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Small investors fight urge to sell as stocks drop

NEW YORK (AP) — January's global sell-off in stocks has left many small investors more puzzled than panicked — and unsure how to act.

They're holding on for now as prices continue to tumble, but their anxiety is mounting. The number of small investors who say they feel "bearish" soared this past week, according to a U.S. survey. Some stock funds have been hit with their biggest withdrawals since 2012.

If more people start selling, it would reverse a new and surprising trend in some of the world's biggest economies: individuals moving back into stocks after years of shunning them.

Small investors around the world were on edge even before growing signs of a slowdown in China and plunging emerging-market currencies dragged many stock indexes down to their worst start of a new year since 2010. They worried stocks were overdue for a drop, after soaring by double-digit percentages in countries like the United States, Japan and France in 2013. In the U.S., many noted, the market had not fallen by 10 per cent or more, known on Wall Street as a correction, for more than two years.

Now, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 5 per cent from a recent peak, one is closer at hand.

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US stocks end tough January with another decline

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock investors were hit from all sides in January.

Concerns about the global economy and U.S. company earnings, as well as turmoil in emerging markets, led the Dow Jones industrial average to its worst start since 2009. However, many investors remain hopeful that the problems will not spill over into the rest of 2014.

They even see the downturn as healthy, given the U.S. market's rapid rise last year.

The Dow slid 5.3 per cent in January while the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.6 per cent and the Nasdaq composite declined 1.7 per cent.

On Friday, the U.S. stock market closed out January on yet another down note. The Dow fell 149.76 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,698.85. The S&P 500 dropped 11.60 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,782.59 and the Nasdaq lost 19.25 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4,103.88.

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Wal-Mart, Amazon show changing shopping habits

NEW YORK (AP) — The financial strains and shifting shopping habits of Americans have led to uneven fortunes for retailers.

Traditional consumer companies like Wal-Mart and Mattel have continued to struggle as Americans spend more cautiously in the uncertain economy. Meanwhile, Amazon.com has flourished as shoppers increasingly buy online rather than head to stores.

The trend was evident during the pivotal holiday shopping season, a time roughly from November through December when many retailers can make up to 40 per cent of their annual revenue. Overall, government figures show that spending during October through December rose at the fastest clip in three years.

But exactly where — and how — Americans spent their money during the final months of the year shifted. Fewer people were in and out of stores during the holiday season, but more were shopping online.

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Keystone XL oil pipeline clears significant hurdle

WASHINGTON (AP) — The long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle toward approval Friday, a serious blow to environmentalists' hopes that President Barack Obama will block the project running more than 1,000 miles from Canada through the heart of the U.S.

The State Department reported no major environmental objections to the proposed $7 billion pipeline, which has become a symbol of the political debate over climate change. Republicans and some oil- and gas-producing states in the U.S. — as well as Canada's minister of natural resources — cheered the report, but it further rankled environmentalists already at odds with Obama and his energy policy.

The report stops short of recommending approval of the pipeline, but the review gives Obama new support if he chooses to endorse it in spite of opposition from many Democrats and environmental groups. Foes say the pipeline would carry "dirty oil" that contributes to global warming, and they also express concern about possible spills.

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Brands vie to stand out amid Super Bowl chatter

NEW YORK (AP) — If it's on TV, it's on Twitter, at least when it comes to blockbuster events such as the Super Bowl.

Advertisers, in particular, are ready to capitalize.

"What advertisers have realized is that Super Bowl advertising doesn't just take place on TV, with your 30-second or 60-second spot that you paid millions of dollars for," said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst for research firm eMarketer. "You really need to have a broader presence."

Last year's Super Bowl was interrupted by a 34-minute power outage — luckily, for one advertiser at least. Oreo seized on the opportunity and tweeted "you can still dunk in the dark." It was retweeted and mentioned on Facebook thousands of times.

Every brand wants to be this year's Oreo. Brands are setting up social media "war rooms" so they can respond to memorable events as they happen — be it another blackout, a snow storm or a wardrobe malfunction — with clever, retweetable quips.

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US consumer spending up 0.4 per cent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their spending at a solid pace for the second straight month in December even though their income was flat.

Consumer spending rose 0.4 per cent in December, compared with November when spending had increased an even stronger 0.6 per cent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That was the best gain in five months.

Income, however, showed no gain at all in December after a 0.2 per cent rise in November. Wages and salaries were basically flat last month, reflecting a sharp slowing in employment growth

For all of 2013, income growth was 2.8 per cent, the weakest performance since 2009 when income fell 2.8 per cent as the country struggled with a deep recession.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 149.76 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,698.85. The Nasdaq composite lost 19.25 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4,103.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 11.60 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,782.59.

Benchmark crude oil for March delivery fell 74 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell $1.55 to $106.40 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Natural gas futures lost 7 cents to $4.94 per 1,000 cubic feet.Wholesale gasoline retreated 4 cents to $2.63 a gallon.

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