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Business Highlights

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Google gets aggressive with new phones, other gadgets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google launched an aggressive challenge to consumer electronics giants like Apple and Samsung on Tuesday, introducing a new line of smartphones called Pixel and other gadgets designed to showcase a digital helper the company calls “Google Assistant.”

The new devices represent a big push by Google to make and sell its own hardware, instead of largely just supplying software for other manufacturers. At a starting price of roughly $650, the new Pixel phones are aimed at the same markets as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy flagship phones.

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IMF reduces its forecast for US economic growth this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund is downgrading its forecast for the U.S. economy this year and warns that political discontent threatens global growth.

The IMF on Tuesday cut its estimate for U.S. economic growth in 2016 to 1.6 per cent from the 2.2 per cent it had predicted in July. The American economy grew 2.6 per cent in 2015.

The fund’s dimmer outlook for the U.S. occurs even as the Federal Reserve is thought to be preparing to raise interest rates in December.

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As demand for cars falters, auto prices are poised to fall

DETROIT (AP) — While the U.S. inched its way out of the Great Recession, consumers went car shopping in droves. As sales rebounded, the price of cars and trucks rose to record highs.

Now, the price trend is set to reverse itself, partly because some buyers are unwilling or unable to pay the high prices and instead are opting for used cars.

Sales to consumers are declining, so companies are ramping up incentives. Discounts in September hit a level not seen since automakers were desperate for sales during the financial crisis in late 2008.

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Holiday sales expected to be up 3.6 per cent

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans are expected to spend at a faster clip than last year for the critical holiday season, helped by an economy that should only continue to pick up, according to the nation’s largest retail industry trade group.

The National Retail Federation, based in Washington, D.C., is forecasting holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.6 per cent to $655.8 billion, much better than the 3 per cent growth seen in the year-ago period.

The figure also is much higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 per cent and above the 3.4 per cent growth seen since the recovery began in 2009.

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Stocks fall broadly on Wall Street along with bonds and gold

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell broadly on Tuesday, U.S. government bond prices also slumped, and gold had its worse day in nearly three years.

Investors are nervous about the timing and the pace of any increase in the super-low interest rates controlled by the Federal Reserve, and comments from central bank officials recently have added to their jitters.

Early gains quickly faded and the selling spread across industries. It was the second day of broad declines, a weak start to a new quarter after solid returns in recent months.

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UK stock market just shy of record high as pound drops

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s main stock market fell agonizingly short of an all-time high on Tuesday amid a groundswell of optimism that exporters and multinationals will benefit from the pound’s woes in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union in June.

The pressure on the currency, particularly against the dollar where it is trading at 31-year lows, has mounted this week following comments from Prime Minister Theresa May that suggested the country could be heading for a definitive break from the European Union’s single market.

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Olive Garden sales improve, boosting parent company Darden

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sales at Olive Garden improved in the latest quarter, helping parent company Darden post a higher quarterly profit from a year as it works to navigate changing dining habits.

Darden Restaurants Inc. said sales at its existing Olive Garden locations rose 2 per cent in the quarter from a year ago and rose 1.3 per cent for across all its restaurant brands.

The increase at Olive Garden was driven by higher prices and mix of more expensive items, while customer traffic slipped. Darden CEO Gene Lee noted the saturated restaurant market in the U.S. and newer competition from nontraditional businesses.

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US probes complaints of more F-150 brake failures

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators are investigating whether a recall of Ford F-150 pickup trucks for brake failures should be expanded to more model years.

The probe covers about 282,000 pickups with 3.5-litre six-cylinder engines from 2015 and 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received 25 complaints alleging sudden brake loss in the trucks. No crashes or injuries were reported.

In May, Ford recalled about 271,000 six-cylinder F-150s from 2013 and 2014.

The safety agency says it received 10 complaints about 2015 brake failures and another 15 about the 2016 models. Investigators will decide if the 2015 and 2016 models should be added to the recall.

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Airlines begin to offer travel waivers for Hurricane Matthew

Airlines are letting passengers change travel plans without penalty if their trip might be affected by Hurricane Matthew.

American Airlines said Tuesday it will waive change fees on trips scheduled Thursday or Friday to or from eight cities in Florida. It had already offered waivers on trips scheduled through Thursday in several Caribbean nations including Cuba.

Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees on trips through Wednesday in the Caribbean and through Thursday at eight Florida destinations

United Airlines said it would waive change fees and any difference in fare for customers scheduled to fly Wednesday through Friday to, from or through five airports in Florida.

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Toys R Us sells FAO Schwarz brand to ThreeSixty Group

NEW YORK (AP) — Toys R Us has sold its FAO Schwarz brand to ThreeSixty Group, a company that designs and sells toys, home goods and other products.

FAO Schwarz, founded in 1862, was known for its New York toy store that was a magnet for tourists who would play a tune on the store’s floor piano or gawk at its large stuffed animals. But Toys R Us, which bought FAO Schwarz in 2009, shuttered the store last year to save money.

The company did not disclose how much it paid for FAO Schwarz.

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Ericsson cuts 3,000 jobs in Sweden, reduces operations

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Ericsson said Tuesday it will cut 3,000 jobs in Sweden, or nearly 20 per cent of its local workforce, and will downsize operations at several plants as part of its global plan to cut costs by 9 billion kronor ($1 billion) in 2017.

The Swedish networks company employs 115,000 people globally, of which 16,000 in Sweden, and said the layoffs are a necessary part of its transformation to meet “fast technology shifts and the digitalization of the telecom industry.”

The new demands will also create new jobs, Ericsson said, with plans to recruit 1,000 people in Sweden during the next three years.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.40 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 18,168.45. The S&P 500 fell 10.71 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 2,150.49. The Nasdaq composite fell 11.22 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,289.66.

U.S. benchmark crude oil fell 12 cents to close at $48.69 a gallon. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 2 cents to close at $50.87 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.50 a gallon, heating oil was little changed at $1.55 a gallon and natural gas increased 4 cents to $2.963 per 1,000 cubic feet.