Business Highlights

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Transcripts show Fed at times slow to grasp crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve agonized in 2008 over how far to go to stop a financial crisis that threatened to cause a recession and at times struggled to recognize its speed and magnitude.

The Fed on Friday released hundreds of pages of transcripts covering its meetings during 2008 — the most tumultuous period of the crisis. This includes the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the fateful decision to let investment bank Lehman Brothers collapse and the bailout of insurer American International Group.

For all its aggressive steps in 2008, the transcripts show the Fed failing at times to grasp the size of the catastrophe. Bernanke and his top lieutenants often expressed puzzlement that they weren’t managing to calm panicky investors.

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How Ukraine’s economic decay fueled protests

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The battle in Kyiv is largely a fight for the country’s economic future.

Ukraine’s protesters want to pry their country away from Russian influence and move closer to the European Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine sank in a swamp of corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia.

Protests broke out in November after President Viktor Yanukovich backed out of signing an agreement with the EU that would have brought the economy closer in line with European standards. After violent protests resulted in scores of deaths, the government and the opposition signed an agreement on Friday.

It is unclear whether it will succeed in providing a stable government that can heal the rifts and improve the economy.

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Mexico to trump Japan as No. 2 car exporter to US

CELAYA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico is on track to become the United States’ top source of imported cars by the end of next year, overtaking Japan and Canada in a manufacturing boom.

The boom is raising hopes that Mexico can create enough new jobs to pull millions out of poverty as northbound migration slows sharply, but critics caution that most of the new car jobs are low-skill and pay too little.

Mexico’s low and stagnant wages have helped kept the poverty rate between 40 and 50 per cent since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement two decades ago.

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US home sales plunged 5.1 per cent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of existing U.S. homes plummeted in January to the worst pace in 18 months.

Cold weather, limited supplies of homes on the market and higher buying costs held back purchases.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million units last month. That was down 5.1 per cent from the December pace. The sales rate declined 5.1 per cent over the previous 12 months.

The flagging sales suggest a deceleration from the momentum for much of 2013, when 5.09 million homes were sold, the most in seven years.

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FDA looks to reboot nonprescription drug system

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is looking to revamp its system for regulating hundreds of over-the-counter drugs, saying the decades-old process is not flexible enough to keep pace with modern medical developments.

In a federal posting Friday, the agency announced a two-day meeting next month to discuss overhauling the system.

Regulators have acknowledged that the process has proven extremely time-consuming and leaves many common pain relievers, cough medicines and even sunscreen formulas technically under review. The system also is unable to address the need to quickly add warning labels about emerging safety risks.

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Widespread weather delays cap lousy travel week

DALLAS (AP) — In a fitting end to a miserable week for travellers, airlines have cancelled more than 1,200 flights and another 6,000 are running late.

The airlines blamed storms along the East Coast and high winds in the country’s interior on Friday.

At New York’s LaGuardia Airport and in Philadelphia, about one-fourth of flights were scrubbed and many more delayed. At O’Hare Airport in Chicago, where there was a high-wind advisory, nearly one-third of takeoffs were late.

This week, 6,000 flights have been cancelled and 35,000 delayed, according to FlightAware. That’s a record since the government started keeping track in 1987-1988. And there’s still a month of winter left.

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Under Armour extends speedskating suit deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Athletic gear maker Under Armour Inc. has signed an eight-year deal with U.S. Speedskating to provide uniforms despite controversy over the suit it provided the team at the Sochi Olympics.

Under Armour spent years developing a new speedskating suit that debuted during the Olympics but flopped. U.S. speedskaters didn’t medal and some blamed the suit. The team reverted to an older Under Armour suit, but results have not yet improved.

The company said Friday it is ready to try again and will outfit the U.S. speedskating team for the next two Winter Olympics.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 29.93 points, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 16,103.30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 3.53 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,836.25. The Nasdaq composite dropped 4.13 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,263.41.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery fell 55 cents to close at $102.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.8 cents to close at $3.003 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7.1 cents to close at $6.135 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 4.4 cents to close at $3.039 a gallon. Brent crude, a benchmark used to set prices for international varieties of crude used by many U.S. refineries, was down 45 cents to close at $109.85 a barrel in London.

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