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Heating costs heading up as cold grips nation

NEW YORK (AP) — The cold is back, and with it, rising heating bills.

This winter was expected to bring much lower bills than last year because it wasn’t supposed to be so darn cold. Homeowners could go a little easier on the thermostat, and less fuel use would offset rising prices for natural gas and electricity, which generates heat for 88 per cent of U.S. households.

Then, descending from the Arctic, came a block of cold air nearly the size of the entire Lower 48. This month is now on track to be the coldest November since 1996.

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Japan’s Abe calls snap election, puts off tax hike

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election for December and put off a sales tax hike planned for next year, seeking a renewed mandate for his all-or-nothing policies to end two decades of economic stagnation.

Despite those policies, the Japanese economy slipped into a recession last quarter after a sales tax increase in April crushed consumer and business spending. That forced Abe to delay the second hike planned for October next year until April 2017.

Abe said Tuesday he will dissolve parliament on Friday. He wants an election as soon as possible, which would be mid-December, to seek public approval for his tax decision and for his overall “Abenomics” policies of extreme monetary easing, heavy government spending and economic reforms. The government and the Bank of Japan have pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy in the two years since Abe was elected.

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Safety agency to push for national air bag recall

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators are demanding that automakers and Takata Corp. expand nationwide a recall of vehicles with certain driver’s side air bags equipped with inflators that can erupt and send metal fragments into the passenger compartment.

Previously, cars with the inflators have been recalled only in areas along the Gulf Coast with high humidity.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s basing its latest decision on an incident that happened outside of those areas.

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Blighted harvest drives olive oil price pressures

BEJA, Portugal (AP) — If your favourite bottle of Mediterranean olive oil starts costing more, blame unseasonable European weather — and tiny insects.

High spring temperatures, a cool summer and abundant rain are taking a big bite out of the olive harvest in some key regions of Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. Those conditions have also helped the proliferation of the olive fly and olive moth, which are calamitous blights.

The shortfall could translate into higher shelf prices for some olive oils and is dealing another blow to southern Europe’s bruised economies as they limp out of a protracted financial crisis.

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Toyota to start sales of fuel cell car next month

TOKYO (AP) — There will only be a few hundred, and they won’t be cheap, but Toyota is about to take its first small step into the unproven market for emissions-free, hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The world’s largest automaker announced Tuesday that it will begin selling fuel cell cars in Japan on Dec. 15 and in the U.S. and Europe in mid-2015. The sporty-looking, four-door Toyota Mirai will retail for 6.7 million yen ($57,600) before taxes. Toyota Motor Corp hopes to sell 400 in Japan and 300 in the rest of the world in the first year.

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Home Depot tops Street; breach costs still hazy

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot’s third-quarter profit rose 14 per cent as comparable-store sales climbed in the U.S., suggesting that a huge data breach announced exactly two months ago has not shaken the faith of its customers.

The nation’s biggest home improvement retailer stuck to its outlook for all of 2014, but said that it could not account for all possible losses from a data breach it revealed in September that affected 56 million debit and credit cards. For now, the company is putting those costs at $28 million pretax for the most recent quarter, and $34 million as it pertains to its guidance for 2014.

Home Depot said Monday during a call with investors that it anticipates a fourth-quarter breach-related expense of about $27 million, but only about $6 million after insurance. The company has a $100 million insurance policy for breach-related expenses, according to Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome.

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Fracking to be permitted in George Washington National Forest

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Environmentalists and energy boosters alike welcomed a federal compromise announced Tuesday that will allow fracking in the largest national forest in the eastern United States, but make most of its woods off-limits to drilling.

The decision was highly anticipated because about half of the George Washington National Forest sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, a vast underground deposit of natural gas that runs from upstate New York to West Virginia and yields more than $10 billion in gas a year.

The federal management plan reverses an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing that the U.S. Forest Service had proposed in 2011 for the 1.1 million-acre forest, which includes the headwaters of the James and Potomac rivers. Those rivers feed the Chesapeake Bay, which is the focus of a multibillion-dollar, multistate restoration directed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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US producer prices rise 0.2 per cent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation picked up in October due to higher prices that U.S. companies received for new model cars, beef, pork, pharmaceuticals and electric power.

The producer price index increased 0.2 per cent in October from the previous month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The index measures the cost of goods and services before they reach the consumer.

Prices for many products climbed even as wholesale gas costs plummeted 5.8 per cent last month. Automakers contributed to inflation by introducing 2015 car models, with the Labor Department adjusting its producer prices report each October to address the improved quality. Beef prices jumped 6 per cent and pork prices surged 8.1 per cent.

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US homebuilder sentiment rallies in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders’ confidence rebounded in November as both sales expectations and buyer traffic improved.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index rose to 58 this month, up from 54 in October. That puts the index just short of September’s reading of 59, which was the highest level since November 2005, shortly before the housing bubble burst.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.

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Nokia plots comeback with Android tablet

HELSINKI (AP) — Nokia is back in the fray.

Just months after selling its ailing handsets business to Microsoft, the Finnish company is planning to go back into the consumer market with a new tablet.

The former top mobile phone maker, which has a history of reinventing itself since it began as a paper maker in the 19th century, said Tuesday it will launch a 7.9-inch device early next year in China, the world’s biggest market, before selling it elsewhere.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average gained 40.07 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,687.82. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.48 points, or 0.5 per cent, to close at 2,051.80. The Nasdaq composite climbed 31.44 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,702.44.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.03, or 1.4 per cent, to $74.61. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 84 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $78.47. Wholesale gasoline added 1.7 cents to $2.043 a gallon. Heating oil dropped 2.3 cents to $2.381 a gallon. Natural gas fell 9.7 cents, or 2.2 per cent, to $4.244 per 1,000 cubic feet.