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TRADE

Action needed to aid U.S.-Mexico border trade

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday called for the United States and Mexico to tackle issues ranging from drug violence to aging roads and bridges that hamper trade along the countries' 2,000-mile border.

"These obstacles cost the U.S. and Mexican economy more than $7 billion a year in gross economic output and an estimated 62,000 jobs," Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters.

The group, working with the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, called in a report for increased funding under the U.S. government's Merida Initiative to help Mexico fight violent criminal gangs.

"No factor is more important to future investment, economic growth and job creation than security and law and order," Mr. Donohue said.

Trade between the United States and Mexico has grown under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 1994, to about $400 billion a year.

POLL

Fed survey: Economy falters in several regions

For the first time this year, the economy slowed in several U.S. regions this spring. High gas prices weakened consumer spending, and the Japan crises reduced manufacturing output.

Four of the Federal Reserve's 12 bank regions suffered slower growth in April and May compared with earlier this year, a Fed survey reported Wednesday. The report confirmed a slew of data that portray a national economy whose growth has faltered. Hiring has slowed, orders to factories have declined and home prices have fallen.

Fed banks in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago said growth weakened in those regions. By contrast, the Fed regions in Boston, Cleveland, Richmond, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco said growth there remained steady.

The Dallas region was the only one to report accelerating growth. That was mostly because of higher oil prices that benefited that region's energy industry.

COMPUTERS

Firm: Apple surpasses HP as largest buyer of chips

NEW YORK | Driven by the success of the iPhone and iPad, Apple Inc. has become the world's largest buyer of chips for computers and phones, a research firm said Wednesday.

Apple bought $17.5 billion worth of chips last year, surpassing computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. as the largest consumer, IHS iSuppli said. That was an increase of 80 percent from the year before, reflecting Apple's continuing sales surge.

An iPhone contains about $80 worth of chips, according to iSuppli. The chips include the central processor that acts as the brains of the device, radio chips that let it talk to cell towers and the audio chip that converts the owner's voice into a stream of data.

STUDENT LOANS

Wells Fargo offers fixed-rate student loans

NEW YORK | Wells Fargo is hoping to make its student loans more attractive to families.

The San Francisco-based bank says it is now offering fixed-rate student loans, which is a departure from the industry practice. Unlike federal student loans, the private student loans issued by banks typically come with variable interest rates that are tied to a benchmark rate.

Wells Fargo says its fixed rates will range from 7.75 percent to 14.25 percent, depending on the credit background of the applicant or co-signer, who is often a parent.

Wells Fargo's fixed rates are higher than the 6.8 percent fixed rate on most federal student loans. Federal loans also offer safeguards that do not come with private student loans.

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