Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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Data suggest US economy growing only modestly

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A spate of data Thursday painted a mixed picture of the U.S. economy: Demand for long-lasting manufactured goods fell, and slightly fewer people signed contracts to buy homes. At the same time, the job market looked only a little better.

Taken together, the reports suggest the economy is growing only modestly and not quickly enough to spur much hiring.

Yet a peek beneath the headlines, and a separate report on applications for unemployment aid, suggested that the economy is sturdier than it might appear. The GDP revision was mostly a result of the Midwest drought, and the drop in orders for long-lasting goods was mostly attributable to a plunge in volatile aircraft orders.

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Want some taste with that ice cream?

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Nonfat cheese that tastes like plastic. Low-calorie soda that leaves a bitter aftertaste. Sugar-free brownies that crumble like Styrofoam.

Dieters have learned an important lesson: When you take the fat and calories out of your favorite treats, you sometimes have to say goodbye to the taste, too.

But snack brands like Dreyer's/Edy's ice cream, Hershey's chocolate and Lay's potato chips are trying to solve this age-old dieter's dilemma by rolling out so-mid-calorie goodies that have more fat and calories than the snacks of earlier diet crazes but less than the original versions. They're following the lead of soda companies like Pepsi and Dr Pepper that introduced mid-calorie drinks last year.

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Asia's budget airline boom bypasses China

HONG KONG (AP) â¿¿ When businesswoman Ren Hong flew home after a recent trip to Beijing on state-owned Air China, she was hoping for a decent inflight meal to tide her over until she got back to the spicy cuisine of her native Sichuan province.

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