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Why US economic growth has disappointed this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Like an underachieving student, the U.S. economy isn’t living up to the high hopes it began the year with.

Consumers have been uncharacteristically frugal, even as the country added jobs and a sharp drop in gas prices over the past year left them more money to spend. Meanwhile, drilling companies reeling from cheaper oil have slashed spending much more rapidly than anyone expected.

A host of other, mostly temporary, factors have also weighed on growth. Harsh winter weather kept shoppers at home, and a labour dispute at West Coast ports slowed exports.

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Stubborn GE scientist creates new fuel-saving material

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. (AP) — For nearly three decades Krishan Luthra stubbornly laboured away in a General Electric research lab on a long-shot effort to cook up a new type of ceramic that few consumers will ever see or use.

Now this obscure material, which is lightweight, strong and can handle extreme temperatures, is being built into the bellies of jet engines and promises to save billions of gallons of fuel in the coming decades by reducing weight and allowing engines to run hotter.

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In land of fakes, Chinese e-commerce giant sells trust

BEIJING (AP) — Before he became a billionaire in e-commerce, Richard Liu was a failure.

As a student, Liu started a restaurant in Beijing but went bankrupt. He blames employees who he said stole from him, and when he took a second stab at business by opening an electronics store in 1998, Liu insisted on honesty. After seeing other shops overcharge customers and pass off counterfeit goods, he says he sold only genuine merchandise.

After Liu went online in 2003 and expanded into selling home appliances, clothing and other goods, that focus on reliability helped his company, JD.com, grow into China’s biggest Internet-based direct retailer.

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The bid for Avon that apparently was not

NEW YORK (AP) — Avon said it had received no takeover offers Thursday after a purported $8 billion bid for the company filed with federal regulators led to three halts in the trading of its shares.

Avon said it can’t confirm that the company calling itself PTG Capital Partners exists. Calls to the company, which claimed London as its headquarters in the filing, went unanswered.

Shares of Avon jumped as much as 20 per cent after the filing appeared on the website used by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a regulator that oversees stock markets. The stock gave up much of that gain shortly thereafter.

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Now seeking White House, Fiorina’s CEO tenure was stormy

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In her quest for the Republican presidential nomination, former tech CEO Carly Fiorina boasts about her experience running Silicon Valley computer-maker Hewlett-Packard as evidence that she’s “a problem solver, with a track record to prove it.”

What her campaign literature doesn’t highlight is that she was fired from that job in 2005, after a stormy tenure.

Fiorina has blamed her ouster on a sudden showdown with HP directors, but most of her six years as CEO were contentious. She cut more than 30,000 jobs and undertook a massive merger with rival Compaq, which sparked a messy battle with the families of HP’s founders. The company missed some key financial targets and, from her hiring to her firing, its stock price fell more than 50 per cent.

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Senate puts trade bill back on track

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a burst of bipartisanship, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate put President Barack Obama’s trade agenda back on course on Thursday, clearing the way for likely approval within days of legislation allowing the administration to negotiate global deals that Congress could support or reject but not change.

The 65-33 vote to resurrect the measure capped two days of political intrigue in which Democrats on both sides of the legislation initially joined forces to block action, then reached agreement with Republicans for votes on other enforcement measures to protect workers who lose jobs as a result of exports

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Monthly average of unemployment claims falls to 15-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits ticked lower last week, pushing down the four-week average of applications to its lowest level since April 2000.

Weekly applications fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is just above a 15-year low reached three weeks ago. The average, a less volatile figure, dropped 7,750 to 271,750, the lowest in 15 years.

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US producer prices fall in April; food, energy costs drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sharp drop in the cost of gasoline and food pushed down overall U.S. producer prices in April.

The Labor Department said Thursday that its producer price index fell 0.4 per cent last month after rising 0.2 per cent in March. But even excluding volatile food and energy categories, the core index slipped 0.2 per cent last month, brought down in part by lower shipping costs.

The index measures prices of goods and services before they reach consumers.

Over the past year, wholesale prices have dropped 1.3 per cent, the most since Labor revamped the index in late 2010.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage up for 3rd straight week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates are up for the third straight week.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.85 per cent this week from 3.80 per cent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.07 per cent from 3.02 per cent. Both rates were the highest since mid-March.

Still, mortgage rates remain low by historic standards. A year ago, the 30-year rate was 4.20 per cent and the 15-year was 3.29 per cent.

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New Takata air bag recall brings total to over 33 million

TOKYO (AP) — A massive new recall from Honda of vehicles with Takata air bags Thursday has brought the total recalls for the potentially deadly devices to more than 33 million.

Honda Motor Co. recalled an additional 4.89 million vehicles around the world for a new type of problem in Takata Corp. air bag inflators, a day after Japanese rivals Toyota and Nissan announced similar recalls. The new wave of recalls adds to what was already one of the largest recalls ever for a defective part.

Honda has been the automaker hardest hit by the recalls. With Thursday’s announcement, the air-bag recalls have hit 19.6 million Honda vehicles.

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Retailers dealing with myriad of issues

NEW YORK (AP) — While investors may be unnerved by the broad sell-off in the retail sector Thursday, a closer look at the industry shows it may merely be contending with issues it’s dealt with for quite some time.

A range of retail shares, including Kohl’s Corp., J.C. Penney Co. and Target Corp., are falling as most other markets were posting gains. The sell-off comes a day after the Commerce Department reported that retail sales were unchanged in April after rising 1.1 per cent in March. But sales have edged up 0.9 per cent over the past year amid numerous factors weighing on the sector.

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USDA creates new government certification for GMO-free

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

USDA’s move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The certification is the first of its kind, would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 191.75 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 18,252.24. The S&P 500 index gained 22.62 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 2,121.10. The Nasdaq composite added 69.10 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 5,050.80.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 62 cents to close at $59.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 22 cents to close at $66.59 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.7 cents to close at $2.058 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.1 cent to close at $2.006 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7.3 cents to close at $3.008 per 1,000 cubic feet.