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Solid job gains in April ease fears about economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy showed in April that it’s healthier than many had feared, adding a solid 165,000 jobs and driving the unemployment rate down a notch to a four-year low of 7.5 per cent.

Not only that, but many more people were hired in February and March than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. The job gains came despite a global slowdown, Social Security tax increases and federal spending cuts, which some thought would drag on the economy.

Coming after a poor March jobs report and some recent data showing economic weakness, the figures helped ease fears that U.S. hiring might be slumping for a fourth straight year. The job market is benefiting from a resurgent housing market, rising consumer confidence and the Federal Reserve’s stimulus actions, which have helped lower borrowing costs and lift the stock market.

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Stocks surge to new highs after hiring climbs

NEW YORK (AP) — After weeks of conflicting signals about the strength of the economy, a big gain in the jobs market gave Wall Street reason to celebrate Friday.

The stock market surged, traders donned party hats, and the wave of buying drove three indexes through major milestones.

The Dow Jones industrial average punched through another milestone, 15,000, before easing back. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index closed above 1,600 for the first time.

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Pressure on Bangladesh, retailers to fix factories

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — In the aftermath of a building collapse that killed more than 500 people, Bangladesh’s garment manufacturers may face a choice of reform or perish.

Home to five factories that supplied clothing to retailers in Europe and the United States, the shoddily constructed building’s collapse has put a focus on the high human price paid when Bangladeshi government ineptitude, Western consumer apathy and global retailing’s drive for the lowest cost of production intersect.

Police said Friday that more than 500 bodies have been pulled from the wreckage of the eight-story Rana Plaza building that collapsed nine days ago, sparking desperate rescue efforts, a national outpouring of grief and violent street protests.

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Casinos brace for impact of Internet gambling

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — With legal gambling now moving beyond the casinos and onto the Internet, the industry is bracing for the most far-reaching changes in its history.

A Las Vegas firm, Ultimate Gaming, on Tuesday became the first in the U.S. to offer online poker, restricting it, for now, to players in Nevada. New Jersey and Delaware also have legalized gambling over the Internet and expect to begin offering such bets by the end of this year.

And many inside and outside the industry say the recent position taken by the federal government that states are free to offer Internet gambling — as long as it doesn’t involve sports betting — will lead many cash-hungry state governments to turn to the Web as a new source of tax revenue.

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APNewsbreak: States fear loss of health care aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of people with serious medical problems are in danger of losing coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul because of cost overruns, state officials say.

At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that’s become a lifeline for the so-called “uninsurables” — people with serious medical conditions who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The program helps bridge the gap for those people until next year, when under the new law insurance companies will be required to accept people regardless of their medical problems.

In a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, state officials said they were “blindsided” and “very disappointed” by a federal proposal they contend would shift the risk for cost overruns to states in the waning days of the program. About 100,000 people are currently covered.

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Survey: US service firms grew more slowly in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey of U.S. service firms says the sector expanded at a slower pace in April than March, as companies reported less business activity and couldn’t raise their prices.

The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 53.1 in April from 54.4 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 per cent of the work force, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

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US factory orders down 4 per cent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories fell in March by the largest amount in seven months, but a key category that signals business investment plans increased.

Factory orders dropped 4 per cent in March, reflecting a big plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Orders had been up 1.9 per cent in February.

Orders in a category considered a proxy for business investment plans rose 0.9 per cent, a modest gain but an improvement from a preliminary report last week that had shown a decline.

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Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings jump 51 per cent

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Berkshire Hathaway’s first-quarter profit jumped 51 per cent as its insurance companies performed well and the value of its investments soared.

Warren Buffett’s firm said Friday it earned $4.89 billion, or $2,977 per Class A share. That’s up from last year’s $3.25 billion net income, or $1,966 per Class A share.

The Omaha-based conglomerate says its revenue grew 15 per cent to $43.87 billion from $38.15 billion last year.

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PepsiCo ending ties with Lil Wayne

NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo is cutting its ties with Lil Wayne after the rapper made a crude reference to civil rights martyr Emmett Till in a song.

Lil Wayne, one of the biggest stars in pop music, had a deal to promote the company’s Mountain Dew soda.

Earlier this week, PepsiCo also pulled an online ad for the neon-colored soda that was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women. The ad was developed by rapper Tyler, the Creator.

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EU predicts eurozone recession to continue in 2013

BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe will take longer to recover from its economic crisis as it tackles a worse-than-expected recession in the eurozone and unemployment at record levels, the European Union warned Friday.

In its spring economic forecast, the EU said that gross domestic product in the 17 member countries that use the euro will shrink by 0.4 per cent this year, better than the 0.6 per cent contraction in 2012 but 0.1 percentage points worse than the EU had forecast back in February.

The report also had bad news for the wider 27-country EU: it now expects the region’s economy to shrink by 0.1 per cent in 2013, against a forecast of 0.1 per cent growth in February.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow rose 142.38 points to close at 14,973.96, up 1 per cent. The S&P 500 index surged 16.83 points, or 1 per cent, to 1,614.42. The Nasdaq composite index rose 38.01 points to 3,378.63, an increase of 1.1 per cent.

Benchmark crude for June delivery rose $1.62 to finish at $95.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to set prices of oil from the North Sea used by many U.S. refiners, was up $1.34 to end at $104.19 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to finish at $2.83 a gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to end at $2.88 a gallon. Natural gas rose 2 cents to finish at $4.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.