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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Drivers endure high gas prices despite US oil boom

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. is increasing its oil production faster than ever, and American drivers are guzzling less gas. But you'd never know it from the price at the pump.

The national average price of gasoline is $3.69 per gallon and forecast to creep higher, possibly approaching $4 by May.

U.S. oil output rose 14 percent to 6.5 million barrels per day last year â¿¿ a record increase. By 2020, the nation is forecast to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest crude oil producer. At the same time, U.S. gasoline demand has fallen to 8.7 million barrels a day, its lowest level since 2001, as people switch to more fuel-efficient cars.

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Dell buyout intrigue heightens as deadline looms

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Michael Dell is about to find out if other bidders think his company is worth more than he does.

The answer could come Friday, which marks the end of a 45-day period that Dell Inc.'s board of directors settled on to allow for offers that might top a Feb. 5 agreement to sell the personal computer maker to CEO Michael Dell and a group of investors for $24.4 billion.

With the deadline looming, buyout specialist Blackstone Group is emerging as the most likely candidate to trump the current bid of $13.65 per share.

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Cyprus rushes bailout plan as clock ticks

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) â¿¿ Cypriot politicians moved Thursday to restructure the country's most troubled bank as part of a broader bailout plan that must be in place by Monday to avoid financial ruin. Concerned customers rushed to get cash from ATMs as bank employees protested.

Cyprus has been told it must raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) if it is to receive 10 billion euros from its fellow eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. If it does not find a way by Monday, the European Central Bank said it will cut off emergency support to the banks and let them collapse.

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