- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

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23andMe CEO navigates health regulation

WASHINGTON (AP) - No Silicon Valley company better embodies the promise and the pitfalls of working in health care than DNA testing firm 23andMe. Launched in 2006 to a flurry of media coverage, the Mountain View, California-based company seemed to have every strategic advantage: millions in startup cash, celebrity endorsements, and a chief executive married to one of the co-founders of Google.

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki laid out a bold plan to make genetic testing affordable to the general public, while simultaneously building a massive archive of DNA results for use in medical research. More than 700,000 people have used the company’s test kit, a small plastic tube that customers fill with spit and return to the company for processing.

But last November, the Food and Drug Administration ordered the company to stop marketing its personalized health reports, which purported to tell customers if they were genetically predisposed to more than 250 diseases and medical conditions. Now, 23andMe is working to win FDA clearance for its health tests one at a time, a process that will take years.

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RadioShack warns of possible Chapter 11 bankruptcy

NEW YORK (AP) - RadioShack warned Thursday that it may need to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization if it can’t rework its debt or find another way to ease a cash crunch.

The struggling retailer said in a regulatory filing that it is in talks with its lenders, bondholders, shareholders and landlords to fix its balance sheet, but if it can’t, it will try to file a prepackaged bankruptcy.

RadioShack, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, has been working on turning around its business for the past 18 months. The company’s efforts have included cutting costs, renovating and closing stores, and shuffling management. It reported another quarterly loss on Thursday on lower revenue.

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European states struggle with Draghi’s challenge

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - European Central Bank head Mario Draghi made the first move in his grand plan to rescue the economic recovery. Now it’s over to the governments of the 18 countries that use the euro.

Eurozone finance ministers gather Friday and Saturday for the first time since the ECB president sketched out what has been dubbed “Draghinomics:” a three-pillared strategy including more stimulus from the central bank, added government spending and pro-business reforms to cut bureaucracy and make economies more productive.

Problem is, Draghi as an unelected central banker only controls the monetary pillar, while governments hold sway over the other two. The finance officials meeting in Milan, Italy, now have a chance to show Europe’s politicians are ready to help, too.

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China fines Audi, Chrysler on monopoly charges

BEIJING (AP) - China on Thursday announced it will fine Audi $40.5 million and Chrysler $5.2 million in a sweeping anti-monopoly probe of the auto industry that has prompted complaints foreign businesses are being treated unfairly.

Regulators have launched probes of global automakers, technology suppliers and other companies in an apparent effort to force down prices. Business groups say the secretive and abrupt way the investigations are conducted is alienating foreign companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said this week Beijing might be violating its free-trade commitments. Regulators deny foreign companies are treated unfairly.

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Applications for US unemployment rise to 315,000

WASHINGTON (AP) - More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the trend in benefit applications in the past month remained low.

The Labor Department says that weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, the most since late June. Still, the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose just 750 to 304,000. The average is 7.1 percent lower than it was a year ago.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average fell to an eight-year low of 293,750 last month. Generally, fewer applications indicate employers are holding onto their staffs.

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US budget deficit dips to $128.7 billion in August

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal government ran a lower budget deficit this August than a year ago, remaining on track to record the lowest deficit for the entire year since 2008.

The August deficit was $128.7 billion, down 13 percent from the $147.9 billion deficit recorded in August 2013, the Treasury Department said Thursday in its monthly budget report.

With just one month left in the budget year, the deficit totals $589.2 billion, 22 percent below last year’s 11-month total.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.12 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose slightly this week but remained near their lows for the year.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year loan edged up to 4.12 percent from 4.10 percent last week, where it had stayed for three straight weeks.

The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, rose to 3.26 percent from 3.24 percent.

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FDA approves weight-loss drug Contrave

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. regulators have greenlighted a new weight-loss drug called Contrave, the third in a string of approvals for prescription medications aimed at the nation’s 78 million obese adults.

The pill, Contrave, is a combination of two drugs that are already approved, naltrexone and bupropion. Naltrexone is used to treat alcohol and narcotic dependence. Bupropion is an antidepressant also used to help people quit smoking.

Contrave joins two similar drugs from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Vivus Inc. which FDA approved in 2012 after a 13-year drought of new prescription weight-loss medicines. Analysts initially predicted those drugs would garner up to $1 billion in annual sales, considering that more than one-third of all U.S. adults are obese. But sales of Vivus’ Qsymia and Arena’s Belviq have been far below expectations due to limited insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs for patients.

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First 2 bills in Tesla deal sail through Assembly

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The first two bills designed to seal a deal to bring Tesla Motors’ $5 billion battery factory to Nevada sailed through the Assembly unanimously Thursday as one lawmaker called the project the biggest thing to hit the state since the Hoover Dam.

After just two minutes of debate, the Assembly voted 39-0 and sent to the Senate a bill that would help finance Tesla’s tax breaks by ending a $125 million subsidy to insurance companies that locate their home offices in Nevada.

On another 39-0 vote about eight minutes later, they approved discounted electricity rates for the electric-car maker’s “gigafactory” expected to help create more than 20,000 jobs and inject up to $100 billion into the state’s economy over the next 20 years.

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Alliance Data to buy Conversant for $2.3 billion

NEW YORK (AP) - Alliance Data said it plans to boost its digital marketing business by buying Conversant for about $2.3 billion

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, the companies said Thursday.

Dallas-based Alliance Data manages credit cards and loyalty programs for retailers such as Lane Bryant, J. Crew and Buckle.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,049. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,997.45. The Nasdaq composite gained 5.28 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,591.81.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.16 to close at $92.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 4 cents to close at $98.08 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.2 cent to close at $2.524 a gallon, and natural gas fell 13.1 cents to close at $3.823 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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