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Morning Market Roundup: Ford Starts on New Chinese Plant, Oil Down, Stocks Flounder

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Ford: Ford Motor Co. is building a sixth plant in China as part of an effort to increase its sales in the world's largest auto market.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally attended a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the new $600 million assembly plant in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It will have the capacity to make 250,000 vehicles per year when it's finished in late 2014.

The plant is Ford's third in Chongqing, including one that began producing the Ford Focus in February. Ford plans to double its production capacity in China to 1.2 million vehicles by 2015, making this the company's most rapid expansion in 50 years.

Ford hasn't said which vehicles will be made at the new plant, but it will be equipped to make seven different models. Ford is planning to introduce 15 new vehicles here by 2015, including the EcoSport and Kuga small SUVs, which will be made at the new Focus plant in the Chongqing complex starting next year.

Oil: The price of oil is falling on increased speculation that the U.S. will release oil from reserves to ease the commodity's rising cost.

Oil prices are up more than $8 per barrel this month. Releasing crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would boost the supply of oil, which would drive prices lower. Oil was previously released due to conflict in Libya and after Hurricane Katrina.

Forecasts for Tropical Storm Isaac also moderated, easing concerns that the storm would damage to key oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicts it will grow to a Category 1 hurricane.

About one-quarter of the nation's oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crude lost $1.28 to $94.86 in morning trading Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Apple Stock Up: Apple's $1 billion court win against Samsung is translating into a much bigger jump in its market value.

Apple shares were up $11.98, or 1.8 percent, at $675.26 in morning trading Monday.

That boosts Apple Inc.'s market capitalization, already the highest in the world, by $11 billion to $633 billion.

In opening trading, Apple shares hit $680.87, a new all-time high.

 

U.S. Stocks: U.S. stocks struggled for direction in quiet trading Monday, with many traders still on summer vacation and investors waiting for signals from the Federal Reserve about help for the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell to a small loss, the Standard & Poor's 500 darted between small ups and downs, and the Nasdaq composite index nosed higher.

In early trading Monday, the Dow was down 30 points, about 0.2 percent, to 13,128. The S&P 500 was down less than a point to 1,410.38. The Nasdaq composite was up a point to 3,071.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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