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Business Highlights

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2 words keep sick Samsung workers from data: trade secrets

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As a high school senior, Hwang Yu-mi went to work bathing silicon wafers in chemicals at a Samsung factory that makes computer chips for laptops and other devices. She died of leukemia four years later.

Her father later learned that a 30-year-old worker at the same semiconductor line also had died of leukemia, but he struggled to get details about the factory environment. Samsung did not release that information to worker-safety officials.

An Associated Press investigation has found South Korean authorities have repeatedly withheld from workers and bereaved families crucial information about chemicals used at Samsung’s computer chip and liquid crystal display factories. Sick workers need access to such data through the government or courts to apply for workers’ compensation. Without it, government rejections are common.

In at least six cases involving 10 workers, the justification for withholding the information was trade secrets.

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Some black business owners strain to sell to black consumers

NEW YORK (AP) — When Terina McKinney displays her leather bags and belts at events attended primarily by black women, they are often interested in her designs, and in her experience as an African-American business owner. But she seldom makes sales.

“They all ooh and ahh and ask a ton of questions, but don’t necessarily make purchases,” says McKinney, whose Jypsea Leathergoods products range from $20 to $325. Instead, her customers tend to be white or Asian women.

While calls have been increasing for black consumers to support black-owned businesses with their buying power estimated at more than $1.2 trillion a year, social media campaigns with momentum like #buyblack are relatively new. And McKinney’s frustration is shared by some other black business owners who say they can find it hard to sell to black consumers.

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Ways to save on back-to-school clothing shopping

NEW YORK (AP) — Varsity-inspired cardigans. Preppy layers. Satin bomber jackets. There are plenty of fashion trends that experts say should help pique shoppers’ interest for the back-to-school season. That could provide a sales bounce for retailers after last year’s dearth of mainstream looks hurt business. The trick for shoppers: taking advantage of timing and tools to stay within a budget.

In the second most-important season for retailers behind the winter holidays, families with children from kindergarten to 12th grade plan to spend an average of $673.57 on clothing, accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies. That’s up nearly 7 per cent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The group surveyed nearly 7,000 consumers from June 30 through July 6 about their plans.

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US stocks close modestly lower as oil slumps

A sharp sell-off in energy companies pulled U.S. stock indexes modestly lower Wednesday, wiping out small gains from the day before.

Another slide in crude oil prices weighed on the energy sector. Banking, health care and technology companies also declined, while consumer-focused stocks and phone companies posted gains.

Investors mostly focused on company earnings from retailers, restaurant chains and other companies.

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US employers advertised more jobs and boosted hiring in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers advertised more openings and hired more people in June, adding to evidence that the job market has rebounded from a brief soft patch in the spring.

The number of job openings rose a modest 2 per cent to 5.6 million in June from 5.5 million in May, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Still, that figure remains below the 5.8 million openings advertised in April, the highest on records going back 16 years.

Hiring increased 1.7 per cent in June to 5.1 million, a solid level but below a recent peak of 5.5 million in February.

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US registers $113 billion budget deficit in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government last month recorded the biggest monthly budget deficit since February, and the deficit so far this budget year is running 10 per cent higher than a year ago.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit came in at $112.8 billion in July, highest since February’s $192.6 billion but down from $149.2 billion in July 2015. For the first 10 months of the budget year, which ends Oct. 1, the deficit was $513.7 billion, up from $465.5 billion a year earlier.

The government runs a deficit when it spends more than it collects in taxes and other revenue.

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Delta struggles through third day of computer problems

NEW YORK (AP) — Delta fliers faced delays, cancellations and more headaches Wednesday as the Atlanta-based airline struggled with its computer systems for the third straight day.

More than 300 flights were cancelled by the afternoon, in addition to the 800 scrapped Tuesday and 1,000 cancelled Monday. Hundreds of other flights were delayed Wednesday.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian once again apologized for the meltdown.

He told The Associated Press that while he knew the airline needed to make technological investments — an updated mobile app for instance — “we did not believe, by any means, that we had this type of vulnerability.”

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Toxicologist on cancer warnings: State acted despite science

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Officials in North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration are telling a string of misleading half-truths about the safety of well water containing a cancer-causing chemical near Duke Energy coal ash pits, a veteran state toxicologist said Wednesday, and he charged that they are the ones responsible for any resulting fear and confusion.

Toxicologist Ken Rudo’s comments in a statement issued through his attorney came a day after high-ranking state environmental and health officials blamed Rudo for sowing fear about dangerous chemicals near Duke Energy sites with “questionable and inconsistent scientific conclusions.”

The back-and-forth charges are the latest developments in a longstanding dispute over whether water in the affected wells is safe to drink.

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Changes at Ralph Lauren come at cost investors are OK with

NEW YORK (AP) — Ralph Lauren swung to a first-quarter loss as it spends heavily to turn itself around, but the damage was not as bad as many had expected and its shares rose faster than any other Wednesday on the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Just months after taking over as CEO for founder Ralph Lauren late last year, Stefan Larsson initiated significant changes. He is the first person other than Lauren to hold the title.

In addition to slashing costs to right the company’s balance sheet, Larsson tightened its focus on the brands that made Ralph Lauren known worldwide.

While the company is shutting 10 per cent of its stores, it is pushing the core brand aggressively, which has been prominent at some very high-profile events.

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Wendy’s says cheaper groceries keeping people at home

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Wendy’s is the latest major fast-food chain to report weaker-than-expected sales growth, with the hamburger company saying people aren’t dining out as much because it has gotten even cheaper to eat at home.

The chain known for its Frosty shakes and square burgers said Wednesday that sales edged up 0.4 per cent at North American restaurants open at least 15 months in the second quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast a 2.4 per cent increase.

Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said during a conference call that customer traffic across the fast-food industry slipped starting earlier this year as the price gap between eating at home and dining out widened.

That’s because lower commodity costs have kept grocery prices down, while restaurant chains may maintain or raise prices as they deal with costs for running their businesses and try to improve profit margins

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37.39 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,495.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 6.25 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,175.49. The Nasdaq composite index lost 20.90 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5,204.58.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.06, or 2.5 per cent, to close at $41.71 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 93 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to close at $44.05 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline slipped 4 cents to $1.30 a gallon, while heating oil lost a penny to $1.32 a gallon. Natural gas fell 5 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $2.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.