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Bank of America settlement likely to benefit few

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bank of America's record $16.65 billion settlement for its role in selling shoddy mortgage bonds — $7 billion of it geared for consumer relief — offers a glint of hope for desperate homeowners.

The settlement requires the second-largest U.S. bank to reduce some homeowners' loan balances, provide new loans to low-income buyers and address areas of neighbourhood blight.

But consumer advocates say relatively few people will be helped relative to the devastation triggered by the mortgage bonds, which fueled the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and threw millions of homes into foreclosure.

Only a fraction of homeowners would be eligible for refinancing under the settlement. And the process by which people would qualify and receive aid could drag on for years, with payouts set to be completed as late as 2018.

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United lures top fliers with promise of a hot meal

NEW YORK (AP) — To win the hearts of frequent business travellers, United Airlines is going through their stomachs.

The carrier has been looking for ways to woo back some of its top fliers who defected to other carriers following a rocky merger with Continental Airlines. So, it's upgrading first class food options and replacing snacks with full meals on some of its shortest flights.

The changes, announced Thursday, mean that instead of potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and bananas, passengers on flights of at least 800 miles will get meals such as chicken and mozzarella on a tomato focaccia roll and turkey and Swiss cheese on a cranberry baguette. Currently, meals are only served on flights of 900 miles or more — trips that usually last close to two hours.

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Noodles: Friend or foe? S. Koreans defend diet

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Kim Min-koo has an easy reply to new American research that hits South Korea where it hurts — in the noodles. Drunk and hungry just after dawn, he rips the lid off a bowl of his beloved fast food, wobbling on his feet but still defiant over a report that links instant noodles to health hazards.

"There's no way any study is going to stop me from eating this," says Kim, his red face beaded with sweat as he adds hot water to his noodles in a Seoul convenience store. His mouth waters, wooden chopsticks poised above the softening strands, his glasses fogged by steam. At last, he spears a slippery heap, lets forth a mighty, noodle-cooling blast of air and starts slurping.

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Record drought saps California honey production

LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — California's record drought hasn't been sweet to honeybees, and it's creating a sticky situation for beekeepers and honey buyers.

The state is traditionally one of the country's largest honey producers, with abundant crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar that bees turn into honey. But the lack of rain has ravaged native plants and forced farmers to scale back crop production, leaving fewer places for honeybees to forage.

The historic drought, now in its third year, is reducing supplies of California honey, raising prices for consumers and making it harder for beekeepers to earn a living.

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Honda bolsters Fit to boost crash resistance

DETROIT (AP) — When the subcompact Fit failed a crash test, Honda went back to the drawing board.

The tiny Fit, redesigned for the 2015 model year, initially flunked the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap test, earning just a "Marginal" rating. The test simulates a 40 mph crash between the front corner of a car and an object such as a utility pole.

Honda engineers strengthened the welds on the front bumper beams, so energy from a crash would be spread over the entire front of the car. This gave the driver and passengers more protection and lessened the likelihood of injury.

The change got the Fit an "Acceptable" rating in a second test, and earned it a "Top Safety Pick" designation.

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Applications for US unemployment aid fall to 298K

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, another sign the job market is improving.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless aid fell 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000. The prior week's figures were revised up slightly to 311,000.

The less-volatile four-week average rose 4,750 to 300,750. It remains close to levels that predate the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs.

Employers aren't just keeping workers. They're hiring at a pace last seen during the tech boom. They added 209,000 jobs in July, the sixth straight month that job gains exceeded 200,000. The economy has generated 244,000 new jobs a month since February.

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US housing recovery appears to be back on track

WASHINGTON (AP) — A fourth straight monthly increase in sales of existing homes provided the latest evidence Thursday that the U.S. housing market is rebounding from a weak start to the year.

Housing has been a drag on an otherwise strengthening economy, in part because a harsh winter delayed many sales. But Americans are stepping up purchases as more homes have been put up for sale. And low mortgage rates and moderating price gains have made homes more affordable.

Sales of existing homes rose 2.4 per cent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That was the highest annual rate since September of last year.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.10 pct

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates declined this week, with the 30-year loan rate hitting its 52-week low.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage fell to 4.10 per cent from 4.12 per cent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, slipped to 3.23 per cent from 3.24 per cent.

Mortgage rates have fallen in recent weeks after climbing last summer when the Federal Reserve began talking about reducing the monthly bond purchases it was making to keep long-term borrowing rates low.

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Family Dollar rejects Dollar General offer

Family Dollar has rejected a takeover bid from dollar-store competitor Dollar General, saying it would be too hard for the deal to pass antitrust regulators. Family Dollar's board said it supports its existing deal to be acquired by Dollar Tree.

Family Dollar Stores Inc. Chairman and CEO Howard Levine said in a statement Thursday that its board and advisers reviewed Dollar General Corp.'s offer and determined it wasn't reasonably likely to be completed on the terms proposed.

Dollar General Chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling said in a statement that the company was disappointed in Family Dollar's decision, and that it had done an extensive antitrust analysis that confirmed its proposal could be completed. Dollar General said it was willing to share its analysis with Family Dollar and that it was still confident it could resolve any regulatory concerns about competition.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 60.36 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,039.49. The S&P 500 rose 5.86 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,992.37. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.62 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,532.10.

Benchmark U.S. oil rose 51 cents to $93.96 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils imported by U.S. refineries, rose 35 cents to $102.63 in London. Wholesale gasoline gained 3.5 cents to $2.748 a gallon. Heating oil added 1.2 cents to $2.838 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6.6 cents to $3.889 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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