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Business Highlights

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.31 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. That's down from 3.34 percent last week, the previous record low.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage also dropped to 2.63 percent. That's down from 2.65 percent last week and also a new record.

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Measure of future US economic activity up 0.2 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A measure of the U.S. economy intended to signal future activity rose only slightly last month, suggesting growth could stay weak.

The Conference Board said Wednesday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.2 percent in October after a 0.5 percent gain in September. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.

The strength in October came from lower interest rates, a drop in applications for unemployment benefits, and an increase in demand for large manufactured goods.

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Deere has downbeat 2013 outlook, and shares fall

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) â¿¿ Tractor maker Deere & Co. is taking a cautious view of 2013, as drought and economic uncertainty hold back spending in some of the world's biggest farm economies.

Also, its most recent quarterly profit missed analysts' expectations. Deere shares fell $3.16, or 3.7 percent, to close at $82.83 Wednesday.

Deere is the world's largest maker of agricultural equipment, like the bright green tractors and combines that prowl farm fields during planting and harvest seasons. Its fortunes rise and fall with those of farmers.

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Reckitt to buy vitamin company Schiff for $1.4 billion

Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC said Wednesday that it will buy vitamin and nutrition supplement maker Schiff Nutrition International Inc. for $1.4 billion, topping an earlier bid by Bayer AG.

The British consumer goods company said the deal will build on its health care business in the U.S., where it already sells brands such as Muxinex, Delsym and Durex. Schiff products include Tiger's Milk nutrition bars and Airborne immune system health supplements.

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