Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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US hiring picked up in July; so did unemployment

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. economy generated 163,000 jobs in July after three months of weak hiring, a sign it is resilient enough to pull out of a midyear slump and grow modestly as the rest of the world slows down.

But employers aren't hiring enough to drive down the unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent last month from 8.2 percent in June â¿¿ the 42nd straight month the jobless rate has exceeded 8 percent. The United States remains stuck with the weakest economic recovery since World War II.

The latest job numbers, released Friday by the Labor Department, provided fodder both for President Barack Obama, who highlighted improved hiring in the private sector, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who pointed toward higher unemployment.

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Stocks soar on surprisingly strong July job report

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A surge in hiring last month got a big welcome on Wall Street Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged 217.29 points to close at 13,096.17, ending a four-day losing streak. It was the best day for the Dow since June 29.

Markets had been slumping all week after central banks in the U.S and Europe took no new action to shore up the economy, as investors had hoped.

The Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report gave investors assurance that the U.S. economy may be doing better on its own. U.S. employers added 163,000 jobs last month, far more than the 100,000 economists were expecting. From April through June, the economy added an average of just 73,000 jobs a month, compared with an average of 226,000 in the first three months of the year.

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Oil surges 5 percent on strong jobs growth

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The price of oil posted its biggest gain in more than month, jumping nearly 5 percent, after the government reported a sharp rise in jobs growth for July.

Benchmark U.S. crude on Friday rose $4.27 to end the day at $91.40 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for oil imported into the U.S., climbed $3.04, or 2.9 percent, to $108.94 per barrel in London.

Prices climbed after the government said U.S. employers added 163,000 jobs in July. Last month's hiring was the best since February, though it wasn't enough to drive down the unemployment rate. Prices for oil and gasoline tend to rise on signs of strength in the economy, which increases energy demand.

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Consumer agency probes mortgage insurance deals

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government's consumer finance watchdog is investigating deals that transferred billions in premiums charged to mortgage borrowers from mortgage-insurance companies to the banks that made the loans.

The deals amounted to kickbacks, because the banks pressured insurers into them in exchange for a share of the banks' mortgage-insurance business, according to civil lawsuits filed by borrowers and legal experts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has served subpoenas to American International Group Inc., MGIC Investment Corp. Genworth Financial Inc. and Radian Group Inc., the companies said in public filings this week. The CFPB asked for documents and answers to written questions about captive mortgage reinsurance deals, they said.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

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Toyota raises sales plan as quarterly profit zooms

TOKYO (AP) â¿¿ Toyota raised its sales target for this year to a record 9.76 million vehicles and reported a strong recovery in quarterly profit Friday, underlining its bounce back from a disaster plagued 2011.

Toyota Motor Corp. said April-June profit zoomed to 290.3 billion yen ($3.7 billion) from 1.1 billion yen the year before. Its new sales target would represent a 23 percent increase from the 7.95 million vehicles sold in 2011, and is 180,000 vehicles more than Toyota's last forecast in February.

The car maker's quarterly sales soared nearly 60 percent to 5.5 trillion yen ($70.5 billion), rebounding from a sales crash that all Japanese automakers suffered after the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in March last year.

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Procter & Gamble 4th quarter up on snack sale

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Procter & Gamble Co. said Friday that its net income climbed 45 percent in its fiscal fourth quarter, boosted by the sale of its snacks division. Even without the impact of the sale, its earnings beat Wall Street expectations and the company said it was making progress with its cost cutting plan and strategy to improve results by focusing on its most profitable categories.

The maker of Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and other consumer goods also said Friday that it plans to buy back $4 billion in shares this fiscal year. That's a reversal from June, when the company said it did not plan any share repurchases.

P&G has admitted missteps in pricing and balancing growth in emerging markets, which make up about 30 percent of its sales, with the realities of an uncertain global economy and lackluster market share growth.

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Viacom 3Q profit down 7 percent on TV ad decline

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Viacom Inc., the owner of Paramount Pictures, MTV and Nickelodeon, on Friday said that its net income fell 7 percent in the latest quarter as advertising revenue declined more than expected and its movie releases failed to measure up to last year's.

Viacom earned $534 million, or $1.01 per share, in the April to June quarter. That compares with $574 million, or 97 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Excluding some one-time tax benefits, earnings were 97 cents per share in the fiscal third quarter. That was 3 cents below the average analyst estimate as polled by FactSet.

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AT&T sets deadline for 2G sunset in 4 years

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ AT&T Inc. said Friday that the shutdown of its second-generation, or "2G," wireless network will be complete by the end of 2016, a process that will force customers with older phones to upgrade to "3G" or "4G" handsets.

In a regulatory filing, the Dallas-based company said 12 percent of its customers on contract-based plans, or 8.4 million people, have 2G phones.

AT&T said it's shutting down the older network, which doesn't support high data speeds, city by city. It said earlier this year that the process has started in New York City, and it's trying to move the city's 2G subscribers to new phones.

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Kisses at Chick-fil-A to protest gay marriage view

ATLANTA (AP) â¿¿ Gay rights activists were kissing at Chick-fil-A stores across the country Friday, just days after the company set a sales record when customers flocked to the restaurants to show support for the fast-food chain president's opposition to gay marriage.

Meanwhile, police were investigating graffiti at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Southern California. The graffiti on the side of a restaurant in Torrance said "Tastes like hate" and had a picture of a cow. No one has been arrested.

The flap began last month when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a religious publication that the company backed "the biblical definition of a family" and later said: "''I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'"

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USDA: Number of farmers markets up due to demand

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ As demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased, so too has the number of urban farmers markets sprouting up across the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that the number of direct-sales markets has increased 9.6 percent in the past year, with California and New York leading the way.

After 18 years of steady increases, the number of farmers markets across the country now registered with the USDA is 7,864. In 1994, there were 1,744.

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EA sues Zynga claiming copyright infringement

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Electronic Arts Inc. has sued online game maker Zynga saying that its new game "The Ville" infringes its own game, "The Sims Social."

EA said Friday that "The Ville" is "unmistakable" in its similarity to "The Sims Social," which launched more than a year earlier. EA says the games are "largely indistinguishable" to a casual observer.

The games are both played on Facebook. Players create characters who live, work and interact with each other in virtual neighborhoods.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average surged 217.29 points to close at 13,096.17. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 25.99 points to 1,390.99, and the Nasdaq composite index added 58.13 points to 2,967.90.

Benchmark U.S. crude on Friday rose $4.27 to end the day at $91.40 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for oil imported into the U.S., climbed $3.04, or 2.9 percent, to $108.94 per barrel in London.

In other futures trading, heating oil added 8.4 cents to finish at $2.926 per gallon while wholesale gasoline added 6.1 cents to finish at $2.931 per gallon. Natural gas was dropped 4.3 cents to finish at $2.877 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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