Microsoft doubled sales of the Xbox 360 video-game console last weekend after cutting the price as much as 29 percent in a bid to narrow Nintendo's lead.

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Microsoft doubled sales of the Xbox 360 video-game console last weekend after cutting the price as much as 29 percent in a bid to narrow Nintendo’s lead.

Retailers reported a 100 percent increase in sales for all models compared with the previous weekend, Microsoft said in an e-mailed statement. Some models sold at six times the previous weekend’s rate.

The company didn’t say how many were sold.

Friday’s price cut gave Microsoft a model that costs less than Nintendo’s market-leading Wii for the first time.

Sony’s PlayStation 3, making inroads with new games and a Blu-ray DVD player, also beat the Xbox 360 in U.S. sales in June and July, according to NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y., research firm.

Nation / World

Banking

BofA to buy back auction-rate debt

Bank of America said Wednesday it will buy back about $4.5 billion worth of auction-rate securities held by roughly 5,500 customers nationwide as part of a settlement agreement with Massachusetts regulators.

The auction-rate securities market involved investors buying and selling instruments that resembled corporate debt, except the interest rates were reset at regular auctions, some as frequently as once a week. The market for the securities collapsed in February.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank said it continues to cooperate with investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Biotechnology

ImClone studies $70-a-share offer

Biotechnology company ImClone Systems said Wednesday it is considering a buyout offer worth $70 a share from an unidentified large pharmaceutical company and rejected a $60-a-share bid from partner Bristol-Myers Squibb.

ImClone said Chairman Carl Icahn has been in talks with the chief executive of the pharmaceutical company that made the new offer, which would be worth about $6.1 billion. ImClone’s board will allow the potential buyer two weeks to do due diligence.

ImClone said it has not decided if the offer is adequate.

The new offer would be a premium of 10 percent to ImClone’s Tuesday closing price of $63.65. On Wednesday, ImClone stock jumped $4.29, or 6.7 percent, to $67.94.

Telecommunications

RIM unveils first flip phone

Research In Motion, seeking to dent Nokia’s dominance of the market for e-mail phones, has introduced a version of the BlackBerry Pearl with a flip cover.

The phone will be available later this year, according to Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie. The specific release date and price haven’t been disclosed.

Research In Motion, facing mounting competition from Apple’s iPhone, is trying to extend its success beyond business users with its first flip model. Consumers accounted for about 60 percent of new subscribers in the first quarter and now make up more than 40 percent of customers.

About 75 percent of mobile phones sold in the U.S. are the flip kind, Balsillie said. “The most common preference is the flip and yet it’s the most unaddressed because it requires some special innovation,” Balsillie said.

The company created a special hinge for the Pearl that gives more room for the keyboard and trackball.

The Pearl Flip will be available in the U.S. from Deutsche Telekom’s Bellevue-based T-Mobile unit. The carrier was also first to sell the Pearl when it went on sale in September 2006.

Internet

Google stock hits 6-month low

Google shares fell to their lowest in six months after Time Warner said some Internet-ad sales are slowing.

Google dropped $4.50 to $414.16 Wednesday, the lowest since March 10. The shares have slumped 40 percent this year.

Waning growth at the AOL network, which buys and sells ads on third-party Web sites, may hamper Time Warner in meeting sales goals for the rest of the year, Chief Financial Officer John Martin said Wednesday.

AOL, which has a partnership with Google, has seen some ad cancellations and is less confident about a recovery in the second half, he said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in July that the search engine, the biggest seller of online ads, faces a more challenging economic environment.

Emarketer, a researcher in New York, said last month that spending on Internet ads will be lower than first predicted this year and next.

Transportation

FedEx boosts earnings outlook

FedEx expects first-quarter earnings to exceed guidance announced at the end of the previous financial period.

But the package-delivery company left its annual outlook for 2009 unchanged Wednesday and announced cuts in capital spending for the year.

FedEx shares rose $3.11, or 3.7 percent, to $87.86.

FedEx said it expects earnings of $1.23 a share in the quarter ended Aug. 31, up from earlier guidance of 80 cents to $1 a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect a profit of 95 cents a share.

FedEx credited lower-than-expected fuel costs late in the quarter and “stringent” cost-cutting for the new guidance.

Transportation

Ford to chop 500 jobs in Ontario

Ford said Wednesday it will eliminate 500 employees at its crossover assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, as sales of the vehicles designed to woo SUV and truck buyers continue to slump.

Ford of Canada spokeswoman Lauren More said the company will phase out the third shift in the plant’s body and paint work areas during the next several weeks.

“It’s due to, as you’re very aware, an overall softening of vehicle sales in the U.S.,” More said.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press