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â¿¿ Adds: NCAA ATHLETES-EA LAWSUIT

â¿¿ Updates: ECONOMY-GDP

TOP STORIES:

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON â¿¿ A key government report and a statement from the Federal Reserve make clear that the U.S. economy still needs help. The economy grew at a lackluster 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. That was better than a revised 1.1 percent rate for the first quarter but still far too sluggish to quickly reduce unemployment. The Fed's statement suggests it's too early to signal a pullback in its $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.

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â¿¿ ECONOMY-GDP-REVISIONS â¿¿ Revised U.S. data paint better picture of economy last year; broader trends little changed.

FEDERAL RESERVE

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Federal Reserve stops short of signaling any timetable for slowing its bond buying. Instead, it dropped hints that it might need to maintain its $85 billion a month in bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term borrowing rates ultra-low. By Economics Writers Martin Crutsinger.

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â¿¿ FEDERAL RESERVE-GLANCE â¿¿ Federal Reserve policymaking group has power over economy through control of interest rates.

BOARDING THE PLANE

Window, middle, aisle. Rear to front. Getting people onto a plane quickly matters more than you might think. Passengers want to board early to find space in the overhead bins for their rolling carry-on bags. For airlines, every minute that a plane sits at the gate makes it more likely that the flight will be late, hurting the carrier's on-time rating and causing passengers to miss connecting flights. But the perfect boarding process remains elusive. Even an astrophysicist couldn't figure it out. By Airlines Writer David Koenig.

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FACEBOOK-STOCK

NEW YORK â¿¿If redemption comes in the form of a soaring stock, then Facebook has redeemed itself. The share price of the world's most populous online social network â¿¿and human data repository â¿¿ surpasses $38 for the first time since its rocky public debut in May 2012. In doing so, Facebook cleared a symbolic hurdle that has eluded the company for more than a year. By Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay.

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SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK â¿¿ Uncle Sam isn't as easy of a customer to land as he used to be. The cost that goes into going after a federal contract was already rising sharply before $85 billion in federal budget cuts went into effect this spring. Now that many cuts are in place, small-business owners are finding that it's harder and even more expensive to do business with the government than before. And in many cases, revenue that they used to rely on isn't coming in, or it's taking longer to materialize. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.

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â¿¿ SMALLBIZ-CONTRACTING â¿¿ A look at the state of small business contracting.

CHINA-BRIBING DOCTORS

BEIJING â¿¿ Accusations that GlaxoSmithKline employees bribed Chinese doctors to prescribe its drugs brought international attention to the flow of illicit money in China's health care system. But to China's public, the practice has long been common knowledge. Low salaries and skimpy budgets drive doctors and administrators to make ends meet by accepting money from patients, drug suppliers and others. Many blame a system in which the country's hospitals nearly all are state-run but get too little money from Beijing. Most of China's 2.3 million doctors are hospital employees and are barred from adding to their income by taking on second jobs. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.

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MARKETS & ECONOMY:

WALL STREET

NEW YORK â¿¿ After a day of stalled rallies, the stock market closes out July with its best monthly gain since January. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ends the month 4.95 percent higher. That's the biggest increase since January, when it rose 5.04 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average also has its best month since January. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell.

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â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rises the most in three weeks amid signs that the U.S. economy is improving, but not fast enough for the Federal Reserve to reduce its monthly bond-buying program. Still, many analysts don't expect a further spike in oil prices like the one seen earlier in July.

STUDENT LOANS

WASHINGTON â¿¿ A deal that gives college students and their parents lower interest rates for loans is heading toward its final vote. By Philip Elliott.

DEBIT CARD FEES

WASHINGTON â¿¿ A federal judge has struck down a rule setting a cap on the fees that banks can charge merchants for handling debit card purchases, saying the Federal Reserve didn't have the authority to set the limit in 2011. By Business Writer Marcy Gordon.

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â¿¿ ECONOMY-JOBS â¿¿ A private survey by payroll company ADP shows U.S. businesses created a healthy 200,000 jobs this month, the fastest pace since December.

â¿¿ BUDGET BATTLE-DEFENSE â¿¿ A second, deeper round of automatic federal budget cuts is on its way, and it's going to hit the Pentagon hard.

â¿¿ TREASURY BORROWING â¿¿ The Treasury Department says it expects to start offering investors a new Treasury security with variable interest rates in January. It will be the first new Treasury security in 15 years.

EARNINGS:

FRANCE-EARNS-EADS

PARIS â¿¿ European aerospace group EADS is to change its name to Airbus and shake up its corporate structure as part of push to give its civil aviation division more prominence. The company will also reshuffle its space and military units into one division. Its first-half profit rose 31 percent to $1 billion. By Greg Keller.

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â¿¿ EARNS-MASTERCARD â¿¿ MasterCard, the payments processing company, reports a 19 percent increase in its second-quarter profit as its purchase volumes increase.

