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High lime prices giving US bartenders a hangover

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Every time a bartender at trendy Los Angeles fusion eatery Luna Park squeezes a shot of lime into a drink these days, owner Peter Kohtz says he winces a little.

Luna Park, known for its large selection of craft cocktails, is one of thousands of restaurants from coast to coast that have fallen victim to the Great Green Citrus Crisis of 2014 — a severe shortage of limes that has meant that the fruit has skyrocketed in price in recent weeks.

A case of 200 or so fetches between $80 and $130 now, up from about $15 last year — the result of a perfect storm of circumstances from citrus disease that struck Florida in 2001 and wiped out most lime groves to flooding to the efforts of drug cartels to disrupt supplies in Mexico, the biggest U.S. supplier.

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US sanctions raise concerns for foreign investors

LONDON (AP) — U.S. sanctions targeting the president of Russia's largest oil company could complicate the operations of Western oil companies with important investments in Russia, such as BP and Exxon.

The sanctions target only Igor Sechin, the president of Rosneft, and not the company itself. That means BP, Exxon and others will be able to continue to work with Rosneft, one of the world's biggest oil companies, to explore for and produce oil and gas.

For now.

Analysts are worried that the sanctions by the U.S. against Sechin are a prelude to tougher ones against Rosneft. That could force Western oil companies to abandon or suspend their partnerships and some very ambitious oil exploration plans.

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Economists back increased US oil and gas exports

NEW YORK (AP) — Whether to allow more exports of U.S. oil and natural gas has become a matter of political debate in Washington. But to economists, the answer is clear: The nation would benefit.

The vast majority of economists surveyed this month by The Associated Press say lifting restrictions on exports of oil and natural gas would help the economy even if it meant higher fuel prices for consumers.

More exports would encourage investment in oil and gas production and transport, create jobs, make oil and gas supplies more stable and reduce the U.S. trade deficit, they say.

As domestic energy production has boomed, drilling companies have pushed to be allowed to sell crude oil and natural gas overseas, where they can command higher prices. Such exports are restricted by decades-old energy security regulations.

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Chipotle's price hike to hit steak lovers harder

NEW YORK (AP) — Chipotle's coming price hikes could hit steak lovers particularly hard.

The Mexican food chain said earlier this month that it plans to start charging more for its burritos, bowls and tacos in coming weeks as it faces rising costs for ingredients. On Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung noted that the chain doesn't currently charge a whole lot more for its steak filling, even though beef costs have climbed considerably.

Hartung also said the price hike would be more like 4 per cent to 6 per cent, or 32 cents to 48 cents, assuming the cost of a burrito is $8. In the past, executives had said they were considering a hike of 3 per cent to 5 per cent, or 24 cents to 40 cents. Chipotle says it will be the first national price hike in three years.

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US home price gains slow for third straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home price gains cooled in February from the previous year for the third month in a row, as harsh winter weather and high buying costs have slowed sales.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 12.9 per cent in February compared with 12 months earlier. While healthy, that is down from a 13.2 per cent gain in January.

And home prices fell in 13 of the 20 cities in February compared with the previous month. The index is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so those declines partly reflect weaker sales in the winter.

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US consumer confidence dips in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence fell in April over concerns about hiring and business conditions, even though many people foresee a strengthening economy in the months ahead.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index dropped to 82.3 from a March reading of 83.9. Despite the decline, consumer sentiment for the past two months has been at its strongest levels since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning.

Concerns about the state of the economy fell for the first time since the federal government partially shut down in October.

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EBay takes 1st quarter loss on tax charge

NEW YORK (AP) — EBay recorded a loss in the first-quarter due to a hefty tax charge on foreign earnings, but revenue jumped in part because of its thriving PayPal payments business.

Adjusted results beat expectations but the company offered weak second-quarter guidance and shares fell 3.2 per cent in aftermarket trading.

The results come as PayPal, which eBay bought for $1.3 billion in late 2002, gained 5.8 million new active registered accounts to end the quarter up 16 per cent to 148 million.

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Twitter posts 1Q loss, higher revenue

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter booked a net loss in the first quarter because of stock compensation costs, but its results surpassed Wall Street's expectations thanks to a sharp increase in advertising revenue.

Investors were looking for stronger user growth from the short messaging service, however, and company's stock declined sharply in after-hours trading.

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Target names new chief information officer

NEW YORK (AP) — Target has announced more steps in its efforts to regain trust with its shoppers in the wake of a massive pre-Christmas data breach.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said Tuesday that it named outsider Bob DeRodes, who has 40 years of experience in information technology, as its new chief information officer. He replaces Beth Jacob, who abruptly left in early March.

DeRodes has been a senior information technology adviser for the Center for CIO Leadership, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the secretary of defence and the Department of Justice. He will assume oversight of the company's technology team and operations, effective May 5.

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Toyota moving US base from California to Texas

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Toyota delivered a surprise pink slip to California on Monday, announcing the company would move its U.S. headquarters and about 3,000 jobs from the Los Angeles suburbs to the outskirts of Dallas.

The world's largest automaker will keep a foothold in the Golden State - about 2,300 jobs will remain in California after the company settles into its new corporate campus in Plano, Texas. But the announcement is an economic and symbolic slap for California, a historic centre of American car culture that has been trying to shake its reputation as a frustrating place to run a business, whether that involves shooting a film or selling a Prius.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 86.63 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 16,535.37. The Nasdaq composite gained 29.14 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,103.54. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.90 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,878.33.

Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery gained 44 cents to close at $101.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 86 cents to $108.98 in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $3.06 a gallon. Heating oil added 2 cents to $2.97 a gallon. Natural gas gained 3 cents to $4.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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