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NEW YORK â¿¿ If the economic downturn has taught retailers anything, it's that a 50 percent off sale isn't enough to lure finicky American shoppers into stores these days. So this holiday season, shoppers will find that retailers are doing all kinds of things to make it easier for them to part with their money. They're offering free layaways and shipping. They're matching prices with online rivals. They're even opening on Thanksgiving Day. By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.

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CHICAGO â¿¿ Feeling the pinch of the sluggish economic recovery, many Americans setting out on the nation's annual Thanksgiving migration had to sacrifice summer vacations, rely on relatives for airfare or scour the Web for travel deals to ensure they made it home. By Jason Keyser


Gas costs more than a year ago but Americans still have reason to be thankful. Prices in many parts of the country have fallen and drivers in 14 states are now paying less than they did last Thanksgiving. Still, Americans are likely to spend more on gasoline in 2012 than in any year before. Here's a look at how gas prices have fluctuated over the past year both nationally and in a handful of states. By Business Writer Sandy Shore.



From websites and apps to advice on whether it's worth driving a few miles to buy cheaper gas, here are some tips on saving money on fuel as you drive to visit the relatives over the holiday weekend. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey.


After the crowds have shopped at big stores and malls on Black Friday, small businesses are hoping Saturday will be their day. On "Small Business Saturday," thousands of stores, dry cleaners, spas and other establishments across the country will offer their own discounts and promotions to draw holiday shoppers. Small Business Saturday was created by American Express three years ago as a way to get more consumers to use its cards. Many small businesses do get a sales bump from the day â¿¿ but for some, it's part of a strategy for the whole holiday season. Perhaps more importantly, it's an opportunity to build a corps of customers who will keep coming back year-round. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.


NEW YORK â¿¿ The arrest of a former hedge fund portfolio manager in what prosecutors are calling one of the most lucrative insider trading schemes ever indicates that prosecutors may be setting their sights higher â¿¿ toward Steven A. Cohen, one of the nation's wealthiest hedge fund managers and owner of SAC Capital, which the suspect's firm was connected to. By Larry Neumeister.

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MACAU â¿¿ A wave of new casino megaresorts that are expected to open in Macau from mid-2015 will only bolster the former Portuguese colony's standing as the world's top gambling market. But they'll also add to the mixed blessing of a transformation that has produced a lopsided economy and society. Property prices have surged and inequality has widened. Some lament the embrace of materialism and the erosion of traditional community values. By Kelvin Chan.

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LOS ANGELES â¿¿ Darth Vader is dead. The evil Emperor exploded. And Luke Skywalker and his allies destroyed both Death Stars, restoring balance to the Force. For The Walt Disney Co., the prospective new owner of the "Star Wars" franchise, what's left to tell? A lot, apparently. There are more than 110 novels and 80-plus comic books set after "Return of the Jedi," the sixth episode in the film series. That has left a lot of room for speculation ever since Disney announced it is buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and will resume making "Star Wars" movies. By Ryan Nakashima.

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. â¿¿ Twinkies, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread are up for sale, now that a bankruptcy judge has cleared the way for Hostess Brands to fire its 18,000 workers and wind down its operations. A last-ditch effort to end a strike with its bakers' union failed Tuesday night. By Retail Writer Candice Choi.

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WASHINGTON â¿¿ The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid remained elevated for a second straight week because Superstorm Sandy forced many people to seek temporary benefits. The Labor Department said Wednesday that first-time applications for benefits fell by 41,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 410,000. That offset only part of the previous week's surge. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

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â¿¿ MORTGAGE RATES â¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell to fresh record lows this week, a trend that is boosting home sales and aiding the housing recovery.

â¿¿ LEADING INDICATORS â¿¿ A measure of the U.S. economy intended to signal future activity rose only slightly last month, suggesting growth could stay weak.


NEW YORK â¿¿ The stock market crept higher Wednesday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Major market indexes got a slight lift after news broke of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil climbed back above $87 a barrel after the announcement of a cease-fire agreement to end a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.

â¿¿ DROUGHT-SEVERITY â¿¿ A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions.

â¿¿ CLIMATE CHANGE-TRANSPORTATION â¿¿ The nation's lifelines â¿¿ its roads, airports, railways and transit systems â¿¿ are getting hammered by extreme weather beyond what their builders imagined, leaving states and cities searching for ways to brace for more catastrophes like Superstorm Sandy.



