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Business Highlights

Created: 08/04/2014 2:52 AM
By: The Associated Press

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US job growth eases but tops 200K for a 6th month

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sixth straight month of solid 200,000-plus job growth in July reinforced growing evidence that the U.S. economy is accelerating after five years of sluggish expansion.

Employers added 209,000 jobs last month. Though that was fewer than in the previous three months, the economy has now produced an average 244,000 jobs a month since February — the best six-month string in eight years.

At the same time, most economists think the pace of job growth isn't enough to cause the Federal Reserve to speed up its timetable for raising interest rates. Most still think the Fed will start raising rates to ward off inflation around mid-2015.

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US consumer spending up 0.4 percent in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in three months in June, providing momentum for the economy going into the second half of the year.

Consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Commerce Department said Friday. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for two-thirds of economic activity.

Meanwhile, Americans saw earnings rise 0.4 percent in June, matching the May increase. Income growth has lagged in this recovery but has shown recent signs of some acceleration.

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US auto sales rise in July, helped by discounts

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler all saw double-digit sales gains. General Motors' sales were up 9 percent compared with last July, while Hyundai's rose 1.5 percent. Of major automakers, only Honda and Volkswagen saw declines.

It was the best July for the industry since 2006. New vehicle sales rose 9 percent to 1.4 million, according to Autodata Corp.

Automakers typically offer deals in the summer to clear out inventory before cars from the new model year arrive in the fall. But July's discounts were unusually high.

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Concerts on Yahoo make best of music industry struggles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sometimes the struggles of an industry can bring music to your ears. And your screens.

Live Nation's partnership with Yahoo to stream one live concert every day is a rare win for music fans. The series, which began with the Dave Matthews Band in mid-July, offers free, high-quality concert footage in a way that helps the companies providing it, since selling ads is more profitable than concert promotion.

The deal opens up a new revenue stream for Live Nation, which reported second-quarter earnings Thursday that fell short on profit but beat Wall Street's revenue expectations. And for Yahoo, premium video ad prices could be a cure for its plunging display ad rates.

Concerts globally are having a down year as a larger number of big acts sacrifice their own tour dates to play at popular festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, according to an analysis by the trade magazine Pollstar. And while Live Nation's events are doing better than the industry overall, the company takes a tiny slice of concert proceeds even as it invests in improvements to apps and websites to attract more people.

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Procter & Gamble to slim down product lineup

NEW YORK (AP) — Procter & Gamble is about to shrink.

The world's largest consumer products maker said it will jettison more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two, leaving it with about 70 to 80 of its top performers. The maker of CoverGirl, Pampers and Tide declined to specify what exactly it will shed but noted they're smaller brands that collectively account for less than 10 percent of sales.

CEO A.G. Lafley said Procter & Gamble should have made the move long ago.

P&G had already been slimming down in recent years, and the decision to sell or discontinue 90 to 100 more brands — many of them smaller, regional products — comes as Procter & Gamble fights to boost sluggish sales.

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Rare summer relief for gasoline prices

NEW YORK (AP) — The gasoline price roller coaster is running a strange course this summer.

August began with the lowest average gasoline price for this time of year since 2010. Just a few weeks ago, drivers were paying the highest July Fourth gasoline price in six years.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.52 after falling 16 cents over the last month. Prices may continue to slide in early August and post larger drops after Labor Day — as long as there are no hurricanes that halt production in the Gulf Coast or violence in the Middle East that disrupts crude supplies.

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Harley recalls bikes for ignition switch problem

DETROIT (AP) — Ignition switch problems that have plagued General Motors and Chrysler have now turned up in the motorcycle business.

Harley-Davidson is recalling more than 4,500 FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes worldwide because engine vibration can turn the switches from "on" to "accessory."

The recall covers motorcycles from the 2014 ½ model year, including more than 3,300 in the U.S. If the motorcycles have been modified to rev higher than 5,600 RPMs, an engine mount bracket can vibrate excessively, causing the problem.

If the switch goes to "accessory," the engine can shut off while being driven and potentially cause a crash. The company said there have been no crashes or injuries reported from the problem.

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Prosecutor: Peanut plant faked salmonella results

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia peanut plant linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak cut corners and sent fake lab results to customers, endangering consumers nationwide, federal prosecutors said Friday as they opened a rare case seeking criminal punishment for corporate workers over food poisoning.

Peanut Corp. of America "had a huge problem with salmonella in its plant and in the products it produced," Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Dasher told the jury in his opening statement — a two-hour preview of a case that could take months to present. He said the company shipped products that were untested and products that it knew were tainted to customers, including food giant Kellogg's.

Managers employed to run the company's plants failed to do their jobs, leaving former Peanut Corp. owner Stewart Parnell "holding the bag," defense attorney Tom Bondurant told jurors.

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Allergan sues Valeant, claims fraud in buy attempt

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Botox and eye-drug maker Allergan is suing a Canadian drugmaker and a hedge fund over their hostile takeover attempt, alleging insider trading and other fraud before their plan became public.

Allergan Inc.'s lawsuit names as plaintiffs drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., New York investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management LP and its principal, William Ackerman.

Allergan has rejected multiple unsolicited offers from Valeant and Pershing, the latest for more than $53 billion.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 69.93 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,493.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 5.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,925.15. The Nasdaq composite fell 17.13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,352.64.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped 29 cents to $97.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.18 to $104.84. Heating oil fell 2.4 cents to $2.87 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 5.3 cents to $2.74 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 4 cents to $3.80 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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