Morning Business Report

What happened to hundreds of millions of dollars at MF Global, the commodities trading firm that made risky bets on European soversign debt and lost billions of dollars? The collapsed securities firm led by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine now faces new questions about missing money. Federal regulators are reported to be investigating major discrepancies in MF Global’s books. The missing money scuttled an agreement to sell the company. MF Global’s bankruptcy was the biggest failure of a financial firm since the Lehman Brother’s bankruptcy in September  2008.

After European euphoria last week, financial markets are taking a second look at the debt relief plan. Stock futures dropped sharply in premarket trading. The Dow Jones index lost 2.3 percent Monday. A decision by the Greek government to hold a surprise referendum on the bailout is today the new wild card. The planned vote is a big gamble by Prime Minister George Papandreou. Confirmation of the deal would probably build support for tax hikes and spending cuts required to reduce Greek debt. But a defeat of the Greek referendum in January could cut off funding and lead to a new crisis over European debt.

Toyota said  it’ll start selling robots that help sick and elderly people walk and balance themselves better. The Japanese automaker showed off the technology today in Tokyo, along with an “intelligent” machine with padded arms that can help health care workers lift disabled patients from their beds and then carry them around. Toyota hopes to make the products available in 2013.

Call it the rise of the savvy shopper. With the approach of the holiday shopping season, consumers are using theirsmartphones to snag bargains. “Consumers in general have become much more sophisticated,” says Ray Florio, who follows consumer marketing for Accenture Consulting. “Your best price is no further than your smartphone. You can go into any store, scan a bar code and you’ll get the best price located right near you or online. Many shoppers know about pricing strategies, says Florio. “They understand how retailers operate now they’ve been conditioned to hunt for discounts and that behavior has taken control.”

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