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Business Highlights

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Dell earnings fall 31 percent in the fourth quarter as PC market stays weak, buyout looms

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) â¿¿ Dell Inc. on Tuesday posted another quarter of declining sales and profits, the type of results that have disenchanted shareholders and prompted a buyout agreement.

Two weeks ago, Dell's founder and CEO Michael Dell and a group of investors agreed to buy the company for $24.4 billion with a plan to turn it around. If the deal goes through, it will take the PC maker off the stock market after 25 years.

Dell's slump stems from weakening demand for PCs as more technology spending shifts toward smartphones and tablet computers.

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Insurer stocks slip over possible Medicare cuts

Health insurance stocks wobbled Tuesday after data released by the federal government pointed to possible steep Medicare Advantage payment cuts in 2014, which could lead to reduced coverage or fewer options for people buying the plans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Friday after markets closed that it expects costs per person for Medicare Advantage plans to fall more than 2 percent in 2014, a bigger drop than many analysts who cover the industry anticipated.

The government uses this figure as a benchmark to determine payments for these privately run versions of the government's Medicare program that covers the elderly and disabled people, and analysts worry that this might lead to big payment cuts.

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US homebuilder confidence dips from a 6½ year high

LOS ANGELES (AP) ⿿ Confidence among U.S. homebuilders slipped this month from the 6½ year high it reached in January, with many builders reporting less traffic by prospective customers before the critical spring home-buying season.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday dipped to 46 from 47 in January. It was the first monthly decline in the index since April.

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