Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Carnival cancels 12 more cruises on troubled ship

HOUSTON (AP) â¿¿ Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company's announcement on Wednesday came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.

The ship will be idle through April.

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Feds roll out cyber plan as Hill vows legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Declaring that America is losing an aggressive cyber-espionage campaign waged from China, administration officials and lawmakers on Wednesday agreed to push legislation that would make it easier for the government and industry to share information about who is getting hacked and what to do about it.

They say this new partnership, codified by law and buoyed by President Barack Obama's new executive order, is critical to keeping countries like China, Russia and even Iran from rummaging in American computer networks and targeting proprietary data they can use to wreak havoc or compete against U.S. businesses.

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EU, US to push for trans-Atlantic trade deal

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ The European Union and the United States announced Wednesday that they have agreed to pursue talks aimed at achieving an overarching trans-Atlantic free trade deal.

The 27-country EU said such an agreement, first announced in Tuesday's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated. Any agreement could boost the EU's economic output by 0.5 percent and the U.S.'s by 0.7 percent, according to some estimates. That would be a highly desirable outcome when the EU and the U.S. are both struggling with slow growth, high unemployment and high levels of debt.

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US retail sales rise 0.1 pct. after tax increase

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans barely spent more last month at retail businesses and restaurants after higher taxes cut their paychecks. The small increase suggests consumer spending may be weak in the January-March quarter, which could hold back economic growth.

Retail sales ticked up 0.1 percent in January from December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That follows a 0.5 percent increase in December and is the smallest in three months. Sales fell at auto dealerships, clothing stores and furniture stores. The declines came after big gains in each of those categories in December. Sales rose last month at home-improvement stores, gas stations and online retailers.

So-called core retail sales, which exclude autos, building materials, and gas stations, ticked up 0.2 percent. That's down from 0.6 percent in December.

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US companies restocked at slower pace in December

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. companies restocked their store shelves and warehouses at a slower pace in December, a sign of caution as sales weakened. Slower restocking was a major drag on the economy in the final three months of last year.

Business inventories ticked up 0.1 percent in December from November, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was below the 0.2 percent pace the previous month and the smallest increase since last June.

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Judge throws out some Facebook IPO lawsuits

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ A New York judge is dismissing a key group of the many lawsuits against Facebook over its initial public offering in May, saying the plaintiffs did not show that they lost money because of corporate wrongdoing.

Judge Robert Sweet of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York also agreed with Facebook's claims that the plaintiffs could not prove that they owned Facebook stock at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

The lawsuits and other still remaining alleged that analysts at large underwriting investment banks cut their financial forecasts for Facebook just before the IPO and told only a handful of clients. Facebook and the banks say nothing about its process was illegal.

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Obama minimum wage plan renews economic debate

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and boost it annually to keep pace with inflation is already getting a trial run. Ten states make similar cost-of-living adjustments, including Washington state, where workers earn at least $9.19 an hour, the highest minimum in the country.

In all, 19 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages set above the federal rate of $7.25, a disparity Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address as he seeks to help the nation's lowest paid workers.

Obama's proposal is renewing the age-old debate between advocates who claim boosting the minimum wage pumps more money into the economy, helping to create new jobs, and business groups that complain it would unfairly burden employers and curb demand for new workers.

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Comcast doubles down on TV in $16.7B deal for NBCU

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Comcast's $16.7 billion deal to buy the remaining half of NBCUniversal ahead of schedule represents a resounding vote of confidence in the future of TV, even as the growth of Internet video reshapes the entertainment landscape.

The decision was driven largely by Comcast Corp.'s belief that it would end up paying substantially more for General Electric Co.'s remaining 49 percent stake if it had waited until 2018, as had been envisioned in 2011 when the nation's largest cable TV provider acquired majority control of NBCUniversal.

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EU ministers call for emergency meat testing

BRUSSELS (AP) â¿¿ European Union nations on Wednesday called for more intensive testing for a month to try to contain the scandal in which horsemeat was sold as beef.

The emergency meeting at EU headquarters included nations most affected by the horsemeat scandal that has swept through Europe, with millions of burgers and frozen meals recalled across the continent.

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Lexus, Porsche top vehicle dependability rankings

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ If there's one thing you can count on, it's your car.

Vehicles are more dependable than ever, says J.D. Power and Associates. The consulting company's latest study, which measures problems experienced in the last year by owners of 3-year-old vehicles, found that reported problems fell 5 percent to the lowest level since J.D. Power began collecting this data in 1989.

Lexus, Porsche, Lincoln and Toyota owners reported the fewest problems, while Jeep, Mitsubishi, Dodge and Land Rover owners had the most.

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Want a home-cooked meal? It's in the can

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ There's nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked meal, especially if it comes out of a can or a pouch.

As more people try their hand at mimicking sophisticated recipes from cooking shows and blogs, food companies are rolling out meal kits and starters that make amateur chefs feel like Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray in the kitchen.

Call it the next generation of dinner-in-box sets like Rice-A-Roni and Hamburger Helper that were rolled out as moms flooded the workforce in the '50s, '60s and '70s. But the new kits and starters go beyond just browning meat and throwing evaporated cheese and seasonings into boiling water â¿¿ the idea is to make people feel like they're making their meals from scratch.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average shed 35.79 points to close at 13,982.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged up 0.90 point to 1,520.33. The index climbed as high as 1,524 during the day, the highest since November 2007. The Nasdaq composite rose 10.38 points to 3,196.88.

Benchmark oil dropped 50 cents to finish at $97.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 6 cents to end at $118.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to finish at $3.04 a gallon.Natural gas rose 8 cents to end at $3.31 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 2 cents to finish at $3.22 a gallon.

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

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