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Business Highlights

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Yahoo going back to the drawing board with Alibaba spinoff

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo’s long-running identity crisis is spiraling in a new direction now that the company is abandoning a year’s work on a tax-dodging spinoff to pursue an alternative path that will carve off its Internet business instead.

The about-face announced Wednesday opens another chapter in the dysfunctional drama that has been swirling around Yahoo for most of the past decade.

Yahoo has scrapped plans to spin off the Alibaba stake into a separate holding company and said that it will instead try to break off everything but the Alibaba holdings into another company. That process could be even more complicated than the original spinoff and take more than a year before Yahoo shareholders get stock in a newly formed company that has yet to be named.

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Australia police raid home of man said to be bitcoin founder

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian police on Wednesday raided the home and business premises of a man that technology news sites have claimed is the founder of virtual currency bitcoin.

A statement from the Australian Federal Police said the searches were related to a tax investigation and not recent media reports on the virtual currency, which is used for transactions across borders without third parties such as banks.

Since bitcoin’s birth in 2009, the identity of currency’s creator has remained a mystery. The person, or people, behind the digital currency’s inception have been known only as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” which many observers believed to be a pseudonym.

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Shares of DuPont, Dow soar on reports of merger talks

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Shares of Dow Chemical and DuPont were trading sharply higher Wednesday amid reports that the two chemical giants are in advanced merger discussions.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the companies were planning to merge and then split into three companies focused on agriculture, specialty chemicals and materials.

The two companies, both with strong positions in the agriculture sector, declined to comment on media reports of a possible merger and an official announcement was possible as early as Thursday.

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Oil prices seen staying low next year as demand weakens

PARIS (AP) — The head of the International Energy Agency expects oil prices to remain low next year as demand weakens and supply remains high.

The price of oil fell this week to its lowest since early 2009, when the global economy was deep in crisis. The U.S. benchmark recovered 1.6 per cent at $38.08 on Wednesday.

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More than half of US renters older than 40, study says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The majority of U.S. renters are now older than 40, a fundamental shift over the past decade that reflects the lasting damage of the housing crash and an aging population.

This finding in a report released Wednesday by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies overturns the assumption that the rental boom is only the result of twenty-somethings flocking to hip urban centres. Affordability problems are mounting as rents rise faster than wages.

Nearly 51 per cent of renters have celebrated their 40th birthday, according to the report’s analysis of Census Bureau data.

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Myanmar inaugurates new stock exchange

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar inaugurated a new stock exchange on Wednesday with plans for six companies to start trading in March.

Minister of Finance Win Shein said the Yangon Stock Exchange will initially be open only to Myanmar companies and investors, but planned law changes will eventually allow foreigners to invest in Myanmar shares. The exchange was set up by local companies in a joint venture with Daiwa Institute of Research Japan and Japan Exchange Group, which operates the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Officials hope a stock market will help companies raise capital and fuel economic development in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

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AA to sell ‘premium-economy’ seats on international flights

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines says it will start selling “premium economy” service on international flights, with leather seats, entertainment systems and meals.

The seats will cost more than coach but less than business class, although American isn’t stating prices.

American, the world’s largest airline, said Wednesday that it will launch the service late next year with 21 seats on some planes. It seeks to stand out from U.S. rivals and compete with foreign airlines that already offer premium-economy seating.

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Pep Boys says Icahn’s buyout is better than Bridgestone’s

NEW YORK (AP) — Pep Boys said Wednesday that it told Bridgestone that it may ditch an already agreed upon $835 million buyout offer and go with a competing offer from Carl Icahn’s investment firm that is worth $2 million more.

Icahn Enterprises is offering $15.50 for each Pep Boys share, compared with Bridgestone’s offer of $15 per share. The buyout from Icahn Enterprises is worth about $837.4 million. Icahn, an activist investor, has an 11.2 per cent stake in Pep Boys, according to FactSet.

Bridgestone has until Friday to increase its offer or Pep Boys said it will take Icahn’s deal.

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North Face co-founder Tompkins dies in Chile accident

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Douglas Tompkins, the co-founder of The North Face and Esprit clothing companies who bought up large swaths of land in South America’s Patagonia region to keep them pristine, has died from severe hypothermia in a kayaking accident in Chile.

The well-known conservationist was 72.

The Aysen health service said the wealthy businessman and lifelong outdoorsman was boating with five other foreigners on Tuesday when their kayaks capsized in a lake in near freezing waters in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Tompkins died later in the intensive care unit of the hospital in Coyhaique, a town 1,700 kilometres (1,056 miles) south of Santiago.

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Samsung to venture into autonomous driving technology

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics said Wednesday it will set up a team to develop an auto components business focusing on autonomous driving technology and entertainment systems.

Kwon Oh-hyun, a vice chairman who has long managed Samsung’s electronics component business, will oversee the new team.

The announcement comes as Samsung is under pressure to find new businesses to offset sagging profit from its smartphone sales.

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Facebook hails US presidential race as 2015’s top topic

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. won’t elect a president until next year but the debate over the crowded field of candidates jostling for the Oval Office emerged as the hottest topic on Facebook this year.

The race for the Democratic and Republican party nominations eclipsed an outpouring of emotions over deadly attacks, strife, social issues and disasters.

The rankings released Wednesday open a window into the cultural mindset by analyzing how frequently specific high-profile events, politicians, entertainers, athletes, movies and TV shows were mentioned in the posts of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users.

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The Dow index lost 75.70 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,492.30. The S&P 500 gave up 15.97 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 2,047.62. The Nasdaq composite dropped 75.38 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 5,022.87.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 35 cents to close at $37.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 15 cents to close at $40.11 a barrel in London. In other trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2.8 cents to close at $1.232 a gallon, heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.239 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.8 cent to $2.062 per 1,000 cubic feet.