Cruise Ship Crunch? Morning Business Memo

Shares in Carnival Corp. of Miami - the world's biggest cruise line operator - plunged more than 16 percent in London after the accident of its Costa Cruises Concordia. Carnival says it expects to lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue with the Concordia out of commission after the wreck off the coast of Italy. The international cruise ship industry is likely to face safety questions and more regulation following of the disaster.

Motorists, fasten your seat belts. Gasoline prices are already at a record high for January. And they could hit $5 a gallon by Memorial Day, says petroleum analyst Patrick deHaan of "We're expecting gas prices really to begin accelerating in April as well as May," he says. Increased demand by consumers and threats from Iran on the Strait of Hormuz could lift prices. But not all experts agree with the gasbuddy analysis. Oil analyst Peter Beutel is forecasting a gas price drop by the end of February.

A possible hard landing in China is a big concern for financial markets and the global economy. New numbers show China's hot growth slowed in the last quarter of 2011, but not by as much as expected. Asian stocks rallied overnight. Hong Kong's main index closed up more than 3 percent. Annual Chinese growth fell to just below 9 percent, still far above the rates in most of the world. The Chinese government is trying to cool down growth and avoid a crash.

Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, says it's time for investors and regulators to rely less on ratings agencies. He spoke after Standard & Poor's cut the debt ratings of nine Eurozone nations. Draghi says the downgrades had been largely anticipated by markets.

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