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Two big threats to the economy shrink a bit

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Economists are less worried that the U.S. will experience another round of mass layoffs and its first bout of deflation since the 1930s after the release of two government reports Thursday.

The third drop in jobless claims in four weeks and a mild uptick in wholesale prices in August add to evidence that a second recession is unlikely.

Concerns about another downturn intensified last month when jobless claims spiked past the half-million mark. Wholesale prices, meanwhile, fell in early summer for three straight months. But those trends have, for now, reversed themselves, leaving an economy that is still growing, but at a pace too slow to create many jobs.

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Congress wants tough stance with China over trade

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Congress is pressuring the Obama administration to take a tougher stand with China over trade practices that they say have cost Americans millions of jobs.

Democrats and Republicans on committees in the Senate and House told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday that China is manipulating its currency. They said that and other practices have led to a huge trade gap between the two countries and job losses in the United States.

Geithner said the administration was ready to work with Congress on an effective strategy. But he cautioned that the government should not take any action that would wind up hurting U.S. companies and businesses by triggering retaliation by China, an important trading partner.

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FedEx delivers int'l profits but cuts US jobs

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ FedEx Corp. indicated Thursday that the global economic recovery remains uneven. While strength in international shipments is boosting net income, FedEx is cutting 1,700 jobs in its U.S. freight business to offset losses there.

The world's second-largest package delivery company did raise its financial outlook after as it said first-quarter net income doubled. But projections for the second quarter and full year fell shy of Wall Street expectations. FedEx shares dropped almost 4 percent.

International air shipments have driven FedEx's results for more than a year; international revenue rose 24 percent in the quarter ended Aug. 31. But while FedEx earned $380 million in the first quarter, the FedEx Freight segment lost $16 million and has been unprofitable for four straight quarters.

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Census: 1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.

The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office.

The poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, in 2008.

___

Stocks end mixed as September rally loses steam

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Stocks struggled to a mixed finish Thursday as a two-week rally lost momentum. News of a retrenchment by FedEx Corp. also discouraged buyers.

Stocks have been rising for most of September, but on unusually weak volume as skepticism lingers about the economy. FedEx, an economic bellwether, darkened the mood with an announcement that it would eliminate 1,700 jobs in an effort to save its money-losing U.S. trucking business.

Traders were becoming wary as the Standard & Poor's S&P 500 index, the benchmark most used by professional investors, approached the high end of its recent trading range. Investors are often hesitant to push a major index outside of recently tested limits for fear that automated selling programs could kick in and send prices lower.

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Oracle's net swells 20 pct amid Hurd hiring hubbub

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Oracle Corp.'s net income swelled 20 percent in the latest quarter as the world's biggest maker of database software prospered from freer technology spending by corporations.

Oracle's results, reported Thursday, came as the company finds itself in a starring role in Silicon Valley's latest soap opera, this one involving Mark Hurd, the ousted chief of Hewlett-Packard Co. Oracle has scooped Hurd up to help sharpen its attack on its longtime partner HP.

Hurd's hiring keys up the drama between Oracle and HP at a time when Oracle is muscling into HP's turf by selling computer servers. That's a business Oracle picked up with the $7.3 billion purchase earlier this year of Sun Microsystems, a struggling server maker and fallen idol of the tech world.

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GM CEO: Repayment of bailout could take years

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ It will take a couple of years for taxpayers to get back the billions they spent bailing out General Motors, but the company has a goal of returning the money, GM's new CEO said Thursday.

CEO Daniel Akerson told reporters that the government won't be repaid with the company's initial public stock offering, which could happen later this year, but couldn't answer more specific questions about the sale.

Akerson, a former telecommunications industry executive and GM board member since July 2009, said the $50 billion government bailout of GM saved a lot of jobs and helped to preserve the country's manufacturing base.

___

Final well sealing small comfort to Gulf residents

LAFITTE, La. (AP) â¿¿ News that BP's busted well will probably be sealed once and for all this weekend brings little comfort to many along the Gulf Coast who are still paying dearly for the high-seas mistakes of the company and its partners.

BP's promise to stick around until all those hurt by the spill are made whole means very different things to different people, from Louisiana fishermen to Mississippi seafood processors, Alabama business owners to tourism workers in the Florida Panhandle. And for many, it's not just about money.

Down in the bayous of southern Louisiana, it could be years before life, and the fishing that sustains it, returns to normal.

___

FDA panel says 'no' to experimental diet pill

ADELPHI, Md. (AP) â¿¿ Federal health experts rejected a highly anticipated weight loss pill Thursday that was thought to offer a safer way to shed pounds than older medications linked to dangerous side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration's panel of experts voted 9-5 against Arena Pharmaceuticals' drug lorcaserin, saying a series of unresolved safety questions outweighed the drug's modest benefits.

The FDA is not required to follow the panel's vote and will make its own decision by Oct. 22.

___ By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 22.10, or 0.2 percent, to close at 10,594.83. The Dow has now risen in 10 of the last 12 days, but it's still 5.5 percent below its 2010 closing high level reached on April 26.

Broader indexes were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4, or 0.04 percent, to 1,124.66. The index is still up 7.2 percent for September, which is usually a weak month for stocks.

The Nasdaq composite edged up 1.93, or 0.08 percent, to 2,303.25.

Benchmark oil for October delivery lost $1.45 to settle at $74.57 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Natural gas gained 6.7 cents to settle at $4.062 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other Nymex trading in October contracts, heating oil fell 3.36 cents to settle at $2.0990 a gallon and gasoline fell 3.78 cents to settle at $1.9247 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude for November delivery dropped 94 cents to settle at $78.48 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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