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Encouraging report on US jobs lifts stock market

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors are looking for any reason to look past the cold weather that has hampered the U.S. economy in the last few weeks.

They found that reason yesterday.

Stocks mostly rose, lifted by a report that showed the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in three months. The gains were enough to give the S&P 500 index its third all-time high this week. The report on unemployment claims was one of the first bits of good news investors have gotten on the economy after weeks of data that showed the U.S. recovery temporarily slowing because of the severe winter.

The S&P 500 rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,877 yesterday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,421. But the Nasdaq composite fell six points points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,352.


Asia stocks gain on China prospects, US data

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Asian stocks mostly rose today, buoyed by a third all-time high on a key Wall Street index this week and signs that China will follow up on pledges to further open the world's No. 2 economy,

Investors have been encouraged by this week's meeting of China's top legislative body which pledged to advance Communist Party plans issued in November for promoting market forces and domestic consumption in Asia's economic engine.

The gains in Asian markets followed a mostly positive day on Wall Street after a report showed the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in three months.

The focus in the U.S. is now on today's release of the February employment report. The payrolls data often set the market mood for a week or two.

European markets stabilized Thursday as tensions in Ukraine eased while the euro surged after traders reined in expectations of further easing measures from the European Central Bank.

Benchmark crude oil rose to near $102 a barrel. The dollar weakened against the yen and rose against the euro.


Major business and economic reports due out today

WASHINGTON — Investors are anxious to see the Labor Department's employment data for February. The report comes out this morning.

Also today, the Commerce Department will release January's international trade data this morning; and the Federal Reserve will release consumer credit data for January this afternoon.


Judge dismisses FAA fine against small drone user

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed the Federal Aviation Administration's only fine against a commercial drone user.

The judge ruled that the small drone was no different than a model aircraft. The decision drone industry out of the skies.

Patrick Geraghty, a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge, said in his order dismissing the $10,000 fine that the FAA has no regulations governing model aircraft flights or for classifying model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft.

FAA officials said they were reviewing the decision and had no further comment. The agency can appeal the decision to the full five-member safety board.

The FAA levied the fine against aerial photographer Raphael Pirker for flying the small drone near the University of Virginia to make a commercial video in October 2011. Pirker appealed the fine to the safety board, which hears challenges to FAA decisions.

FAA officials have long taken the position that the agency regulates access to the national airspace, and therefore it has the power to bar drone flights, even when the drone weighs no more than a few pounds.


AP Exclusive: Man denies he's Bitcoin founder

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The man Newsweek claims is the founder of Bitcoin denies he had anything to do with the digital currency.

In an exclusive two-hour interview with The Associated Press Dorian S. Nakamoto, 64, said he had never heard of Bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a reporter three weeks ago.

Reached at his home in Temple City, Calif., Nakamoto acknowledged that many of the details in Newsweek's report are correct, including that he once worked for a defense contractor. But he strongly disputes the magazine's assertion that he is "the face behind Bitcoin."

Since Bitcoin's birth in 2009, the currency's creator has remained a mystery. The person —or people— behind its founding have been known only as "Satoshi Nakamoto," which many observers believed to be a pseudonym.


Albertsons parent Cerberus to buy Safeway

PLEASANTON, Calif. (AP) - Safeway says it has agreed to be acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Albertsons and several other supermarket chains.

The acquisition is worth about $7.64 billion in cash, and pending other transactions could top more than $9 billion.

It comes amid ongoing consolidation in the supermarket industry, which is facing growing competition from big-box retailers, specialty chains, drug stores and even dollar stores. Cerberus bought five chains including Albertson's and Jewel-Osco from Supervalu Inc. last year. Kroger Co. also recently snapped up regional chain Harris Teeter.

Safeway shareholders will receive $32.50 per share in cash. Pending other deals, the company says the deal is worth roughly $40 per share to stockholders.


H&R Block's 3Q loss widens on lower revenue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — H&R Block Inc. says its loss swelled about a dozen-fold in its fiscal third quarter, as the tax preparer's revenue fell sharply because of a delayed start to this year's tax season.

