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Business Highlights

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Big stakes as Black Friday, shopping season arrive

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Retailers awaiting the arrival of Black Friday are on the edge. How well they do during the biggest shopping season of the year will have lasting consequences not just on them, but the still-fragile economic recovery.

This weekend, many stores will for the first time use midnight openings along with the usual bevy of deals as they try to lure consumers, whose appetite for good-buys has been increasing since the Great Recession.

Economists and business executives will be watching closely.

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Sales of midsize cars shrink as buyers go smaller

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ You can't drive far in the U.S. without seeing a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Fusion.

Midsize sedans have been America's favorite cars for decades. That's changing. More people are choosing small cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and even smaller ones like the Honda Fit because they're worried about gas prices and car payments. There's another reason, too: Small cars are no longer the cramped econoboxes of the 1980s and 1990s, and they have many of the same features as larger cars.

Compact cars will outsell midsize ones as early as this year, forecasts J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing information firm. That hasn't happened in at least two decades.

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Slightly more people seek unemployment benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of people seeking unemployment benefits ticked up slightly last week after two months of steady declines.

But the increase isn't enough to reverse the downward trend. The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell to its lowest level since April. The decline in the average signals that companies are laying off fewer workers.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 393,000, the Labor Department said Wednesday. It's only the second increase in six weeks. The four-week average fell to 394,250. That's the eighth drop in the past nine weeks.

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