Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2014 5:59 PM

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US job growth drops to 142K, slowest in 8 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — A surprising drop in hiring and in the number of people seeking work in August sent a reminder that the U.S. economic recovery is still prone to temporary slowdowns.

Employers added just 142,000 jobs last month, well below the 212,000 average of the previous 12 months. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent. But that was because more people without jobs stopped looking for one and were no longer counted as unemployed.

Analysts took Friday's Labor Department report in stride. They noted that other gauges of the economy — from manufacturing and construction to auto sales — remain solid. Layoffs have dwindled, too. Analysts also noted that month-to-month volatility in hiring is common even in a healthy economy.

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Jeans face an uncertain future amid yoga wear rage

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans' obsession with jeans is beginning to wear thin.

Jeans long have been a go-to staple in closets across the country. After all, not many pieces of clothing are so comfortable they can be worn daily, yet versatile enough to be dressed up or down.

But sales of the iconic blues fell 6 percent during the past year after decades of almost steady growth. The decline is being driven by women, but men's interest in jeans also is fading. Why? People more often are sporting yoga pants, leggings, sweatpants and other athletic wear instead of traditional denim.

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Music acts look to Groupon, LivingSocial for help

NEW YORK (AP) — Websites like Groupon have become the go-to place for folks looking for that half-off deal on a manicure, a two-for-one offer for a fancy dinner or that all-inclusive trip that won't break the bank. But increasingly, it's also becoming the place for music fans to scoop up deep discounts on concert tickets, CDs and more for top-name acts.

From big-name acts Arcade Fire to faded performers such as Color Me Badd, the industry is turning to Groupon and LivingSocial to connect with more fans — and sell more products.

Groupon struck a deal with Live Nation in 2011 to help sell out concerts, and a year later, LivingSocial partnered with AEG to do similar work.

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Making a difference through bond investing

NEW YORK (AP) — Instead of lending to just the government or some faceless corporation, what if your bond mutual fund also helped to vaccinate kids around the world? Or helped finance a clean-water project or solar-energy farm?

More mutual fund managers are seeking out bonds that not only do well but also promote a positive impact on the environment, society and corporate governance. It's a concept called socially responsible investing, and it's long been dominated by stock mutual funds. But a proliferation of "green bonds," whose proceeds go toward projects with environmental benefits, and similar investments mean more bond funds are using a socially responsible lens.

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Alibaba seeks to raise up to $24.3B in IPO record

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — China's Alibaba Group is seeking to raise up to $24.3 billion in its upcoming IPO, an amount that would be the most ever raised by a company heading into its stock market debut.

The e-commerce company is hoping to sell up to 368 million shares for $60 to $66 apiece. Alibaba Group Ltd. set the price target in a regulatory filing late Friday, setting the stage for the company to make its long-awaited debut on the New York Stock Exchange later this month.

The documents didn't spell out when trading will begin. The debut is likely to come Sept. 19 or Sept. 26, depending on whether the company has to deal with any more issues raised by securities regulators before the IPO is completed.

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Family Dollar bucks Dollar General bid again

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — Family Dollar is rejecting Dollar General's latest acquisition offer, and Dollar Tree says it will now divest as many stores as needed to get antitrust clearance for its deal to buy Family Dollar.

Family Dollar rejected an earlier offer of nearly $9 billion from Dollar General, with the Goodlettsville, Tennessee, discounter then boosting its bid to $9.1 billion. Dollar General — the nation's biggest dollar-store chain — had also revised its proposal to increase the number of stores it would be willing to divest and to include a $500 million reverse break-up fee to Family Dollar if the deal hit antitrust roadblocks.

But Family Dollar said Friday that it still has antitrust concerns. Dollar General said in a statement that it is still committed to acquiring Family Dollar and is evaluating its next steps.

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Gulf of Mexico residents hail ruling against BP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Environmentalists, recreational fishermen and people who make their living on the Gulf of Mexico are hailing a federal judge's ruling that could mean $18 billion in additional fines for BP over the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Lisa Smith cheered and gave an emphatic "yes" Thursday afternoon when she heard about the decision as she fished off a beach bridge in Florida.

In the town of Lafitte, Louisiana, David Robin said he hopes the oil company pays dearly, money that would not only mitigate damage from the spill, but also help restore Louisiana wetlands lost to erosion that experts blame in part on coastal oil and gas activity.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier (BAHR'-bih-aye) ruled Thursday that BP acted with "gross negligence" in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster.

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Motorola emphasizes design in circular smartwatch

NEW YORK (AP) — Motorola rolled out a circular smartwatch Friday, counting on a more traditional design to win over consumers who have so far shunned other computerized wrist devices.

Smartwatches so far have had rectangular faces, a shape that has turned off many consumers, said Steve Sinclair, Motorola's vice president of product management. Motorola's Moto 360 is round and has an all-metal frame, making it look more like a regular watch.

Reshaping the smartwatch still might not be enough to sway consumers' attitudes. Apart from design, smartwatches have had limited appeal because of their small displays and a requirement to have a companion smartphone nearby. Technology companies have yet to make a compelling case for why everyday consumers need them.

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Apple to tighten online security after recent hack

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple plans to tighten its online security measures to reduce the chances of its users being victimized by intrusions like the ones that stole nude photos from actress Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities.

CEO Tim Cook told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Friday that Apple Inc. will use email and push notifications to alert the hundreds of millions of people using its services when there has been an attempt to restore their iCloud data on a new device, change an account password or log on to an account with a new device. Previously there were no notifications for restoring iCloud data, but users did receive an email when someone tried to change a password or log in for the first time from a new device.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.78 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,137.36. The S&P 500 index rose 10.06 points to 2,007.7. The Nasdaq composite gained 20.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,582.90.

Oil closed out the week with a loss of $1.16 to $93.29 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil imported by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.01 to $100.82 in London. Wholesale gasoline dropped 1.7 cents to $2.583 a gallon. Heating oil lost 1.7 cents to $2.819 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2.6 cents to $3.793 per 1,000 cubic feet.