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NEW YORK â¿¿ In an age when checks can be deposited by smartphone and almost everyone retrieves cash from ATMs, the corner bank can seem a relic. But some banking executives say the brick-and-mortar branch is still the best way to serve existing customers and snag new ones. New branches will be hip, airy spaces where customers sign in to ATMs with a tap of their smartphones and talk to off-site tellers by video. They will also help banks replace expensive workers with cheaper machines. By Business Writer Christina Rexrode.

AP photos.




WASHINGTON â¿¿ President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion federal budget would trim Social Security benefits, raise taxes on smokers and devote almost a quarter-trillion dollars in new spending to highway and rail projects, jobs initiatives and early schooling. It would bring this year's automatic spending cuts to an end but offer longer-term reductions in health care programs and the military in a new pitch to Republicans for a "grand bargain" to cut future deficits. By Andrew Taylor and Jim Kuhnhenn.

AP photos, video, audio, interactive




NEW YORK â¿¿ Technology stocks roar back, driving the Standard & Poor's 500 and Dow Jones industrial average to record highs. The industry has lagged the broader market this year, but surges after network communication company Adtran reports earnings that were double what Wall Street analysts expected. That boosted optimism that businesses will increase spending on technology equipment. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photos.


NEW YORK â¿¿ Microsoft's Windows 8 software appears to be driving buyers away from PCs and toward smartphones and tablets. Global shipments of PCs fell 14 percent in the first three months this year, research firm IDC says. That's the sharpest plunge since the firm started tracking the industry in 1994. By Technology Writer Peter Svensson.


WASHINGTON â¿¿ A majority of Federal Reserve policymakers want to continue extraordinary bond purchases to help boost the U.S. economy at least through the middle of the year, according to minutes from the Fed's last meeting. But many members indicated they want to slow and eventually end the program before the end of the year, as long as the job market and economy show sustained improvement. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.


NEW YORK â¿¿ When a witness at a Senate hearing on small business accused government of not doing enough to prepare for disasters, he got a sharp retort from the committee chair. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has watched as businesses in her state were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, then get hit again in 2010 by the Gulf oil spill, and last year, by Hurricane Isaac. She brings that perspective to her job, but she's also concerned about helping small companies recover from the recession, find skilled workers and have a voice in the debate in Congress over taxes. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.

AP photo.





WASHINGTON â¿¿ The head of the International Monetary Fund says the greatest threat to a lasting economic recovery in Europe is "the fatigue of both governments and populations" over painful steps already taken to boost growth and combat national debt.

AP photo.

â¿¿ WTO-GLOBAL TRADE â¿¿ Global trade will be weaker than expected this year as European economies struggle with their debt crisis, and will recover only slightly in 2014, the World Trade Organization says.


WASHINGTON â¿¿ The U.S. federal budget deficit grew more slowly in March, keeping the annual spending shortfall on pace to finish below $1 trillion for the first time in five years. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.


WASHINGTON â¿¿ Unemployment rates fell in more than 80 percent of large U.S. cities in February from January, suggesting that strong hiring that month benefited the vast majority of the country. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.




WASHINGTON â¿¿ As desperate as unemployed Americans are to find work, there are still some jobs that many would never consider applying for because they are seen as too dirty, too demanding or just plain unappealing. But employers that struggle to fill those jobs â¿¿ washing dishes, cleaning hotels, caring for the elderly â¿¿ could soon get help now that business groups and labor unions have agreed on a plan to allow thousands of new low-skilled foreign workers into the workforce. By Sam Hananel.

â¿¿ MADOFF SCANDAL-SEC â¿¿ A federal appeals court in New York says investors in Bernard Madoff's epic fraud cannot hold the Securities and Exchange Commission responsible for failing to expose his Ponzi scheme.


WASHINGTON â¿¿ The financially beleaguered Postal Service backpedaled on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery, conceding that its gamble to compel congressional approval had failed. With limited options for saving money, the governing board said the agency should reopen negotiations with unions to lower labor costs and consider raising mail prices. By Pauline Jelinek.


LOS ANGELES â¿¿ The number of U.S. homes repossessed by lenders last month fell to the lowest level in more than five years, the latest evidence that the nation's foreclosure crisis is abating amid an improving housing market. By Real Estate Writer Alex Veiga. Eds: The story may not be published, broadcast or posted online before 12:01 a.m. EDT on Thursday.


TORONTO â¿¿ Alberta's premier says if the Obama administration rejects the Keystone XL pipeline it be would be a significant thorn in Canadian-U.S. relations. By Rob Gillies.

â¿¿ CHINA-CALIFORNIA â¿¿ California and China agree to look for ways to boost trade and investment, even as Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledges the state's reputation for red tape and its limited willingness to offer tax incentives. AP photo.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ Oil manages to rise but gasoline futures plunge after a report shows that demand for fuel in the U.S. remains relatively weak. That could signal more good news for drivers, who've seen the average price at the pump drop 21 cents in the past six weeks.


â¿¿ GENERAL MOTORS-GOVERNMENT STOCK â¿¿ Government sold $621 million worth of GM stock in March, taxpayers still out $19.1 billion on bailout.

â¿¿ GERMANY-DAIMLER â¿¿ German automaker Daimler is warning shareholders it expects 2013 to be difficult and that it may have to reassess its earnings expectations.

â¿¿ GERMANY-GENERAL MOTORS-OPEL â¿¿ General Motors top executives reaffirm their commitment to Opel, their loss-making European subsidiary, during a visit to the company's German headquarters.

