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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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US economy shrinks 0.1 percent, 1st time in 3½ years

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank from October through December, the first quarterly drop since 2009 and a reminder of the economy's vulnerability as automatic cuts in government spending loom.

The Commerce Department said the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent mainly because companies restocked at a slower rate and the government slashed defense spending. Those trends partly reflected uncertainty late last year about the fiscal cliff, which Congress averted in a deal reached Jan. 1.

Economists say those factors could prove temporary, and the likelihood of another recession appears remote. Still, the sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent annual growth rate in the July-September quarter, also driven by a drop in U.S. exports, raised concerns about 2013.

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Fed says growth pause temporary, keeps up stimulus

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy "paused" in recent months because of temporary factors and reaffirmed its commitment to try to stimulate growth by keeping borrowing costs low for the foreseeable future.

The Fed took no new action at its two-day policy meeting. But it stood behind aggressive steps it launched in December to try to reduce unemployment, in a statement released after the meeting.

In December, the Fed said it would keep its key short-term interest rate at a record low at least until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent. Unemployment is currently 7.8 percent. And the Fed said it would keep buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to try to keep borrowing costs low and encourage spending.

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BlackBerry launches long-awaited comeback campaign

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A new generation of more versatile BlackBerry smartphones is finally about to hit the market after excruciating delays allowed mobile devices made by Apple, Samsung and others to build commanding leads in a market that is redefining society.

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