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Business Highlights

Steady hiring and near-record-low mortgage rates helped boost sales and prices in most markets. The Realtors' group says the median price for a home sold in February was $173,600. That's up 11.6 percent from a year ago.

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US rate on 30-year mortgage declines to 3.54 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week and remained near historic lows, a trend that has supported a recovery in housing.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to 3.54 percent from 3.63 percent last week. That's near the 3.31 percent reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent now for a year.

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House passes GOP budget plan promising deep cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Moving on two fronts, the Republican-controlled House on Thursday voted to keep the government running for the next six months while pushing through a tea-party flavored budget for next year that would shrink the government by another $4.6 trillion over the next decade.

The spending authorization on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature leaves in place $85 billion in spending cuts for the Pentagon and domestic agencies. The result will be temporary furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors over the next six months and interrupted, slower or halted services and aid for many Americans.

The nonbinding GOP budget plan for 2014 and beyond calls for a balanced budget in 10 years' time and sharp cuts in safety-net programs for the poor and other domestic programs.

The House plan moves to the Senate, where it is unlikely to pass.

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Lululemon's yoga pants miscue to hurt 2013 results

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Fans of Lululemon's popular black yoga pants will have to sit tight.

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