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Business Digest

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Shares of Anheuser-Busch touched an all-time high on Friday on reports that Europe's InBev SA was working on a $46 billion bid for the St. Louis-based brewer.

Anheuser-Busch shares rose 7.7 percent, or $4.03, to $56.61 after reaching as high as $58.

The share surge followed a report on the Financial Times Web site that InBev, the world's biggest brewer by volume, may directly approach Anheuser-Busch chief executive August Busch IV.

It's the latest deal in a consolidating industry. Miller Brewing Co., the second-largest U.S. beer-maker, and No.3 Molson Coors Brewing Co. are planning to combine U.S. operations by midsummer.

Miller will distribute Grolsch in the U.S. after a February takeover by SABMiller of Europe.

Anheuser-Busch declined comment on the report. Messages left with InBev were not returned. Associated Press

Energy

In the hot energy sector, a rapid-fire bidding contest broke out Friday between a London-led private equity consortium and Halliburton – both coveting the same European oil field contractor.

Shares of Expro International Group PLC, now clearly the prize, soared 5.5 percent to $32.13.

Houston-based Halliburton, which revealed its interest in Britain's Expro last month, made an all-cash proposal of $3.36 billion, or $30.14 per share before the market opened Friday.

That topped the offer made last month by the Candover-backed Umbrellastream Ltd., which valued the company at $3.16 billion or $28.36 per share. Associated Press

As consumers began hitting the road Friday for the Memorial Day weekend, they faced the reality that it now costs $87 to fill a Ford Explorer SUV, up $14 from last year, and $72 to fill a mid-sized Honda Accord, up $12.

That's because gas prices, which took another jump higher overnight, are up nearly 20 percent, or 65 cents a gallon, over the past year to average nearly $3.88 a gallon nationally. But unlike this time last year, when gas prices were at their peak for 2007, pump prices now show no signs of halting their daily assault on the record books.

“Four dollars (a gallon) is a done deal now,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Ill.

On average, drivers in Alaska, Connecticut, California, New York and Illinois are already paying more than $4 for gas. Associated Press

Economy

Existing home sales fell for the eighth time in the past nine months, a string of weakness expected to continue as the housing industry, mired in its worst slump in decades, battles falling home prices, tight lending conditions and a weak economy.

The National Association of Realtors reported Friday that existing home sales dropped by 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units, matching the all-time low set in January. These records, which cover single-family homes and condominiums, go back to 1999. Associated Press

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