â¿¿ EARNS-MARRIOTT â¿¿ Hotel giant Marriott International Inc. says second-quarter earnings rose as business and leisure travelers continued to book hotel rooms and paid slightly more for them.

â¿¿ EARNS-WHOLE FOODS â¿¿ Whole Foods Market Inc. says its profit rose by 21 percent in the latest quarter, as the organic grocery store chain saw sales climb and costs ease.

â¿¿ EARNS-AB-INBEV â¿¿ Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev's second-quarter profit falls by nearly a quarter due to higher taxes and financing costs.

â¿¿ EARNS-SOUTHERN CO â¿¿ Southern Co. earnings slumped 52 percent to $297 million in the second quarter due mainly to cost overruns at a coal-fired power plant under construction in Mississippi, the company reported Wednesday.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-EARNS-DIAGEO â¿¿ Drinks company Diageo, behind the brands Johnnie Walker whiskey, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness stout, says rising spirits consumption in the U.S. helps its profit rise 28 percent to $3.79 billion.

â¿¿ FRANCE-EARNS-BNP PARIBAS â¿¿ BNP Paribas says its profit slipped nearly 5 percent in the second quarter as investment banking continued to suffer from the tough economic conditions in Europe.

â¿¿ GERMANY-BAYER-EARNS â¿¿ German drug and chemicals company Bayer says profit rose 75 percent in the second quarter thanks to lower one-time charges and strong sales of new anti-clotting and eye drugs.

AUTOS:

GERMANY-EARNS-VOLKSWAGEN

FRANKFURT, Germany â¿¿ German automaker Volkswagen says second-quarter profit fell 50 percent from last year, when earnings were boosted by a one-time gain related to its takeover of Porsche. Excluding that, earnings rise 2 percent, beating analyst estimates and indicating the company is holding its own in a difficult European auto market. It says it will still achieve its earnings goal for the year. By Business Writer David McHugh.

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â¿¿ JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA â¿¿ Honda's quarterly profit slips 7 percent, largely on financial expenses and other spending, although its auto sales increase outside of Japan. AP photos.

â¿¿ ITALY-FIAT-CHRYSLER â¿¿ Italy's Fiat says it remains confident that it will win its court challenge to determine how much it should pay to buy some outstanding shares of U.S. automaker Chrysler. A Delaware judge's decision Tuesday to delay a decision on price pending further evidence is likely to delay Fiat's push to buy all of the Chrysler stock it doesn't own.

â¿¿ FRANCE-EARNS-PEUGEOT CITROEN â¿¿ PSA Peugeot Citroen says its losses mounted in the first half as Europe's recession ate into car sales just as it attempts to battle back from last year's record $6.6 billion loss.

â¿¿ FORD-NATURAL GAS PICKUP â¿¿ Ford soon will offer a natural gas version of its F-150 pickup truck, the most popular vehicle in America.

INDUSTRY:

PETS-FANTASY DOG PARKS

LOS ANGELES â¿¿ Interior designer Nate Berkus has been adding fantasy to homes for 16 years, inspiring people with just the right creative touch. But he's been a dog-lover even longer, and he's turning his design expertise to a half-million-dollar fantasy dog park. By Sue Manning.

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WILDERNESS WIDGETS

SALT LAKE CITY â¿¿ It's a showcase of technology for everything from socks that can take a beating to water bottles equipped with battery-powered ultraviolet purifiers. At the world's largest trade show for outdoor gear, one trend this year is lighter or more powerful equipment. By Paul Foy.

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â¿¿ AIR PRODUCTS-ACKMAN â¿¿ Stock in Air Products and Chemicals hits an all-time high after Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management revealed it had taken nearly a 10 percent stake in the industrial gas supplier.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-INVENSYS â¿¿ France's Schneider Electric is to buy industrial software firm Invensys for $5.2 billion.

â¿¿ OPERATION SWILL â¿¿ An operator of TGI Fridays restaurants in New Jersey raided as part of Operation Swill has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine for serving customers cheap booze when they paid for top shelf.

â¿¿ ENERGIZER-FEMININE HYGIENE â¿¿ Battery and consumer products maker Energizer Holdings Inc. says it is buying feminine care brands including Stayfree, Carefree and o.b. from Johnson & Johnson for $185 million in cash.

â¿¿ GERMANY-SIEMENS-CEO â¿¿ Germany's Siemens appoints longtime finance chief Joe Kaeser as CEO, replacing Peter Loescher. AP photo.

â¿¿ JAPAN-DELTA â¿¿ The CEO of Delta Air Lines urges the Japanese government to open the country's skies to greater competition from foreign airlines.

â¿¿ GERMANY-OBIT-BEITZ â¿¿ Berthold Beitz, who was honored for saving hundreds of Jews in occupied Poland during World War II and became one of post-war West Germany's leading industrialists, has died at 99.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

DELL-ACQUISITION

SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ Dell's board has rejected CEO Michael Dell's attempt to revise the rules for approving his bid to buy the slumping personal computer maker, a decision likely to doom the deal unless he and his allies accept a counterproposal that would open the voting to a wider range of shareholders. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.

