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Why 5.5 per cent unemployment isn’t as great as it seems

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment in the U.S. has dropped to a seven-year low of 5.5 per cent — the level normally considered the mark of a healthy job market. Yet that number isn’t as encouraging as it might sound.

The jobless rate fell in February from 5.7 per cent mainly because many people gave up looking for work and were no longer officially counted among the unemployed, the government reported Friday. What’s more, wage gains remained sluggish last month.

Those trends suggest that the job market, while improving rapidly, isn’t quite as healthy as it looks.

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Dow reshuffle: Apple joins blue-chip index, AT&T gets booted

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple is in. AT&T is out.

In another victory of sorts for the popular and profitable iPhone giant, Apple will replace AT&T in the venerable Dow Jones industrial average on March 19, the manager of the index announced Friday.

The move isn’t likely to impact the 30-stock index much, and will have no effect on the fortunes of the two companies. But market experts say it does have symbolic importance, sort of like getting an Oscar at the Academy Awards — or at least a nomination.

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More want local beef, but fewer want tough job of cutting it

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Kent Weise loves his work, but after 38 years slaughtering cattle, lugging carcasses that can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and slowly, methodically slicing cuts of meat, he understands why few people want to go into the business anymore.

Demand for locally produced beef is surging as never before, but the butchers who for generations have prepared and sold meat to customers and markets are a dwindling profession.

Thousands of butchers are approaching retirement age across the country.

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Lew tells Congress of emergency measures to avoid debt limit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress on Friday that he will start using the package of emergency measures he has used in the past to keep the federal government from going over the debt limit next week.

The debt limit has been suspended for the past year, meaning that Treasury could borrow as much as it needed to keep the government running. But the limit will go back into effect on March 15 at whatever level of debt exists at that point.

The Congressional Budget Office in a report this week estimated that the various measures Lew can employ could put off the date the debt ceiling will have to be raised until October or November.

The nation’s debt currently stands at $18.1 trillion.

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US consumers increased January borrowing by $11.6 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their borrowing in January at the slowest pace in more than a year with borrowing on credit cards actually declining for the second time in the last three months.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer borrowing expanded $11.6 billion in January following a $17.9 billion gain in December. It was the smallest monthly increase since borrowing rose by $8.3 billion in November 2013.

Even though the January increase was more modest than the gains over the past year, it still pushed total borrowing to a fresh record of $3.33 trillion, an increase of 6.9 per cent over the past year.

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US trade deficit in January falls 8.3 pct to $41.8 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit in January dropped sharply as both exports and imports fell.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the deficit fell 8.3 per cent to $41.8 billion in January from $45.6 billion in December. The shrinking trade gap reflected a drop in exports, which fell $5.6 billion to $189.4 billion. Imports fell $9.4 billion to $231.1 billion.

Much of the dip in imports likely came from lower oil prices and a labour dispute that disrupted shipping at West Coast ports. At the same time, the strong dollar that has made American-made goods less affordable abroad is weighing down exports.

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US approves first lower-cost biotech drug

WASHINGTON (AP) — Government health officials on Friday approved the first lower-cost copy of a biotech drug in the U.S., a long-awaited milestone that could save billions for insurers, doctors and patients.

Biotech drugs are powerful, injected medicines produced in living cells. They are typically much more expensive than traditional chemical-based pills.

The Food and Drug Administration approval of Swiss-based Novartis’ version of the blockbuster drug Neupogen paves the way for a new market of quasi-generic biotech medicines. Express Scripts Holding Co., the country’s largest prescription benefit manager, estimates the Novartis drug, named Zarxio, could save the U.S. health system $5.7 billion over the next decade.

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4 members of FDA tobacco panel leave after court ruling

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Four members of Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco advisory panel, including its chairman, have left after a federal judge ruled some of its members had conflicts of interest, the agency said.

Members of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee were rescreened after the court ruling and either resigned or were removed from the panel responsible for advising the agency on tobacco-related issues, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said late Thursday in a statement.

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Casino appeals ruling favouring Trumps in name lawsuit

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Donald Trump won’t rest until his name is off every last vestige of the Atlantic City casino empire he once owned.

The owners of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort on Friday appealed a court order in favour of Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, in a lawsuit seeking to strip their name from the casino.

Trump Entertainment Resorts — which the real estate mogul and reality TV star no longer runs — filed the appeal in U.S. District Court in Delaware of a Feb. 20 ruling enabling the Trumps to move forward with their lawsuit in state court.

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BP signs $12B deal to develop Egypt gas field

CAIRO (AP) — The U.K.-based energy company BP on Friday announced agreements worth $12 billion to develop a major gas field in Egypt, which has been trying to attract foreign investment after four years of unrest.

BP said in a statement that the investment is “a vote of confidence in Egypt’s investment climate.”

The West Nile Delta project aims to produce 5 trillion cubic feet of gas and 55 million barrels of condensate. Production is expected to begin in 2017 and reach up to 1.2 billion cubic feet a day, or about 25 per cent of Egypt’s current production.

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Runways open at LaGuardia after plane that skidded removed

NEW YORK (AP) — The rough landing of a Delta jetliner at LaGuardia Airport in a driving snowstorm just minutes after the runway had been plowed has raised questions about when airports should close runways due to snow or ice.

Six people were hurt when the plane skidded off a runaway at midday Thursday and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest just feet from the roiling waters of an icy bay.

The plane was removed with cranes overnight and taken to a hangar, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport, said Friday.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 278.94 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 17,856.78. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 29.78 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 2,071.26. The Nasdaq composite lost 55.44 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4,927.37.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.15 to close at $49.61 a barrel in New York. Oil finished the week down 25 cents. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 75 cents to close at $59.73 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to close at $1.882 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.8 cents to close at $1.869 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.2 cent to close at $2.839 per 1,000 cubic feet.