Business Highlights

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For US, shutdown embarrasses but damage won’t last

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s going to take a lot more political bungling to do any permanent damage to America’s reputation or wreck its financial markets.

The U.S. government’s partial shutdown and a near-miss with a debt default were a worldwide embarrassment that distracted political leaders and likely slowed the economy.

Yet the world still runs on U.S. dollars. Foreign investors still see Treasury debt as the safest place to put their money. And foreign companies still view the United States as an ideal place to do business.

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How government shutdown squeezed corners of US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The full economic effect of the 16-day partial government shutdown will take months to tally. But it’s already clear it left its footprints in key areas of the economy.

Spending at chain retail stores fell 0.7 per cent last week. Mortgage applications dropped 5 per cent. Auto sales slumped about 2 per cent.

Overall, the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion, according to Beth Ann Bovino, an economist at Standard & Poor’s. That’s why she’s cut her forecast for growth in the October-December quarter to a 2.4 per cent annual rate from an earlier estimate of 3 per cent. Other economists have also downgraded their outlooks.

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As US demographics change, so does the menu

MIAMI (AP) — Salsa overtaking ketchup as America’s No. 1 condiment was just the start.

These days, tortillas outsell burger and hot dog buns; sales of tortilla chips trump potato chips; and tacos and burritos have become so ubiquitously “American,” most people don’t even consider them ethnic.

Welcome to the taste of American food in 2013.

As immigrant and minority populations rewrite American demographics, the nation’s collective menu is reflecting this flux, as it always has. And it goes beyond the mainstreaming of once-esoteric ethnic ingredients, something we’ve seen with everything from soy sauce to jalapenos.

This is a rewrite of the American menu at the macro level, an evolution of whole patterns of how people eat. The difference this time? The biggest culinary voting bloc is Hispanic.

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Google’s 3Q earnings rise 36 per cent, stock surges

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google’s earnings climbed 36 per cent despite a deepening slump in its average ad prices as advertisers purchase a growing number of cheaper commercial pitches to reach people who connect to its search engine and other services on mobile devices.

The results released Thursday exceeded the analyst projections that steer investors. Google’s stock surged by more than 6 per cent after the numbers came out.

Google Inc. earned nearly $3 billion, or $8.75 per share, during the three months ending in September. That compared to income of $2.2 billion, or $6.53 per share, at the same time last year.

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Verizon 3Q profit soars as number of devices grows

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon’s third-quarter net income jumped 40 per cent to beat Wall Street expectations as it continued to add more wireless devices to its network.

The country’s largest cellphone carrier earned $2.23 billion, or 78 cents per share, up from $1.59 billion, or 56 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2012. Excluding one-time items, the company posted an adjusted profit of 77 cents per share for the recent quarter.

Revenue rose 4 per cent to $30.28 billion from $29.01 billion.

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Live events proving worth for networks

NEW YORK (AP) — Television executives are looking for more than hot actors these days. They’re searching for the next Nik Wallenda.

With ratings for Wallenda’s tightrope walks across Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon in mind, networks are taking meetings from people pitching programs about cars flipping over, or an attempt to set a record for simultaneous skydives. They’re all on the hunt for the next big event.

Social media and television’s economic system have given rise to a counterintuitive trend: The more opportunities there are for people to watch TV on their own time with DVRs and video on demand, the more valuable programming that can deliver a big live audience has become.

It’s not just stunts. Live sports, awards shows, singing competitions and the Olympics are all examples of programs that networks consider DVR-proof.

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US unemployment aid applications drop to 358,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Applications for US unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 last week, though the figure was distorted for the second straight week by California’s efforts to clear backlogged claims.

The partial government shutdown also likely boosted the total, as government contractors and other businesses furloughed employees. The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose 11,750 to 336,500.

Applications have jumped in the past two weeks, distorted by computer upgrades in two states and the 16-day shutdown. Prior to those unusual factors, claims had reached pre-recession levels, a sign that companies are cutting very few workers.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.28 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose slightly this week, staying near three-month lows. Rates could fall next week now that lawmakers reached a deal to avert a possible government debt default and reopen the federal government.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.28 per cent from 4.23 per cent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan edged up to 3.33 per cent from 3.31 per cent.

Mortgage rates began falling last month after the Federal Reserve held off slowing its $85-billion-a-month in bond purchases. The bond buys are intended to keep longer-term interest rates low, including mortgage rates. And rates stayed relatively low during the 16-day partial government shutdown.

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UN sees mercury use phase-out within 3 decades

GENEVA (AP) — A new global treaty could eliminate within three decades the commercial use of mercury in everything from batteries, paints and skin-lightening creams to utility plants and small-scale gold mining, the head of the U.N.’s environment agency said Thursday.

Achim Steiner, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, describes the Minamata Convention on Mercury as a major game-changer for a naturally occurring element that — once released into the environment through an industrial process — tends to accumulate in fish and work up the food chain.

The agreement still needs ratification by dozens of countries, and includes a concession to nations with small-scale gold mining — one of the biggest sources of pollution.

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Toyota recalls 803,000 US vehicles for air bag defect

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is recalling 803,000 vehicles in the U.S. because their air bags or power steering could stop working.

The Camry and Camry hybrid, Avalon and Avalon hybrid and Venza from the 2012 and 2013 model years are affected.

Toyota says water from the air conditioning condenser can leak onto the air bag control module and cause a short circuit. That could illuminate the air bag warning light, disable the air bag or cause the air bags to deploy inadvertently.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down two points, or 0.01 per cent, to 15,371.65. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11.61 points, or 0.7 per cent, to close at 1,733.15 — a record close. The Nasdaq composite closed up 23.71 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,863.15.

Benchmark crude for November delivery slid as low as $100.03 before recovering a bit to close with a loss of $1.62, or 1.6 per cent, to $100.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude’s December contract, the benchmark used to set prices for international crudes, dropped $1.20, or 1.1 per cent, to $109.39 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline dropped 5 cents to $2.65 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cents to $3.76 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 5 cents to $2.99 a gallon.

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