Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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JPMorgan admits fault, pays $920 million in trading loss

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The financial penalty is staggering. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $920 billion for trading losses that shook the financial world last year.

But the bigger price may be a few words rarely uttered in settlements with U.S. regulators: The nation's largest bank is also admitting wrongdoing.

JPMorgan's acknowledged failure of oversight in the $6 billion trading loss is a first for a major company since the Securities and Exchange Commission reversed its longstanding practice of allowing firms to pay fines without accepting fault.

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How Fed's latest message affects almost everyone

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Federal Reserve's decision to maintain the size of its economic stimulus could be a gift for car and home buyers, for Americans with 401(k) accounts and perhaps for developing economies.

Yet for savers who rely on interest income, Wednesday's announcement was a sour one. The Fed also sent an ominous message to job seekers: Hiring and economic growth remain sluggish and vulnerable to further weakening from budget fights in Washington.

The Fed surprised just about everyone by delaying a slowdown in its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are designed to keep long-term loan rates low to spur borrowing and spending. Fed officials had been signaling since spring that they would likely start reducing their purchases by year's end if the economy steadily improved. Many economists and Wall Street banks had expected that pullback to start this week.

But on Wednesday, Fed officials made clear they aren't yet satisfied with the economy's progress.

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Here's the truth: The government doesn't shut down

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Here's the truth about a government "shutdown." The government doesn't shut down.

So the world won't end if a dysfunctional Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill before the new budget year begins on Oct. 1.

Social Security checks will still go out. Troops will remain at their posts. Doctors and hospitals will get their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. In fact, virtually every essential government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, will remain open. Furloughed federal workers probably would get paid, eventually. Transportation Security Administration officers would continue to man airport checkpoints.

But lurking around the corner is far bigger danger: Sometime in late October or early November the government could run out of cash. The U.S. would be unable to pay all of its bills in full and on time for the first time in history if it couldn't borrow more money.

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US home sales hit 6½-year high but could slow soon

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. home sales rose last month to the highest level since February 2007 as buyers rushed to close deals before mortgage rates increased further.

Yet the gain could represent a temporary peak if higher rates slow sales in coming months.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million in August, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That level is consistent with a healthy market.

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US unemployment benefit applications rise to 309,000

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 309,000. But the data was distorted for the second straight week by reporting delays.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average fell 7,000 to 314,750, the lowest in nearly six years.

Applications plummeted two weeks ago when California and Nevada were unable to report all their data because of computer upgrades in both states.

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US current account deficit drops to $98.9 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the April-June quarter to the lowest level in nearly three years.

The imbalance fell to $98.9 billion in the second quarter, a drop of 5.7 percent from the first quarter deficit of $104.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The spring deficit was the lowest since a $93.8 billion imbalance in the third quarter of 2009, a period when the Great Recession had cut into demand for foreign goods.

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Measure of US economy's health up 0.7 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A gauge of the U.S. economy's future health posted a solid gain in August, signaling stronger growth in coming months.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.7 percent in August from July. That followed a 0.5 percent gain in July from June.

The index is designed to signal economic conditions over the next three to six months.

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US 30-year mortgage rate dips to 4.50 percent

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined this week amid signs the economic recovery is slowing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.50 percent from 4.57 percent last week.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 3.54 percent from 3.59 percent last week.

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Senate passes bill to avert helium shortage

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Congress is moving to avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve, a key supplier of the lighter-than-air gas used in a products ranging from party balloons to MRI machines.

The Federal Helium Program, which provides about 42 percent of the nation's helium from a storage site near Amarillo, Texas, is set to shut down Oct. 7 unless lawmakers intervene. The shutdown is a result of a 1996 law requiring the reserve to pay off a $1.3 billion debt by selling its helium.

The debt is paid, but billions of cubic feet of helium remain. Closing the reserve would cause a worldwide helium shortage â¿¿ an outcome lawmakers from both parties hope to avoid.

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Nintendo's Yamauchi dies aged 85

TOKYO (AP) â¿¿ Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo for more than 50 years and led the Japanese company's transition from traditional playing-card maker to video game giant, has died. He was 85.

Kyoto-based Nintendo said Yamauchi, who was also known for owning the Seattle Mariners major league baseball club, died Thursday of pneumonia at a hospital in central Japan.

Yamauchi was Nintendo president from 1949 to 2002, and engineered the company's global growth, including developing the early Family Computer consoles and Game Boy portables.

Nintendo, which makes Super Mario and Pokemon games as well as the Wii U home console, was founded in 1889.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 40.39 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,636.55. Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.18 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,722.34. The Nasdaq composite index rose 5.74 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,789.38.

Benchmark oil for October delivery dropped $1.68, or 1.6 percent, to close at $106.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries, slipped $1.84, or 1.7 percent, to $108.76 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline dropped 4 cents to $2.70 per gallon. Natural gas gained 1 cent to $3.72 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil slipped 4 cents to $3.00 per gallon.

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

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