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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Job gains cut unemployment to 7.7 percent, a 4-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The American job market isn't just growing. It's accelerating.

Employers added 236,000 jobs in February and drove down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, its lowest level in more than four years. The gains signal that companies are confident enough in the economy to intensify hiring even in the face of tax increases and government spending cuts.

Last month capped a fourth-month hiring spree in which employers have added an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month. The hiring has been fueled by steady improvement in housing, auto sales, manufacturing and corporate profits, along with record-low borrowing rates.

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Stocks gain for sixth day on strong jobs growth

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A burst of hiring in February pushed stocks higher on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 14,397.07. The index surpassed its previous record close Tuesday and logged a sixth straight increase Friday.

The strong job growth shows that employers are confident about the economy despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.

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BP warns of rising costs from spill settlement

NEW ORLEANS (AP) â¿¿ BP is warning investors that the price tag will be "significantly higher" than it initially estimated for its multibillion-dollar settlement with businesses and residents who claim they were affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based oil giant estimated last year that it would spend roughly $7.8 billion to resolve tens of thousands of claims covered by the settlement agreement. But in a regulatory filing this week, BP PLC said businesses' claims have been paid at much higher average amounts than it had anticipated.

The company also said it can't reliably estimate how much it will pay for unresolved business claims following a ruling Tuesday by the federal judge supervising the uncapped settlement. U.S District Judge Carl Barbier rejected BP's interpretation of certain settlement provisions.

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