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GM won't limit ignition switch crash compensation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The attorney overseeing General Motors' compensation to victims of small-car crashes says there's no limit to what the company will pay, provided the crashes were caused by faulty ignition switches. The tally could climb into billions of dollars.

GM links 13 deaths to defective ignition switches in cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. But trial lawyers and lawmakers say hundreds of others could file claims of wrongful death and injury.

Kenneth Feinberg, one of the country's top compensation experts, said Monday that GM has placed no cap on the total amount he can pay to injured people or relatives of those killed. And he alone — not GM — will decide how much they each will get, even though he is being paid by the company, which did not like some of the program's provisions.

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GOP bucking business priorities on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Traditional ties between the business community and the Republican Party are fraying on Capitol Hill, where the House GOP has bucked corporate interests on a series of priorities this year, from immigration to highway funding to trade.

Rebuffed in Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have found more success backing pro-business candidates for election, but even they don't always deliver.

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Washington faces difficulties launching legal pot

SEATTLE (AP) — Pete O'Neil saw Washington's legalization of marijuana in 2012 as a path to retirement, or at least to his kids' college tuition.

He's paid tens of thousands of dollars in rent on possible locations for a pot-shop chain, hired lawyers and picked out flooring. But now the nation's second legal recreational marijuana industry is about to start without him.

O'Neil struck out in Washington's lottery for coveted pot-shop licenses. He has unsuccessfully tried to buy companies that scored a lucky number. In frustration, he's turning what would have been his Seattle retail store into a medical marijuana dispensary.

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French bank BNP guilty of US sanctions violations

WASHINGTON (AP) — France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, pleaded guilty Monday and agreed to pay nearly $9 billion to resolve criminal allegations that it processed transactions for clients in Sudan and other blacklisted countries in violation of U.S. trade sanctions, the Justice Department announced.

After months of negotiations, the bank admitted to violating U.S. trade sanctions by conducting currency transactions for clients in Sudan, Cuba and Iran. The transactions were made through the bank's New York office from at least 2004 through 2012. The United States had imposed the sanctions on the countries to block their participation in the global financial system.

BNP entered a guilty plea in state court in New York City and is expected to do the same Tuesday in federal court, officials said.

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Court: Religious rights trump birth control rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

The justices' 5-4 decision, splitting conservatives and liberals, means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies.

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Court: Public union can't make nonmembers pay fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union's costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is a setback for labour unions that have bolstered their ranks and their bank accounts in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don't have to share the burden of union costs.

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Stocks end mixed; S&P closes near all-time high

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market closed out the second quarter regaining its upward momentum as investors were encouraged by an improving economy.

Stocks have resumed their upward trajectory after getting off to their worst start in five years in the first quarter. Investors sold stocks in January as they worried about the impact of an unusually harsh winter on the economy. The dangers of the intensifying conflict between Russia and the Ukraine also weighed on the markets.

By contrast, there were fewer worries in the second quarter.

As the weather improved, there was more encouraging news about hiring and manufacturing. Stocks were also propelled higher by a turnaround in some of the riskier parts of the market. Internet, biotechnology and small-company stocks all rebounded after dragging the market lower in March.

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Contracts to buy US homes up sharply in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes shot up in May. But the pace of buying this year remains slower than in 2013, in part because of sluggish sales during winter.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 6.1 per cent to 103.9 last month. It was the sharpest month-over-month gain since April 2010. The index remains 5.2 per cent below its level a year ago.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

Lower mortgage rates and increased supplies of homes on the market drove much of last month's gains. Signed contracts rose in all four U.S. regions: the Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

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PPG Industries buying Mexico's Comex for $2.3B

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries is buying Consorcio Comex SA de CV for $2.3 billion to help bolster its architectural coatings presence in Mexico and Central America.

Comex makes coatings and related products in Mexico and sells them in Mexico and Central America. Pittsburgh-based PPG makes coatings, specialty materials and glass products.

Privately held Comex, based in Mexico City, had 2013 sales of about $1 billion. Its brands include Effex, Texturi and its namesake. Comex has eight manufacturing plants and six distribution centres.

PPG plans to fund the transaction mostly with available cash and short-term investments, but may fund part of the acquisition with the addition of debt.

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Devon Energy selling some US assets for $2.3B

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oil and gas exploration company Devon Energy Corp. is selling some U.S. oil and gas properties to Linn Energy LLC for $2.3 billion.

The properties include those in the Rockies, onshore Gulf Coast and Mid-Continent region, Devon said on Monday. The sale is part of a transformation plan the company announced late last year in which it was looking to sell non-core assets. The properties being sold to Linn Energy produced 275 million cubic feet of natural gas equivalent per day, with proved reserves of 1.242 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent.

Oklahoma City-based Devon will have lowered its debt by more than $4 billion this year once the sale is complete.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 25 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,826. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged down less than a point to close at 1,960 Monday, two points below the record high it set on June 20. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,408.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery fell 37 cents to close at $105.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 94 cents to close at $112.36 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.1 cents to close at $3.043 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.1 cents to close at $4.440 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 2.8 cents to close at $2.975 a gallon.

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