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Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Auto sales surge in March, led by small cars

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Appealing small cars, low interest rates, truck deals and unseasonably warm weather helped the auto industry achieve its best monthly performance in almost four years in March.

General Motors Co. said Tuesday that its U.S. sales rose 12 percent compared with last March on solid demand for cars and small crossovers that achieve 30 miles per gallon or better on the highway. Chrysler Group's sales jumped 34 percent as buyers went for Fiat small cars and Chrysler sedans.

Toyota Motor Corp. said sales were up 15 percent, with sales of the Prius hybrid climbing 54 percent for the month. Sales at Ford Motor Co. rose 5 percent as demand for the Focus small car rose sharply.

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Recovery threatened by runaway student loan debt

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The federal student loan program seemed like a great idea back in 1965: Borrow to go to college now, pay it back later when you have a job.

But many borrowers these days are close to flunking out, tripped up by painful real-life lessons in math and economics.

Surging above $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt has surpassed credit card and auto-loan debt. This debt explosion jeopardizes the fragile recovery, increases the burden on taxpayers and possibly sets the stage for a new economic crisis.

With a still-wobbly jobs market, these loans are increasingly hard to pay off. Unable to find work, many students have returned to school, further driving up their indebtedness.

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James Murdoch steps down as BSkyB chairman

LONDON (AP) â¿¿ Once his father's heir apparent, James Murdoch stepped down Tuesday as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, surrendering one of the biggest jobs in the Murdoch media empire in a bid to distance the broadcaster from a deepening phone hacking scandal.

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