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Olympians tiptoe around sponsorship ban

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Want to see the glasses and goggles that aerials skier Lydia Lassila and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis wore at the Sochi Olympics? Too bad. Manufacturer Bolle's website blurs out the faces of competitors at the Sochi Games.

It is part of an extreme application of regulations meant to make sure that companies, like Bolle, that are not sponsors of the Olympics don't get free advertising from the games.

For Olympians, the dense and confusing thicket of rules severely restricting advertising is a serious issue.

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Budget office: Wage hike would lift pay, cost jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Boosting the federal minimum wage as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are proposing would increase earnings for more than 16.5 million people by 2016 but also cut employment by roughly 500,000 jobs, Congress' nonpartisan budget analyst said Tuesday.

In a report containing ammunition for both supporters and opponents of the Democratic election-year proposal, the Congressional Budget Office said gradually raising the minimum from $7.25 hourly to $10.10 would lift 900,000 people above the federal poverty level by 2016. That is out of 45 million who would otherwise live in poverty without an increase.

But the analysis also noted a downside: About 0.3 per cent fewer jobs, especially for low-income workers; higher costs for business owners and higher prices for consumers.

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EU's stance forces US executioners to improvise

BRUSSELS (AP) — The United States has a dearth of execution drugs so acute that some states are considering solutions such as firing squads and gas chambers. One reason: Europe won't allow the drugs to be exported because of its fierce hostility to capital punishment.

The phenomenon started nine years ago when the EU banned the export of products used for execution, citing its goal to fight against the death penalty.

But beefed up European rules mean the results are being most strongly felt in the United States now, with shortages becoming chronic and controversial executions making headlines.

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'Candy' Crush Saga' maker King Digital plans IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — The maker of the blockbuster mobile game "Candy Crush Saga" will attempt to raise as much as $500 million in an initial public offering.

King Digital Entertainment PLC did not disclose how many shares are expected to be in the IPO or the projected price range.

The company has replaced "Farmville" maker Zynga Inc. as the top maker of games played on Facebook, largely due to the success of "Candy Crush Saga."

The game was the most downloaded free app on both iPhones and iPads in 2013.

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Coca-Cola's profit slips as US soda sales flag

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola's fourth-quarter profit fell as the world's biggest beverage maker once again sold less soda in North America.

The beverage maker said Tuesday that sales volume declined 1 per cent in North America, which included a 3 per cent decline in soda. Last week, PepsiCo also said its soda volume slipped.

Although Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are tapping emerging markets for growth and sell a wide array of beverages, pressure is mounting for the two companies to figure out how to get soda sales moving in the right direction at home.

Americans have been cutting back on soda for years amid health concerns and as beverage aisles have grown increasingly crowded with other options.

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Actavis to buy Forest Labs in $25 billion deal

Actavis PLC plans to buy Forest Laboratories Inc. for about $25 billion, boosting the Irish drugmaker's presence in U.S. primary-care doctor offices.

U.S. physicians, increasingly crunched for time, keep reducing how many drugmaker sales reps they see. Forest gives Actavis not just a broader product line, but also its big U.S. sales force, which now can promote a half-dozen Forest and Actavis products at each doctor visit.

That likely will result in more options to present to primary care doctors, compared to rival brand-name drugmakers whose sales reps promote one or two drugs.

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US homebuilder confidence sinks in February

U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market declined sharply this month as the severe weather battering much of the nation keeps many would-be buyers at home.

Storms and cold weather dampened builders' outlook for sales ahead of the spring home-selling season and could further slow the pace of home construction.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday slid to 46. That's down from January's reading of 56 and is the lowest level since May. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

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Foreign holdings of US Treasury debt hit record

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign buyers of U.S. Treasury securities increased their holdings to a record in December even though the two largest holders of U.S. government debt — China and Japan — reduced their shares.

The Treasury Department says total foreign holdings rose 1.4 per cent in December to $5.79 trillion, surpassing the old record set in March of $5.73 trillion.

China, the largest foreign buyer of Treasury debt, reduced its holdings to $1.27 trillion in December. That marked a 3.6 per cent drop from China's November level of $1.32 trillion, a record for that country. Japan, the second-largest buyer, trimmed its holdings to $1.18 trillion in December. That was down 0.3 per cent from November's total, a record for Japan.

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US credit card late payments up in 4Q from 3Q

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Many Americans took on more credit card debt and failed to make timely payments in the final quarter of 2013, when consumers typically crank up spending on holiday shopping.

Even so, the national late-payment rate remained close to its lowest level in six years, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.

The rate of credit card payments at least 90 days overdue was 1.48 per cent in the October-December quarter. That's up from 1.36 per cent in the previous three-month period, but down from 1.61 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012, the firm said.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 23.99 points, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 16,130.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.13 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,840.76. The Nasdaq composite rose 28.76 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,272.78.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery closed up $2.13 to $102.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $3 a gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to $3.04 a gallon. Natural gas gained 34 cents to $5.55 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $1.28 to $110.46 barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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