EARNS-COMCAST

NEW YORK â¿¿ The decision by Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable company, to buy General Electric out of the NBCUniversal business looks like a smart one, as the media conglomerate posts strong results for the second quarter. By Peter Svensson.

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NCAA ATHLETES-EA LAWSUIT

SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ A federal appeals court rules that video game maker Electronic Arts must face legal claims by college players that it unfairly used their images without compensation. By Paul Elias.

â¿¿ EARNS-CBS â¿¿ CBS Corp. reports that net income rose 11 percent in the latest quarter, beating the expectations of analysts as the company continues to benefit from the types of fees that are at the center of a dispute with one of its key cable TV distributors. AP Photo.

â¿¿ PLAIN DEALER LAYOFFS â¿¿ Newspaper union: Plain Dealer in Cleveland cuts about one-third of newsroom staff.

â¿¿ EARNS-NINTENDO â¿¿ Nintendo is making money again courtesy of a weaker yen but its business selling game machines is ailing, with sales of its flagship Wii U console still lackluster.

â¿¿ EARNS-PANASONIC â¿¿ Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic says its quarterly earnings surged more than eight-fold, helped by the weaker yen and a one-time boost from a change in its corporate pension scheme. AP photo.

DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-GOOGLE CHROMECAST

ATLANTA â¿¿ A new device from Internet search leader Google makes it easy to wirelessly stream several popular apps such as YouTube and Netflix to an HD display. Google's Chromecast is tiny enough to dangle from a keychain when not in use, but it packs a big punch for its low price of $35. By Ron Harris.

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KODAK-CEO

ROCHESTER, N.Y. â¿¿ Kodak is providing a clearer picture of its post-reorganization management plans, saying that CEO Antonio Perez will likely be replaced in the first year after it emerges from bankruptcy protection. By Business Writer Michelle Chapman.

â¿¿ STARBUCKS-GOOGLE â¿¿ Starbucks says it's reached a deal to partner with Google that will allow it to offer its customers dramatically faster Wi-Fi service.

â¿¿ IBM-SEC â¿¿ IBM says federal regulators are looking into how the company reports sales for its cloud-computing business. The technology company discloses in a regulatory filing that it learned in May that the Securities and Exchange Commission was conducting an investigation.

â¿¿ MICROSOFT-OFFICE FOR ANDROID â¿¿ Microsoft is bringing a pared-down version of its Office software to Android phones, but it won't work on Android tablets just as it doesn't on iPads. AP photo.

INTERNATIONAL:

EUROPE-ECONOMY

LONDON â¿¿ Further evidence emerges that the eurozone economy is on the mend after struggling with a recession that's seen unemployment edge toward the 20 million mark. The number of unemployed across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro fell by 24,000 in June to 19.27 million. That's the first fall since April 2011 and adds to the weight of recent evidence that suggests the recession in the eurozone has â¿¿ or is about to â¿¿ come to an end. By Pan Pylas.

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â¿¿ GERMANY-ECONOMY â¿¿ Germany's unemployment rate rises to 6.8 percent in July due to seasonal factors such as the start of the summer holiday period, but the labor market in Europe's biggest economy remains solid.

â¿¿ GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS â¿¿ The IMF says Greece has made "exceptional" progress in stabilizing its economy and remains on course to end its recession next year, despite missing targets for privatization and axing state jobs. AP photos.

ISRAEL-BROADCAST BATTLE

TEL AVIV, Israel â¿¿ State-of-the-art TV studios above an ancient Mideast port signal Israel's arrival in a modern media landscape in which countries increasingly seek to broadcast their own perspective to the world. The first international channel dedicated to reporting the news from an Israeli point of view, i24news, will broadcast in English, Arabic and French. By Aron Heller.

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â¿¿ PHILIPPINES-BLACKOUT â¿¿ Electricity is restored to most of a Philippine province that was entirely cut off for more than 24 hours when the national power grid operator stopped its supply due to $93 million in unpaid bills.

PERSONAL FINANCE:

ON THE MONEY-HOMEBUYING AFTER 40

Most first-time homebuyers are typically in their late 20s or early 30s, when they still have the bulk of their working years ahead of them and a long runway to build equity. But what if you're 40 or older and have put off buying a home through the economic downturn and housing crash? Low interest rates and more affordable homes have made homeownership an attractive proposition, but wading into homeownership after 40 brings its own financial implications. By Real Estate Writer Alex Veiga.

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CENTERPIECE

Summertime surge

The stock market heats up in July as the Dow and the S&P 500 index return to record territory. A roundup of highlights from the past month.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

NBCUniversal boosts Comcast

NBCUniversal helped push the financial performance of Comcast beyond Wall Street expectations. The April to June period was the first quarter in which Comcast owned all of NBCUniversal, after buying General Electric's stake in March.

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