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Businesses move toward tying prices to short-term demand changes

NEW YORK (AP) — Down a shot of tequila at The Blind Burro and the second round may cost you more. Or less. It all depends on what everyone else is drinking.

Tequila prices at the San Diego bar and restaurant can change every five minutes based on demand. If more people order one tequila brand, the price of another might drop. Software, created by Los Angeles-based The Drink Exchange, tracks what drinkers buy and flashes the changing prices of more than two dozen tequila brands on TV screens hung on the bar’s walls. On a recent night, a shot of Espolon Blanco tequila was $7.75 one minute and fell 50 cents to $7.25 a few minutes later. At the same time, another brand rose a dollar to $12 a shot.

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Pew study sees a shrinking middle class in major US cities

WASHINGTON (AP) — In cities across America, the middle class is hollowing out.

A widening wealth gap is moving more households into either higher or lower-income groups in major metro areas, with fewer remaining in the middle, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

In nearly one-quarter of metro areas, middle-class adults no longer make up a majority, the Pew analysis found. That’s up from fewer than 10 per cent of metro areas in 2000.

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Panama files show Russian crackdown on offshoring is failing

MOSCOW (AP) — The thousands of Russian names on a list of offshore companies suggests President Vladimir Putin’s effort to crack down on such entities is ineffective, experts say, and highlights how keeping wealth abroad remains one of the few ways to keep it safe from corrupt local officials.

A database published by investigative journalists on Monday showed over 6,000 Russian citizens and legal entities own or manage offshore companies through Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Spanning over two decades, the data showed no decrease in the number despite the government’s efforts.

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Google to ban payday lending ads, calling industry ‘harmful’

NEW YORK (AP) — Internet giant Google said Wednesday it will ban all ads from payday lenders, calling the industry “deceptive” and “harmful.”

Google’s decision could have as much or even more impact on curtailing the industry than any move by politicians, as many payday loans start with a desperate person searching online for ways to make ends meet or cover an emergency.

Effective July 13, Google will no longer allow ads for loans due within 60 days and will also ban ads for loans where the interest rate is 36 per cent or higher. The industry will join Google’s other banned categories of ads, such as counterfeit goods, weapons, explosives, tobacco products and hate speech.

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Macy’s struggles go on, outlook slashed

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s slashed its full-year profit and sales expectations as the department store chain struggles to lure shoppers seemingly in an extended funk.

First-quarter income tumbled 40 per cent and revenue fell 7.4 per cent, sending shares down 10 per cent in early trading Wednesday.

The report from Macy’s, following dismal sales numbers from the Gap earlier in the week, dragged down the entire retail sector in premarket trading.

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US had $106B budget surplus in April, thanks to tax receipts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States posted a budget surplus in April, but the deficit so far for the 2016 year remains wider than it was in 2015.

The April surplus came in at $106.5 billion, down from an April surplus a year earlier of $156.7 billion, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. Aprils are normally a good month for the budget: Thanks to annual tax receipts, April has registered a surplus in 48 of the past 62 years.

But seven months into the fiscal year, the deficit was $354.6 billion, up from $282.8 billion over the same period a year earlier. The Congressional Budget Office foresees cumulative deficits totalling $9.3 trillion from 2017 through 2026. Spending on Social Security and Medicare has been rising as the vast baby boom generation retires.

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Toyota projects 35 per cent profit plunge

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. is projecting a 35 per cent plunge in profit for the fiscal year through March 2017, as the perks of a favourable exchange rate fade, and it reported a 4 per cent drop in profit for January-March on-year at 426.6 billion yen ($3.9 billion).

The Japanese automaker is expecting 1.5 trillion yen ($13.8 billion) in annual profit, a retreat after three straight years of record profits. That number could be worse as it doesn’t account for recent production stops over supply shortages caused by a major earthquake in southwestern Japan.

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Mitsubishi Motors says mileage cheating may be on all models

TOKYO (AP) — Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the Japanese automaker under investigation for lying about fuel economy data for some models, said Wednesday such tampering is suspected in all of its vehicles sold in Japan.

The company has said it carried out false tests and gave inflated mileage on minicars known as “kei,” whose production began in 2013, called eK wagon and eK Space light passenger cars under its own brand and Dayz and Dayz Roox that it produced for Nissan Motor Co.

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Congress putting daily fantasy sports games under scrutiny

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress on Wednesday launched a fact-finding mission into the loosely regulated world of fantasy sports games — a multibillion-dollar business that seemingly advertised everywhere during the pro football season.

Lawmakers at a House hearing were generally supportive of the industry as they explored whether federal safeguards are needed to protect players in daily fantasy leagues. Most players ending up losing at the hands of better-informed players who often have a technological edge.

States are beginning to enact a patchwork of laws regulating the industry and its dominant companies, DraftKings and FanDuel.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 217.23 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 17,711.12. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 19.93 points, or 1 per cent, to 2,064.46. The Nasdaq composite index lost 49.19 points, or 1 per cent, to 4,760.69.

U.S. crude rose $1.57, or 3.5 per cent, to $46.23 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international benchmark, jumped $2.08, or 4.6 per cent, to $47.60 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 10 cents, or 6.4 per cent, to $1.58 a gallon. Heating oil increased 6 cents, or 4.4 per cent, to $1.40 a gallon. Natural gas rose 2 cents to $2.17 per 1,000 cubic feet.