DETROIT â¿¿ General Motors' finance arm is buying Ally Financial's loan businesses in Europe, Latin America and part of a joint venture in China for $4.25 billion. GM says having its own finance operations will let it to make low-interest loans and cheap lease deals. The move will help Ally, formerly part of GM, repay a $17.2 billion bailout from the U.S. government during the banking industry meltdown of 2008. By Auto Writer Tom Krisher.


MINNEAPOLIS â¿¿ Farm and construction gear maker Deere & Co. reports a bigger fourth-quarter profit as it sold more equipment at higher prices, but results still missed analyst expectations. By Business Writer Josh Freed.

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â¿¿ RECKITT BENCKISER-SCHIFF NUTRITION â¿¿ Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC signs deal to buy vitamin and nutrition supplement maker Schiff Nutrition International Inc. for $1.4 billion, topping an earlier bid by Bayer AG.

â¿¿ TOYOTA-TRUCK RECALL â¿¿ Toyota is recalling about 150,000 Tacoma midsize pickups because the spare tires can fall from beneath the trucks.

â¿¿ UNITED-7 WTC LAWSUIT â¿¿ United Airlines cannot be held responsible for the hijacking of an American Airlines flight and the collapse of a third World Trade Center building after the twin towers fell in the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge rules.

â¿¿ RESCAP BANKRUPTCY â¿¿ A bankruptcy court has approved a joint $3 billion buyout bid from Ocwen Loan Servicing and Walter Investment Management for Ally Financial's Residential Capital. ResCap filed for bankruptcy protection in May after being hobbled by payments on debt taken out to finance soured home mortgages.



ALBANY, N.Y. â¿¿ The Federal Communications Commission announces a series of hearings nationwide to try to find ways to avoid widespread loss of communications among first-responders, emergency managers and the general public in disasters like Superstorm Sandy. By Michael Gormley.

â¿¿ JAPAN-NUCLEAR ROBOT â¿¿ Toshiba unveils a robot that the company says can withstand high radiation and help in nuclear disasters. But the machine, which looks like an ice cooler on wobbly metal legs, appears prone to glitches. AP photos.

â¿¿ FACEBOOK-PRIVACY VOTE â¿¿ Facebook is proposing to end its practice of letting users vote on changes to its privacy policies.



BRUSSELS â¿¿ Everyone's drawing lines in the sand, but the leaders are so far apart they might as well be on different beaches. The European Union heads into a critical summit to hammer out a $1.3 trillion budget through 2020 that promises to be one of its most bitter fights in years. By Raf Casert.

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â¿¿ EU-WHY IT MATTERS â¿¿ Compared to the size of the governments of its member states, the EU is very small. Yet it wields broad power, and that's why this week's fight over its spending is important.



ATHENS, Greece â¿¿ Greece's prime minister warns that the future of Greece and the stability of the entire eurozone depends on creditors reaching a deal to release Greece's $56 billion in rescue loans in the next few days. European finance ministers again failed to come to terms after 12 hours of debate. By Elena Becatoros.

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â¿¿ GREECE-CITIBANK â¿¿ U.S.-based Citigroup says it will close 16 of its 37 bank branches in Greece, citing the country's recession-hit "business and economic environment" â¿¿ becoming the latest overseas lender to cut back its Greek operations.

â¿¿ JAPAN-TRADE â¿¿ Japan logs its fourth straight monthly trade deficit in October as the European debt crisis and strained business ties with China over a territorial dispute reduce exports.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-ECONOMY â¿¿ The British government continues to borrow more than planned in October as corporation tax revenue falls sharply in the wake of a nine-month recession.



BOSTON â¿¿ Dividend-paying stocks are so popular now that it's jarring to hear a market strategist suggest they're no longer solid investments. Yet Seth Masters of AllianceBernstein says these income-generating stocks have become so expensive that they no longer offer the relative safety investors expect from them. He sees far more opportunity in the market's lowest-priced value stocks, which have become bargains. Masters discusses the top current opportunities and biggest risks. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell.

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Growing dividends

Despite its name, United Technologies isn't a flashy growth stock. And that's a good thing for dividend investors focused on long-term cash over flash. The 78-year-old conglomerate has raised its dividend for 18 straight years. Shareholders currently receive $2.14 per share annually, for a yield of 2.8 percent.


Deere earnings disappoint

Deere & Co. reported that its net income rose in the fourth quarter, but earnings of $1.75 per share still fell shy of what Wall Street analysts were expecting.

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