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Business Highlights

Created: 08/14/2015 6:52 AM
By: By The Associated Press

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China tries to dampen fears of more big devaluations

BEIJING (AP) — China tried Thursday to ease fears of more big declines for the yuan as companies from global automakers to Chinese clothing exporters faced a new era of uncertain exchange rates.

There is "no basis for persistent and substantial devaluation," said a deputy central bank governor, Zhang Xiaohui, at a news conference. Zhang said the yuan is close to "market levels" after two days of sharp declines.

By late Thursday in the U.S., the yuan was down 3 percent since Tuesday's surprise announcement of a more flexible exchange rate. The People's Bank of China said the change was aimed at making the tightly controlled yuan more market-oriented.

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2 jumbo phones from Samsung ahead of expected new iPhone

NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung has unveiled two new Android smartphones with jumbo screens as it seeks to recapture some of the sales lost to Apple after larger iPhones came out last year.

Samsung said Thursday that the new Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus will start shipping Aug. 21 in the U.S. and Canada. Usually, Note phones don't come out until well after Apple's new iPhone models in September.

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US food banks struggle to meet surprising demand

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Food banks across the United States are seeing a rising demand for free groceries despite the growing economy, leading some charities to reduce the amount of food they offer each family.

U.S. food banks are expected to give away about 4 billion pounds (1.81 billion kilograms) of food this year, more than double the amount provided a decade ago, according to Feeding America, the nation's primary food bank network. The group gave away 3.8 billion in 2013.

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Shopping for back-to-school deals? It's all in the timing

NEW YORK (AP) — The start of the school year is just around the corner, and you haven't shopped yet?

Don't fret. To get the best deals, it's all in the timing.

Need sweater? Wait until later in the fall. Backpacks? Hold off until late September, if you can.

Of course, some discounters have consistently low prices. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which pushes everyday low prices, has launched extra discounts for the back-to-school shopping period. Earlier this month, it launched thousands of new price cuts, including on the 10 most-searched items online, so an assortment of $12.88 backpacks are now $7.

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Sushi showdown: Women challenge one of Japan's male bastions

TOKYO (AP) — Some jobs in Japan, a nation known for its poor record on gender equality, have been off limits to women for ages. The sushi counter, for one.

Sushi is emblematic of Japan's profound cultural influence globally. It has crossed borders, acquiring non-Japanese ingredients such as avocado in the process. That, however, is the limit of the cultural interchange.

Deeply rooted stereotypes such as the so-called "Edo-style" macho demeanor of sushi chefs and belief women's warmer body temperature leads to inferior taste have kept sushi preparation an almost exclusively male domain in Japan.

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Things to know about Social Security at 80: Overhaul time?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Social Security turns 80 on Friday, and the massive retirement and disability program is showing its age.

Social Security's disability fund is projected to run dry next year. The retirement fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035. But once the fund is depleted, the shortfalls projected to be enormous.

The stakes are huge: Nearly 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get monthly Social Security payments, and that number that is projected to grow to 90 million over the next two decades.

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US retail sales rose in July, aided by autos and restaurants

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought more cars, restaurant meals and building supplies in July, a rise in spending that points to steady economic growth anchored by an improving job market.

Retail sales climbed 0.6 percent last month after a flat reading in June, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

July's increase suggests that the combination of solid hiring and cheaper gasoline is contributing to rising consumer confidence and spending after a muted start to 2015. Greater retail sales could help boost overall economic growth because consumer spending accounts for the bulk of U.S. economic activity.

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Monthly average of US jobless claims falls to 15-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — More people sought U.S. unemployment aid last week, but the average for the past month fell to the lowest level in 15 years, a sign that few employers are cutting jobs.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for jobless benefits rose 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000 last week. Yet the four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 1,750 to 266,250, the lowest since April 15, 2000.

The figures indicate that six years after the Great Recession forced 8.5 million layoffs, Americans are enjoying solid job security. Economists note that when adjusted for population growth, the current level of applications is likely at all-time lows.

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US business stockpiles jump in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles in June by the largest amount in more than two years.

Businesses increased their stockpiles by 0.8 percent in June, the biggest increase since January 2013, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Economists are hoping that strong gains in employment over the past year will help boost consumer spending in the months ahead, encouraging businesses to keep building their inventories. If consumer demand doesn't rise, businesses could start cutting back on restocking, which would be a drag on the economy.

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US mortgage debt little changed even as sales, prices rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are buying more homes and at higher prices, yet new data shows that mortgage debt is little changed.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday that outstanding U.S. mortgage debt slipped 0.7 percent in the April-June quarter to $8.12 trillion. That is up slightly from a year ago and about the same level as three years ago when the housing market bottomed.

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Deadly China blast disrupts world's 10th largest port

SHANGHAI (AP) — Explosions that sent huge fireballs through China's Tianjin port have disrupted the flow of cars, oil, iron ore and other items through the world's 10th largest port.

The blast sent shipping containers tumbling into one another, leaving them in bent, charred piles. Rows of new cars, lined up on vast lots for distribution across China, were reduced to blackened carcasses.

Ships carrying oil and "hazardous products" were barred from the port Thursday, the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration said on its official microblog. It also said vessels were not allowed to enter the central port zone, which is near the blast site.

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New Coca-Cola president seen as potential next CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola said Thursday it named company veteran James Quincey as president and chief operating officer, creating a new No. 2 position and potential CEO successor in its chain of command.

The world's largest beverage company said the appointment is effective immediately, and that its operating groups will now report to Quincey. CEO Muhtar Kent said that will free him up to focus on the company's long-term strategy.

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EPA test results show mine spill unleashed highly toxic stew

SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that surface-water testing revealed very high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals as a sickly-yellow plume of mine waste flowed through Colorado.

These metals far exceeded government exposure limits for aquatic life and humans in the hours after the Aug. 5 spill, which sent 3 million gallons of wastewater through three Western states and the Navajo nation.

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Greek government defends bailout deal ahead of vote

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek government defended its new bailout program in tumultuous parliamentary sessions Thursday, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a rebellion in his governing Syriza party ahead of a vote on the deal.

The draft bill for the three-year rescue package worth about 85 billion euros ($93 billion) in loans includes harsh spending cuts and tax hikes that Tsipras has said he has no option but to implement.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial gained 5.74 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,408.25. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,083.39. The Nasdaq composite lost 10.83 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,033.56.

U.S. crude fell $1.07 to close at $42.23, its lowest close since March 3, 2009. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 44 cents to close at $49.22 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to close at $1.714 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.8 cents to close at $1.569 a gallon. Natural gas fell 14.4 cents to close at $2.787 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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