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Deal lifts markets but does little for US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The budget agreement Congress reached Wednesday cheered investors and removed the threat of a catastrophic debt default that could have triggered another recession.

Yet the temporary nature of the deal means a cloud will remain over a sluggish U.S. economy that was further slowed by the government’s partial shutdown.

Political fights over taxing and spending will persist over the next few months. The risk of another government shutdown and doubts about the government’s borrowing authority remain. Businesses and consumers may still spend and invest at the same cautious pace they have since the Great Recession officially ended more than four years ago.

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Stocks surge after Senate reaches deal on US debt

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street finally got the deal it’s been waiting for.

A last-minute agreement to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt and reopen the government sent the stock market soaring Wednesday, pushing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index close to a record high.

On Wednesday, Senate leaders agreed to fund the government through Jan. 15 and extend government borrowing through Feb. 7.

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GM boosts prices as pickup truck battle rages

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is adding a twist to the fight for supremacy in the red-hot U.S. pickup truck market: It’s raising prices.

GM is adding almost $2,100 to the sticker price of the base 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. That’s 8.5 per cent above the price when the truck hit showrooms in the spring. Other versions of the Silverado, as well as the GMC Sierra, will see similar percentage increases.

Raising prices sounds like an odd way to boost sales. But industry analysts suspect it’s a marketing ploy. They expect GM to raise incentives starting next month so dealers can advertise big discounts. Customers will feel they’re getting a deal — whether they do or not depends on the size of the discount.

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Microsoft releasing Windows 8.1, a year in making

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft is releasing its long-awaited Windows 8.1 upgrade as a free download starting Thursday. It addresses some of the gripes people have had with Windows 8, the dramatically different operating system that attempts to bridge the divide between tablets and PCs.

Windows 8.1 still features the dual worlds that Windows 8 created when it came out last October. On one hand, it features a touch-enabled tile interface resembling what’s found in tablet computers. On the other, there’s the old desktop mode where the keyboard and mouse still reign. The update adds some new finger- and gesture-friendly shortcuts for touch-based apps, while restoring some respect for the desktop mode that a billion PC users have become accustomed to.

The release comes as sales of traditional desktop and laptop computers continue to decline because consumers are spending money instead on the latest smartphones and tablets. It also comes at a time of transition for Microsoft as the Redmond, Wash., company focuses on devices and services, not just software. Earlier this month, Microsoft struck a deal to acquire Nokia’s phone business and patent rights for more than $7 billion. Microsoft is also searching for a new CEO to replace Steven A. Ballmer, who announced last month that he plans to retire within the next year.

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JPMorgan pays $100 million, admits fault in London trades

WASHINGTON (AP) — JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to pay a $100 million penalty and admitted that its traders acted “recklessly” during a series of London trades that ultimately cost the bank $6 billion.

The settlement announced Wednesday by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission comes less than a month after JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, agreed to pay $920 million and admit fault in a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other U.S. and British regulators.

The stunning trading losses that surfaced in April 2012 shook the financial world and damaged JPMorgan’s reputation. The CFTC deal differs from the previous agreement because JPMorgan is formally acknowledging that its traders recklessly distorted prices to reduce the banks’ losses at the expense of other market participants. In the SEC agreement, JPMorgan admitted only that it failed to supervise those traders.

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US builder confidence dips amid budget impasse

U.S. homebuilders are feeling less confident in the housing market, reflecting their uncertainty over the budget impasse in Washington.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday fell to 55 in October. That’s down from a reading of 57 in September. September’s reading was revised one point lower from its initial estimate.

Measures of current sales conditions for single-family homes, builders’ outlook over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers all declined in October.

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Fed: Growth slows in places on shutdown worries

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said economic growth slowed in a few key regions of the United States from September through early October, as businesses grew worried about a budget impasse that led to a partial government shutdown.

Overall, the economy continued to expand at a “modest to moderate” pace, according to the Fed survey released Wednesday. Eight of the Fed’s 12 banking districts reported the same growth rate as they had reported in August through early September. But four districts — Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago and Kansas City — said growth had slowed.

Businesses around the country remained optimistic about the future and consumer spending continued to increase, helped by strong auto sales. But many businesses noted greater uncertainty because of the federal shutdown, which began on Oct. 1, and a looming deadline to raise federal borrowing limit.

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Washington state approves rules for pot industry

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington became the second U.S. state to adopt rules for the recreational sale of marijuana Wednesday, setting what advocates hope will become a template for the drug’s legalization around the world.

Washington and Colorado last year legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21, with voters deciding to set up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and sellers. The measures put state officials in the difficult position of crafting rules for a fledgling industry barred by federal law for more than seven decades.

The liquor board devised Washington’s rules after nearly a year of research, debate and planning, including public hearings that drew hundreds of people around the state. They cover everything from the security at and size of licensed marijuana gardens, to how many pot stores can open in cities across the state.

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Bank of America Q3 profit up sharply

Third-quarter profit for Bank of America Corp., the second-largest U.S. bank, surged as it saw increases from investments and interest charged on loans.

Net income jumped to $2.5 billion in the July-September period, up from $340 million a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were 20 cents beating the 19 cents expected by financial analysts.

Third-quarter revenue slipped to $22.2 billion from $22.5 billion, coming in close to the analysts’ forecast of $22 billion.

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PepsiCo’s profit edges up on snacks; drinks falter

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans are gobbling up more of PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks. As for the company’s sodas, customers are apparently less enthusiastic.

That’s the quandary for PepsiCo Inc., the soda and snack maker that also owns Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Tropicana and Quaker Oats. Although the company’s Cheetos, Doritos and other snacks dominate supermarket shelves, its North American drinks unit has perennially played second fiddle to the world’s No. 1 beverage maker, Coca-Cola.

That story line played out yet again in the company’s third quarter, with PepsiCo reporting a better-than-expected profit as stronger snack sales helped offset a 4 per cent volume decline for the North American drinks unit.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial climbed 205.82 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 15,373.83. The S&P 500 gained 23.48, or 1.4 per cent, at 1,721.54. The Nasdaq composite climbed 45.42, or 1.2 per cent, to 3,839.43.

Benchmark crude for November delivery gained $1.08, or 1.1 per cent, to close at $102.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude’s December contract, the benchmark used to set prices for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries gained 90 cents to $110.86 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to $2.70 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.77 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil gained 2 cents to $3.04 a gallon.