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Eurozone recovery grinds to halt amid Ukraine fear

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — After four quarters of meagre growth, the fragile economic recovery in the 18-country eurozone creaked to a halt in the second quarter.

Growth was zero. After only 0.2 per cent in the first quarter.

Now who will get out and push? The European Central Bank, with a further monetary stimulus? Or governments in France and Italy, which have dragged their heels in making their economies more business-friendly?

Either or both could help. Especially if the Ukraine crisis mushrooms with a Russian invasion that would scare off business investment even more — and extend one bad quarter into an outright recession.

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Stores have a solid start to back-to-school season

NEW YORK (AP) — The back-to-school shopping season is off to a promising start, but retailers may be sacrificing profit for sales.

The National Retail Federation expects the average family with school-aged children to spend $669.28 for back-to-school items, up 5 per cent from last year. That would be the second-highest amount since the industry trade group started tracking spending in 2004.

But major retailers like Wal-Mart and Macy's are discounting merchandise and increasing spending to upgrade their stores and websites just to grab the attention of U.S. shoppers during the second-biggest shopping period of the year. All that discounting and investing has worked to start the season off strong, they say, but it also hurts their bottom lines.

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Wal-Mart cuts profit outlook as sales stay sluggish, costs mount

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cut its annual profit outlook on Thursday amid sluggish sales, higher-than-expected health care costs and the need to invest more in its e-commerce operations.

The world's largest retailer eked out a 0.6 per cent increase in second-quarter profit, dragged down by a weak U.S. business.

A key revenue measure was flat in its U.S. discount stores, though it reversed five straight quarters of declines. Meanwhile, the number of customers has now fallen seven quarters in a row.

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Scientists racing to test Ebola vaccines in humans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists are racing to begin the first human safety tests of two experimental Ebola vaccines, but it won't be easy to prove that the shots and other potential treatments in the pipeline really work.

There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, a disease so rare that it's been hard to attract investments in countermeasures. But the current outbreak in West Africa — the largest in history — is fueling new efforts to speed Ebola vaccine and drug development.

The handful in the pipeline have largely been funded by government, including the two vaccine candidates that are closest to human study: One developed by the U.S. government that is gearing up for early-stage tests in healthy volunteers this fall, with a second developed by the Canadian government thought to be not far behind.

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Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Finding a way into India's vast but vexing market has long frustrated foreign retailers.

Now, overseas investors are pouring billions of dollars into e-commerce ventures that are circumventing the barriers holding back retail powers such as Wal-Mart and Ikea.

Online shopping is still in its infancy in India at $2.3 billion of an overall $421 billion retail market in 2013, according to research firm Crisil. But it is growing fast and the potential of reaching a mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people has sparked a funding-and-expansion arms race.

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Illinois company is latest to test market for carp

GRAFTON, Ill. (AP) — When they arrive at the processing plant, the fish that have been cursed as a menace to American lakes and rivers are raked onto a conveyer belt, some of them still flopping.

Brought by the boatload to this facility north of St. Louis, the Asian carp quickly meet a gruesome fate: They are ground to a bloody pulp in a maze of machines that churn their bony bodies into dehydrated meal and fish oil.

A company called American Heartland Fish Products is the latest to venture into the small but growing business of carp-rendering, and their experiment offers another test of whether private enterprise can help reduce invasive species by turning them into food, be it for humans or more likely livestock.

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NY Fed: US auto loans soar to highest in 8 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. auto loans jumped to the highest level in eight years this spring, fueled by a big increase in lending to risky borrowers, according to a report Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Yet the New York Fed also said that loans to borrowers with shoddy credit, also known as subprime lending, still make up a smaller proportion of total auto loans than before the Great Recession.

Federal banking regulators have raised concerns in recent months over the rapid increase in subprime auto loans. Such loans could lead to more defaults, harming banks and consumers.

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Berkshire Hathaway stock tops $200,000

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Naysayers have been calling shares of Warren Buffett's company overpriced for decades.

But Berkshire Hathaway Class A stock, which first topped $1,000 in 1983, on Thursday surpassed $200,000.

Berkshire has long had the most expensive U.S. stock. Buffett never split Berkshire's A shares, although he did create more affordable Class B shares in 1996 that now sell for just over $135 each.

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JC Penney posts narrower 2Q loss, sales rise

PLANO, Texas (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. reported a narrower loss for its second quarter that beat Wall Street expectations.

The beleaguered department store operator also said Thursday that sales rose 6 per cent at established locations during the period, the third consecutive quarter of growth.

The results offer some encouraging signs that Penney is recovering from a botched transformation plan by former CEO Ron Johnson that resulted in massive losses and plunging sales.

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By The Associated Press=

The S&P 500 climbed up 8.46 points, or 0.4 per cent, to close at 1,955.18. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61.78 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 16,713.58. The Nasdaq composite climbed 18.88 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,453.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.01 to close at $95.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest close since Jan. 21. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.27 to close at $102.01 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 8.8 cents to close at $2.667 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7.5 cents to close at $3.906 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 8.2 cents to close at $2.820 a gallon.

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