- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

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Another month of solid US hiring clears way for Fed hike

WASHINGTON (AP) - If the Federal Reserve needed any final evidence that the economy is ready for higher interest rates, it got it on Friday.

A solid November job gain of 211,000 showed that despite weak overseas growth and struggling U.S. factories, the U.S. economy appears healthy enough to withstand a Fed hike from record-low rates later this month.

The unemployment rate remained at a low 5 percent in November for a second straight month, the government said Friday. More Americans started looking for jobs, and nearly all found them.

Average hourly pay rose, though modestly, and the government revised up its estimate of job growth for September and October. Employers have now added a robust average 213,000 jobs a month over the past six months.

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OPEC keeps oil production at current high level

VIENNA (AP) - OPEC nations decided Friday to keep producing oil at their current high levels, effectively acknowledging their inability to push up crude prices.

An attempt to nudge the cost of oil higher would have involved lowering output. Instead, the organization’s endorsement of present output, which is more than 1.5 million barrels a day above the formal ceiling of 30 million barrels, is likely to push the price of oil down further.

The ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries appeared to have little choice. Major producing nations in the cartel were opposed to reducing output. Instead, OPEC is poised to produce more oil.

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ECB move takes pressure off others - including the Fed

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Financial markets groaned at the European Central Bank’s decision to limit its latest round of economic stimulus.

But countries that do a lot of business with the eurozone - such as Switzerland, Britain, and Sweden - are breathing a quiet sigh of relief.

The ECB’s stimulus efforts over the past year have put tremendous pressure on several of its neighbors. Their central banks have had to match the ECB’s moves to lower interest rates in order to keep their currencies from rising against the euro and hurting their exports to the 19-country eurozone, the biggest market in the neighborhood. Currencies tend to weaken when rates are low.

So the ECB’s decision to provide only a small amount of stimulus means central banks in neighboring countries may not have to scramble to catch up with rate cuts of their own.

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Thailand’s battered image dealt new blow with aviation scare

BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand, once a poster child for democracy and freedom in turbulent Southeast Asia, has careened over the past two years from one image disaster to the next.

First a military coup. Then revelations of slaves in the seafood industry and other human trafficking horrors. In August, a deadly bomb struck central Bangkok. And now, the United States has declared Thailand’s aviation industry unsafe, striking at the heart of one of its biggest success stories, tourism. The cascade of bad news is striking even against the backdrop of a decade of political upheaval in Thailand.

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Strong job gains send US stock market sharply higher

NEW YORK (AP) - The stock market had its biggest gain since September after the U.S. government reported another solid month of job gains.

The encouraging news on the economy Friday paved the way for the Federal Reserve to begin nudging interest rates back toward normal levels at its policy meeting later this month.

Energy stocks didn’t join the rally, and fell instead as the price of oil took another tumble after OPEC said it wouldn’t curb production.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.27 percent.

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US trade deficit up 3.4 percent in October to $43.9 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. trade deficit widened in October, the Commerce Department said Friday, as exports of U.S. goods fell to the lowest level in more than four years, a reflection of the impact of a weak global economy and stronger dollar.

The trade deficit, the difference between exports and imports, widened 3.4 percent in October to $43.9 billion, compared to a revised $42.5 billion deficit in September. Exports of goods and services fell 1.4 percent to $184.1 billion while exports of just goods dropped an even bigger 2.4 percent to $123.8 billion, the lowest level since June 2011.

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NY fund to shift stocks into $2B index of lesser polluters

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s comptroller plans to shift domestic stock holdings in the state retirement fund to companies with lower carbon emissions in a new $2 billion index.

The investment strategy was announced Friday at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

It includes another $1.5 billion going separately into so-called “sustainable investments,” doubling that program, and raising its total combined commitments to $5 billion, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. The index will reduce or eliminate investments in companies that are large contributors to carbon emissions, such as those in the coal mining industry, he said.

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Chipotle warns of sales slide as E. coli outbreak expands

NEW YORK (AP) - Chipotle warned Friday that an outbreak of E. coli linked to its restaurants is hurting its sales and warned that if recent trends continue, it expects earnings for the current quarter to come in way below analysts’ prediction. Shares slid more than 7 percent in after-market trading.

The outbreak has expanded to nine states, with a total of 52 reported illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said Friday that seven additional people were sickened, including in three more states - Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The most recent illness started on Nov. 13, it said.

The majority of the illnesses have been in Oregon and Washington, where cases were initially reported at the end of October. Additional cases were later reported in California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio.

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FDA OKs first generic for Gleevec leukemia pill

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - U.S. regulators have approved the first generic version of one of the first very effective - and expensive - cancer drugs, Gleevec, which costs about $10,000 a month.

The Food and Drug Administration granted a subsidiary of Indian drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. approval to sell generic Gleevec, known as imatinib mesylate, in 100-milligram and 400-milligram pills for chronic myeloid leukemia.

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Chicken of Sea, Bumble Bee abandon tuna merger as US objects

WASHINGTON (AP) - Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee have called off their proposed merger after the Obama administration told the companies it would hurt competition in the U.S. canned tuna market.

The Justice Department announced Friday that the deal, announced a year ago between Thailand’s largest seafood company and Bumble Bee Foods of the U.S., was off. If Thai Union Group, owner of Chicken of the Sea, had bought Bumble Bee, it would have combined the second- and third-largest sellers of tinned tuna in the U.S. in a market long dominated by three major brands.

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The Dow Jones industrial average soared 369 points, or 2.1 percent, to 17,847. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index jumped 42 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,091. The Nasdaq composite increased 104 points, or 2.1 percent, to 5,142.

The price of U.S. crude fell $1.11, or 2.7 percent, to $39.97 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, slid 84 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $43.

Wholesale gasoline fell 2.6 cents, or 2 percent, to $1.27 a gallon. Heating oil declined 1.6 cents to $1.342 a gallon. Natural gas inched up 0.5 cents to $2.816 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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