A partial-government shutdown last fall prompted the Internal Revenue Service to put off the start of this year's tax filing season until Jan. 31, nearly two weeks after it was originally slated to begin.

In the 10 months ended Feb. 28, the company said the number of H&R Block-assisted tax returns totaled 7.82 million, a decline of 9.1 percent from a year earlier, the company said.

Block said its third-quarter results are not indicative of the company's expected full-year performance, noting it expects to book the majority of its revenue and fiscal 2014 earnings in the February-April quarter.

All told, the company reported a loss of $214.7 million, or 78 cents per share, for the three months ended Jan. 31. That compares with a loss of $17.7 million, or 7 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue tumbled about 57 percent to $199.8 million from $472 million.


Delta spells out miles needed to earn free flights

DALLAS (AP) — Delta is providing more details about changes to its frequent-flier program after complaints about the overhaul from some travelers.

Starting in 2015, customers will earn miles based on how much they spend, not just miles flown.

Delta on Thursday released charts showing how many miles you'll need to earn a free trip. That's a key piece of information for SkyMiles customers that Delta had planned to hold back until late this year.

Delta is leaving the number of miles a frequent flier needs unchanged on many trips. In some cases, it's lowering the miles needed.


Lagerfeld to design Macau hotel

BEIJING (AP) — Karl Lagerfeld and a Macau casino operator have announced plans for the Chanel designer to create his first hotel.

Lagerfeld and the Sociedade de Jogos de Macau says the 270-room Karl Lagerfeld Hotel will open in 2017 in a 20-story tower in the tourist enclave in southern China.

In a joint statement, Lagerfeld says, "An entire hotel designed by me. It's the first time for me!"

The hotel will be part of a complex of casinos, restaurants and shopping.

Lagerfeld is chief designer for the Chanel and Fendi fashion houses and also has his own label. In addition to clothing, he has designed a can for Diet Coke.


Pfizer takes 3 lots of Effexor XR off the market

NEW YORK (AP) — Pfizer is recalling some lots of its antidepressant Effexor XR because a single capsule of a different medication was found in one bottle of the drug.

Pfizer is recalling two production lots of Effexor XR capsules and one lot of generic Effexor, or venlafaxine, sold by its Greenstone subsidiary. The company says a pharmacist reported that one bottle of Effexor XR contained a capsule of Tikosyn, a treatment for irregular heartbeat.

Pfizer described the recall as a precaution, saying it hasn't received any other reports and that it believes there is a very low probability that there are Tikosyn capsules in other bottles of Effexor XR.

The New York drugmaker says customers, including pharmacies, hospitals, government agencies, and distributors, are being informed about the recall. It says patients who have a recalled bottle should contact their physicians.


Lehigh Valley Dairy announces orange juice recall

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Lehigh Valley Dairy is voluntarily recalling orange juice because it may contain milk, a common allergen.

The Food and Drug Administration said the recall Thursday affects multiple brands distributed to both retail and food-service locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The affected brands and sizes are Lehigh Valley half pints, half gallons and gallons; Swiss Premium half gallons and gallons, and Price Chopper gallons.

The Allentown-based dairy said due to a manufacturing error, milk became mixed with the orange juice.

All of the affected products have a sell-by date of March 23 and plant code 42-099.

Lehigh Valley Dairy said consumers should discard the product and return the packaging to the place of purchase for a refund or exchange.


Roller coaster builder blames Six Flags for death

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The German manufacturer of a roller coaster from which a woman fell to her death is blaming Six Flags for the accident.

Gerstlauer Amusement Rides filed court papers Thursday related to the lawsuit the woman's family has brought against it and Six Flags after her death last year.

Gerstlauer says the Texas Giant was not "defective or unsafe in any manner." It blames Six Flags workers for not properly checking Rosa Esparza's safety belt or stopping the ride when a supervisor noticed Esparza's restraint bar was too high.

The manufacturer also says Six Flags only added seat belts to the ride after Esparza's death.

Both Six Flags and Gerstlauer have blamed each other for Esparza's death.

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