â¿¿ INDIA-CAR SALES â¿¿ Car sales in India fell by 6.7 percent in the past year, the first decline in a decade for the country's once-booming auto industry as it grapples with a wider economic malaise.


â¿¿ CONOCOPHILLIPS-ARCTIC OFFSHORE DRILLING â¿¿ ConocoPhillips Alaska says it will not drill in Arctic waters off Alaska's northwest shore in 2014. Environmental groups hail the decision and say the experience of Royal Dutch Shell PLC in 2012 demonstrated that oil companies are not prepared to drill in the fragile Arctic environment.

â¿¿TACO BELL-HEALTH KICK â¿¿ Taco Bell isn't putting down the chalupa just yet, but it's embarking on a push to shake its reputation as a purveyor of junk food.

â¿¿ POLLUTION TRIAL â¿¿ An order for Exxon Mobil to pay $236 million in damages for groundwater contamination is by far the largest verdict in state history but represents only about two days' worth of profit for the energy company. AP photo.

â¿¿CHEVRON-OUTLOOK â¿¿ The oil company releases its first-quarter interim update. Full results will be posted April 26.

â¿¿ EUROPE-HORSE MEAT â¿¿ Dutch authorities are recalling some 50,000 tons of meat that was sold as beef across Europe that possibly contains horse meat, because the exact source of the meat cannot be established.

â¿¿ GUN INDUSTRY-CONNECTICUT â¿¿ Connecticut gun-maker of military-style rifles declares intention to leave state in wake of new law.

â¿¿ TAYLOR MORRISON-IPO â¿¿ Shares of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Home Corp. rise in its debut as a publicly traded company.

â¿¿ ITALY-SHIP AGROUND â¿¿ A judge in Tuscany fines Italian cruise line Costa Crociere SpA 1 million euros ($1.3 million) for the 2012 shipwreck of the Concordia cruise ship that killed 32 people.

â¿¿ LONGSHOREMEN-CONTRACT â¿¿ Dockworkers along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico have ratified a new six-year contract, ending more than a year of negotiations.


â¿¿ GOOGLE GLASS-INVESTMENTS â¿¿ Three influential venture capital firms are teaming to find and finance entrepreneurs who want to create applications and other accessories for Google Glass. That's an Internet-connected device that is setting out to turn wearable computing into the latest fashion trend.

â¿¿ SKOREA-CYBERATTACK â¿¿ South Korea says North Korea was responsible for a cyberattack that shut down tens of thousands of computers and servers at South Korean broadcasters and banks last month.

â¿¿ BELGIUM-GOOGLE â¿¿ Internet search giant Google says it is investing 300 million euros ($390 million) to expand its continental European data center.

â¿¿ LITHUANIA-GOOGLE MAPS â¿¿ Lithuanian tax authorities say they have uncovered more than 100 possible tax dodgers using Google Maps Street View, which was recently launched in the Baltic state.



CARACAS, Venezuela â¿¿ Venezuelans complain that what goes into their Sunday dinner plate comes from abroad: Steak, from Brazil; plantains, the Dominican Republic; rice, South Africa; Parmesan cheese, Uruguay; oats, Chile. Even coffee, in a country famed for it, often is Colombian. By James Anderson.

AP photo.


BEIJING â¿¿ The official who spearheaded China's showcase bullet train network has been charged with taking bribes and abusing his power, two years after he was ousted from his job as railways minister. The case is one of China's biggest graft investigations and highlights rampant corruption in the railways, which many Chinese depend on. By Louise Watt.


TOKYO â¿¿ A rat causing a power outage by short-circuiting a temporary switchboard. Another blackout occurring as workers install anti-rat nets. Holes in the linings of huge underground tanks leaking radioactive water. Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has run into a string of problems the past few weeks that highlight its precarious state more than two years after its reactors melted down in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

AP photos.


RABAT, Morocco â¿¿ Spared the violence and instability of its North African neighbors, Morocco is looking to lure even more tourists to its beaches, cities and mountains to make up for those kept home by Europe's economic crisis. By Paul Schemm.

AP photo.

â¿¿ EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS â¿¿ The European Commission is warning that Spain and Slovenia face "excessive" problems balancing their economies.

â¿¿ CHINA-TRADE â¿¿ China reports stronger trade in March in a possible positive sign for its recovery but analysts say the data might be inflated and give a distorted picture of the economy's health.

â¿¿ LUXEMBOURG-BANKING SECRECY â¿¿ Luxembourg says it will exchange information with the rest of Europe to help fight tax evasion.

â¿¿ QATAR-EGYPT â¿¿ Qatar's prime minister says the Gulf nation will give Egypt another $3 billion to bolster its ailing economy and help rebuild key industries.



The Internet is enticing a rapidly growing number of shoppers to make a very personal purchase â¿¿ prescription eyeglasses â¿¿ online. However, technology hasn't erased all the advantages of buying glasses in a store. Here are some factors to consider before clicking on a pair of glasses and adding them to your virtual shopping cart. By Tom Murphy.

AP photos.


BOSTON â¿¿ A record amount of cash flowed into stock and bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds during the first quarter, industry consultant Strategic Insight reports. The numbers suggest that investors are finally getting comfortable with stocks again. But they're still investing cautiously, as bond funds continue to attract more cash. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell.


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Fund flows and ebbs

Investors steadily returned to the stock market throughout the first quarter. U.S. stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds reported their largest quarterly intake in nine years; a net total of $52 billion according to TrimTabs Investment Research.


Constellation Brands profit falls

Constellation Brands capped its fiscal year with a 21 percent drop in net income in the fourth quarter. The wine, beer and liquor company's results were hurt by a write-off and income tax costs.

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