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Business Highlights

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Retailers report weak sales gains for November

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Black Friday was no match for Superstorm Sandy.

Major retailers from Target to Macy's reported weak November sales as the strong start to the holiday shopping season â¿¿ including a good showing on the day after Thanksgiving â¿¿ wasn't enough to fully offset the damage caused by Sandy earlier in the month.

The storm stunted enthusiasm among shoppers during the first couple of weeks of November just as stores were preparing for the busiest shopping period of the year, a roughly two-month stretch at the end of the year when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.

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Pay a penalty? Biz owners face health care dilemma

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Rose Wang looks at her staff of 70 employees and wonders if she'll have to lay off some of them to comply with the health care law.

The owner of Binary Group Inc., an information technology firm based in Alexandria, Va., is one of many small business owners who will be required to provide health insurance for her staffers under a provision of the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Wang already provides insurance, but she has struggled with premiums that have soared as much as 60 percent annually, so she requires employees to contribute to their coverage. She's worried because she doesn't know how much she'll have to pay under the Affordable Care Act.

Wang's worry is a gut-wrenching dilemma that many small business owners are concerned that they may face. Now that President Barack Obama has won re-election, the health care overhaul, which presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised to dismantle, is marching forward. Companies must decide before the start of 2014 what they'll do to comply with the law. Right now, no one knows how much the insurance will cost, and owners aren't sure if they'd be better off not buying it and paying a government a penalty of $2,000 per worker. Some owners are even threatening to defy the law. The big challenge for most small businesses is that they just don't have enough information to make concrete plans.

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