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New stock market milestone: Dow 15,000

NEW YORK (AP) — Just two months after recovering the last of its losses from the financial crisis, the Dow Jones industrial average charged higher Tuesday, closing above 15,000 for the first time.

It was another milestone in the market’s epic ascent of 2013. Good economic reports, strong corporate earnings and fresh support from central banks have eased investors’ concerns about another economic slowdown. Many had been on the lookout for signs that a spring swoon would derail the rally, as happened in each of the past three years.

Instead, Wall Street has climbed almost 15 per cent since Jan. 1.

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Microsoft touching up Windows 8 to address gripes

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft is retooling the latest version of its Windows operating system to address complaints and confusion that have been blamed for deepening a slump in personal computer sales.

The tune up announced Tuesday won’t be released to consumers and businesses until later this year. The changes, part of a software package given the codename “Blue,” are a tacit acknowledgment of the shortcomings in Windows 8, a radical overhaul of Microsoft Corp.’s ubiquitous operating system.

With the makeover it released last October, Microsoft hoped to play a more prominent role in the growing mobile device market while still maintaining its dominance in PCs. But Windows 8’s design, which emphasizes interactive tiles and touch controls, seems to have befuddled as many people as it has impressed. One leading research firm, International Data Corp., says Windows 8 contributed to a 14 per cent decline in worldwide PC sales during the first three months of the year — the biggest year-over-year drop ever.

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Bangladesh garment accident death toll passes 700

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Hundreds of survivors of last month’s collapse of a building housing garment factories in Bangladesh protested for compensation Tuesday, as the death toll from the country’s worst-ever industrial disaster passed 700.

The police control room overseeing the recovery operation said the death toll stood at 705 on Tuesday afternoon as workers pulled more bodies out of the wreckage of the eight-story building that was packed with workers at five garment factories when it collapsed on April 24. The factories were making clothing bound for major retailers around the world.

The disaster is the worst ever in the garment sector, surpassing the 1911 garment disaster in New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory, which killed 146 workers, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that killed 112, also in 2012. It is also one of the deadliest industrial accidents ever.

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China’s struggling automakers jump on SUV boom

SHANGHAI (AP) — BYD is known for electric cars but this year’s flagship model is the S7, a gasoline-powered SUV. It comes with an air purifier, radar to help with backing and digital TV. An onboard hard drive can hold 1,000 films.

This is China’s Year of the SUV. Whatever their specialties used to be, automakers ranging from global brands to China’s ambitious rookies are scrambling to cash in on the explosive popularity of sport utility vehicles.

The SUV boom clashes with Beijing’s efforts to push automakers to develop electric cars and to sell smaller vehicles to help curb smog and demand for imported oil. But the SUV’s image of safety appeals to prosperous Chinese drivers who face chaotic city streets while electrics from BYD and other producers struggle to attract buyers.

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US job postings fell in March; hiring slowed

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in March compared with February and slowed overall hiring, underscoring a weak month of job growth.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell 1.4 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million jobs. Total hiring declined 4.3 per cent to 4.3 million.

The unemployed faced heavy competition in March. There were 3.1 unemployed people, on average, for each job opening. That’s above the ratio of 2 to 1 that is typical in a healthy economy.

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Survey: US home prices up 10.5 per cent in past year

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey shows U.S. home prices rose 10.5 per cent in March compared with a year ago, the biggest gain since March 2006.

Core Logic, a real estate data provider, said Tuesday that annual home prices have now increased for 13 straight months. Prices are rising in part because more buyers are bidding on a limited supply of homes for sale.

Prices increased in 46 states over the past year — 11 of them posting double-digit gains. And when excluding distressed sales, which include foreclosures and short sales, prices rose in every state. A short sale is when a home sells for less than what is owed on the mortgage.

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US consumers cut back on credit card use in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans cut back on using their credit cards in March, suggesting many were reluctant to take on high-interest debt to make purchases.

Consumer borrowing rose just $8 billion in March from February to a seasonally adjusted $2.81 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. It was the smallest increase in eight months.

The gain was driven entirely by more loans to attend school and buy cars. The category that measures those loans increased $9.7 billion to $19.6 trillion.

A measure of credit card debt fell $1.7 billion to $846 billion. That’s 17.2 per cent below the peak of $1.022 trillion set in July 2008.

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Pessimism abounds at annual fiscal ‘summit’

WASHINGTON (AP) — On this, some of Washington’s highest-ranking budget players can agree: A “grand bargain” this year to close the nation’s chronic budget deficits seems like a long shot.

That was the consensus at an annual Washington “fiscal summit” thrown by billionaire deficit hawk Pete Peterson, who’s staked $1 billion of his fortune on a foundation aimed at raising public awareness of the dangers of the government’s growing debt.

But barely 100 days into President Barack Obama’s second term — supposedly a time of peak possibility in a divided capital city — a bipartisan squad of Washington’s budget big shots was decidedly downbeat on the chances of following up January’s big tax increase on the wealthy with a follow-up deal.

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Mondelez 1Q profit meets expectations

NEW YORK (AP) — Mondelez reported a first-quarter profit on Tuesday that met Wall Street expectations, as the maker of Oreo cookies raised prices and sold more of its snacks in emerging markets.

The company, which also makes Cadbury chocolate and Trident gum, said it still expects revenue growth for the year to be on the low end of its forecast of 5 to 7 per cent, with a decline in coffee prices and ongoing weakness in the gum category weighing on results. But it raised its outlook for operating earnings, citing tax items.

Mondelez split from Kraft Foods Group Inc. last fall so that each of the companies could concentrate on a more focused stable of brands. Kraft held onto North American grocery staples such as Oscar Mayer, Jell-O and Maxwell House. Mondelez, based in Deerfield, Ill., took global snacks that are expected to grow at faster rate.

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Disney 2Q results beat Street

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Revenue gains at Disney’s parks and movie studio led to a 32 per cent increase in net income during the January-March quarter. The results, which topped analyst expectations Tuesday, showed that the company’s record-setting investments in a new cruise ship and multiple theme park upgrades last year are starting to pay off.

Net income grew to $1.51 billion, or 83 cents per share. Factoring out one-time items, adjusted earnings came to 79 cents per share, beating the 77 cents expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue grew 10 per cent to $10.55 billion, also topping the $10.49 billion expected by analysts.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 15,056.20, up 87.31 points, or 0.6 per cent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 8.46 points to 1,625.96, a gain of 0.5 per cent. The Nasdaq composite rose 3.66 points to 3,396.63, up 0.1 per cent.

Benchmark oil for June delivery fell 54 cents to finish at $95.62 per barrel. Brent crude, which is the benchmark for international oil varieties, fell $1.06 to end at $104.40 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline dropped 3 cents to finish at $2.83 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to end at $2.93 a gallon. Natural gas fell 9 cents to finish at $3.92 per 1,000 cubic feet.