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Business Highlights

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Cheaper oil buoys consumers, hammers producers

DALLAS (AP) — Oil prices have been lower for longer than expected. Now, with OPEC’s decision to keep pumping at current levels, analysts expect oil to remain relatively cheap well into 2016 and maybe longer.

That, of course, is good news for consumers and fuel-guzzling industries like airlines, but oil producers are being squeezed and thousands of workers in the oil patch have been laid off.

The price of a barrel of oil fell Monday to $37.65, a nearly seven-year low. Energy stocks, from giants Exxon and Chevron down to independent producers, took a beating.

What’s causing the upheaval? Simply put, supply and demand are out of synch, and that’s causing ripples across economies, creating winners and losers.

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Keurig, maker of single-cup coffee machines, is being sold

NEW YORK (AP) — Keurig, the maker of single-cup coffee machines sitting on millions of kitchen counters, agreed to sell itself Monday for almost $14 billion to JAB Holding Co., a private company with a growing java business.

JAB Holding said Keurig will operate independently and remain in its headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont.

The Luxembourg-based company has a controlling stake in Jacobs Douwe Egberts, the company behind Gevalia, Tassimo and many other brands. It also has stakes in Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee.

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Apple Maps, once a laughingstock, now dominates iPhones

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple Maps quickly became the butt of jokes when it debuted in 2012. It overlooked many towns and businesses and misplaced famous landmarks. It’s a different story three years later.

Apple fixed errors as users submitted them. It quietly bought several mapping companies, mostly for their engineers and other talent. This fall, it added transit directions for several major cities, narrowing a major gap with Google.

Apple Maps is now used more widely than Google Maps on iPhones.

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Grocery chains leave food deserts barren, AP analysis finds

ST. LOUIS (AP) — As part of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, a group of major food retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in and around neighbourhoods with no supermarkets by 2016. By their own count, they’re far short.

Moreover, an analysis of federal food stamp data by The Associated Press reveals that the nation’s largest chains — not just those involved in the first lady’s group — have since built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighbourhoods where they’re needed most.

The AP’s research demonstrates that major grocers overwhelmingly avoid America’s food deserts instead of trying to turn a profit in high-poverty areas.

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From food to makeup, ‘Star Wars’ stuff is out of this world

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Right now, in a store not too far away, there is a galaxy of new merchandise connected to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The seventh installment in the space franchise boasts a broader array of branded products than ever before. Expanding the universe of “Star Wars” merchandise internationally was part of Disney’s original vision when it acquired Lucasfilm.

The result is an amazingly diverse range of branded items, from the unexpected (light-up lightsaber chopsticks) to the unbelievable (haute couture Stormtrooper wear). International offerings have grown in scope and distinction, too, with local licensees and artisans interpreting the iconic characters for their cultures.

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US consumer credit rises $16 billion in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers borrowed more heavily for auto and student loans in October, taking out debt that helps them find jobs and commute to work.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that consumer borrowing rose $16 billion in October to $3.5 trillion. But the pace of borrowing decelerated sharply from the $28.5 billion increase in September.

Nearly all of the October gain came from the category that covers auto and student loans, while credit card borrowing edged up a mere $200 million. The increase suggests that more Americans are borrowing to improve their educational skills and upgrade their cars and trucks, instead of relying on debt to fund their daily shopping and emergency expenses.

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Regulators move to stop Staples’ deal with Office Depot

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it is seeking to block the proposed combination of Staples and Office Depot because the deal would reduce competition in the office supplies market. The companies said they plan to fight to preserve the deal.

The FTC says a deal between Staples and Office Depot would cut competition and lead to higher prices. The decision comes 10 months after Staples offered to buy rival Office Depot for $6.3 billion.

Staples and Office Depot said they plan to show that the FTC’s decision is based on “a flawed analysis and misunderstanding” of the competitive landscape the companies deal with.

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GE scraps $3.3 billion appliance home sale to Electrolux

GE has scrapped a $3.3 billion plan to sell its home appliance business to the Swedish company Electrolux, a deal opposed by U.S. regulators over concerns about competition.

The Fairfield, Connecticut, conglomerate said that it will continue to run the business as it looks for other options to sell it. General Electric Co. offered no reason for its decision in a brief statement released Monday.

Electrolux is the world’s second-biggest home appliance maker after U.S. rival Whirlpool.

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California newest airport terminal extends to Mexico

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S.-Mexico border will soon be one of the world’s only boundaries with an airport straddling two countries.

An investor group that includes Chicago billionaire Sam Zell built a sleek terminal in San Diego with a bridge that crosses a razor-wire border fence to Tijuana’s decades-old airport. Passengers pay $18 to walk a 390-foot overpass to Tijuana International Airport, a springboard to about 30 Mexican destinations.

The terminal is targeting the estimated 60 per cent of Tijuana airport passengers who cross into the United States, about 2.6 million travellers last year.

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As world debates climate, Czechs embrace heavy pollutant

CSA MINE, Czech Republic (AP) — While world leaders try to reach a deal to limit climate change, one of the most polluting fossil fuels — brown coal — is enjoying a revival in the Czech Republic.

It is one of a group of countries that is turning to coal, a cheap but dirty energy source, as its economy slows. The Czech variety, called brown coal or lignite, is a particularly bad source of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

Still, the Czech government approved an increase to mining limits of brown coal in the northwest of the country with support from the president, labour unions and regional leaders and against the protests of environmentalists and local citizens.

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PIMCO hires Bernanke, Jean Claude-Trichet to advisory board

NEW YORK (AP) — Fund giant PIMCO has named former heads of two of the world’s biggest central banks to its advisory board, tapping Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former European Central Bank President Jean Claude-Trichet.

Bernanke, who has been a senior adviser to PIMCO, will lead the board. The firm also named former U.K. Prime Minster Gordon Brown and others to the firm’s global advisory board.

PIMCO has a history of hiring former Fed officials after they’ve left public office. The firm hired Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman before Bernanke, in 2007 to provide economic advice.

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The Dow fell 117.12 points, or 0.7 per cent, to close at 17,730.51. The S&P 500 fell 14.62 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,077.07. The Nasdaq composite dropped 40.46 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 5,101.81.

U.S. crude fell $2.32, or 5.8 per cent, to close at $37.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell $2.27, or 5.3 per cent, to $40.73 a barrel in London. In other energy trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 6.1 cents, or 4.8 per cent, to close at $1.209 a gallon, heating oil lost 6.3 cents, or 4.7 per cent, to close at $1.280 a gallon and natural gas fell 11.9 cents, or 5.4 per cent, to $2.067 per 1,000 cubic feet.