble with 19 seconds left.

While admitting no wrongdoing, officials for Sempra Energy of San Diego announced a $377 million settlement to resolve allegations that it limited natural gas supplies to California and Nevada customers five years ago to drive up prices. Ratepayers will receive reduced bills.

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