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Trans-Pacific trade deal: Economic bonanza or job killer?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is negotiating an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific Rim countries that’s meant to ease barriers to fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets and streamline customs rules that can bedevil exporters like Hardware Sales.

Yet the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is also stirring opposition. Critics say it will destroy U.S. jobs, allow multinational corporations to sidestep laws they don’t like and let drug companies use stricter patent protections to drive drug prices beyond the reach of patients in poor countries.

The trade accord is one of the few things President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress seem to agree on. Visiting Tokyo last month, Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who leads the House Ways and Means Committee, predicted that Congress would vote this spring to empower the president to negotiate trade deals like TPP and send them to Congress for an up-or-down vote — no nitpicking allowed.

The 12 countries involved have been negotiating this week in Hawaii and appear to be moving toward a deal.

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Oil is on its way down again; will gasoline prices follow?

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil is tumbling again, rattling an already-shaken oil industry and heralding lower prices for consumers.

The price of oil fell 10 per cent this week, approaching its lowest price in six years. Many expect it to fall further in the coming weeks because supplies are rising and the summer driving season is still months away.

The lower crude prices will mean gasoline prices will slide lower in the coming weeks, and many drivers will likely pay under $2 a gallon in the summertime for the first time since 2004.

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Toyota drives onto Olympic stage in record sponsorship deal

TOKYO (AP) — The world’s biggest automaker is driving onto the world’s biggest sports stage.

Toyota Motor Corp. signed on as a global Olympic sponsor Friday in a landmark deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion, becoming the first car company to join the IOC’s top-tier marketing program.

The eight-year deal underlines Asia’s growing influence in the Olympics, bolsters the IOC’s long-term financial security and gives Toyota a worldwide platform that shuts out rival auto manufacturers.

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US at odds with Google on computer search-warrant proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department proposal that could make locating and hacking into computers that are part of criminal investigations easier is raising constitutional concerns from privacy groups and Google, who fear the plan could have broad implications.

Federal prosecutors say their search warrant proposal is needed at a time when computer users are committing crimes in online anonymity while concealing their locations. But civil libertarians fear the rule change, under consideration by a federal advisory committee, would grant the government expansive new powers to reach into computers across the country.

The proposal would change existing rules of criminal procedure that, with limited exceptions, permit judges to approve warrants for property searches only in the districts where they serve. The government says those rules are outdated in an era when child pornographers, drug traffickers and others can mask their whereabouts on computer networks that offer anonymity. Such technology can impede or thwart efforts to pinpoint a suspect’s geographic location.

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US wholesale prices down for fourth straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wholesale prices fell for a fourth straight month in February as a decline in food prices offset an increase in gasoline prices.

The Labor Department said Friday its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, dropped 0.5 per cent in February. The figure follows a 0.8 per cent fall in January, which had been a record decline in a government series that goes back to 2009.

Core producer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, also fell 0.5 per cent during the month. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have shed 0.6 per cent while core prices have climbed a modest 1 per cent.

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Autonomous car prepares for 3,500-mile US road trip

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (AP) — Call it a preview of the cross-country road trip of the future.

An autonomous car developed by Michigan-based auto supplier Delphi Automotive will soon be making a 3,500-mile journey across the U.S. A person will sit behind the wheel at all times but won’t touch it unless there’s a situation the car can’t handle. The car will mainly stick to highways.

Companies both inside and outside the auto industry are experimenting with technologies that take more and more responsibilities away from the driver — right up to the act of actually driving the car. Most experts say a true driverless vehicle is at least a decade away.

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Lawsuit that showed GM hid ignition switch problem settled

DETROIT (AP) — A Georgia lawsuit that helped expose General Motors’ failure to disclose a deadly defect in small-car ignition switches has been settled out of court for a second time.

Lawyers representing the parents of crash victim Brooke Melton announced the settlement Friday morning, but did not reveal terms.

Engineers hired by lawyers working for Ken and Beth Melton found that GM modified the switches after finding problems, but failed to disclose that in legal depositions or to government safety investigators. Later, congressional staffers found GM documents showing the company knew about switch problems for a decade, yet it failed to recall the cars until last year.

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Kia to recall some Soul SUVs; gas pedals can bend or break

DETROIT (AP) — Kia is recalling nearly 209,000 Soul small SUVs because the gas pedals can bend or break.

The recall covers certain Soul and Soul electric vehicles from the 2014 and 2015 model years.

If the gas pedal bends or breaks, it can be hard to accelerate the SUVs, increasing the risk of a crash.

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Lumber Liquidators exec: Will still sell China-made flooring

NEW YORK (AP) — The founder and chairman of Lumber Liquidators said Friday that the retailer currently has no plans to stop selling laminate flooring made in China, even as it continues to face fallout from a “60 Minutes” report that questioned the safety of such laminates.

The “60 Minutes” report earlier this month said that Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring made in China contained high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. The report said Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring fell short of California’s standards. The company denies that, and says it complies with all regulations for its products.

In a telephone interview with CNBC Friday, Lumber Liquidators founder and Chairman Tom Sullivan said that there are certain laminates that China is better at. With the attention the “60 Minutes” report has drawn to the China-made laminates, Sullivan said the market will determine if Lumber Liquidators continues to sell such laminates in the future.

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FDA: 3 people die from foodborne illness linked to ice cream

DALLAS (AP) — Officials say three people have died after developing a foodborne illness linked to Blue Bell ice cream products.

That prompted the first product recall in the Texas creamery’s 108-year history. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says five people in all developed listeriosis in Kansas after eating products from one production line at the Blue Bell creamery in Brenham, Texas.

The FDA says listeria bacteria were found in samples of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Cotton Candy Bars, Scoops, Vanilla Stick Slices, Almond Bars and No Sugar Added Moo Bars.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 145.91 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 17,749.31. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 12.55 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2,053.40. The Nasdaq composite fell 21.53 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,871.76.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.21 to close at $44.84 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.41 to close at $54.67 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 4.8 cents to close at $1.762 a gallon, heating oil fell 6.6 cents to close at $1.713 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.7 cents to close at $2.727 per 1,000 cubic feet.