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Associated Press

Posted on December 8, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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U.S. economy adds 146,000 jobs, jobless rate falls to 7.7 percent in November

The pace of U.S. hiring remained steady in November despite disruptions from Superstorm Sandy and employers' concerns about impending tax increases from the year-end "fiscal cliff."

Companies added 146,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent — the lowest in nearly four years — from 7.9 percent in October. The rate declined mainly because more people stopped looking for work and weren't counted as unemployed.

The government said Superstorm Sandy had only a minimal effect on the figures.

The Labor Department's report Friday was a mixed one. But on balance, it suggested that the job market is gradually improving.

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APNewsBreak: Bangladesh factory lost fire certification before fatal fire, expanded illegally

The factory where 112 garment workers died in a fire should have been shut down months ago. The fire department refused to renew the certification it needed to operate, a top fire official told The Associated Press. And its owner told AP that just three of the factory's eight floors were legal. He was building a ninth.

Government officials knew of the problems, but the factory just kept running.

Bangladesh's $20 billion-a-year garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of its total export earnings, goes virtually unchallenged by the government, said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, a labor rights group.

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Apple's softer side emerges under CEO Cook

Apple is emerging under Tim Cook's leadership as a kinder corporate citizen.

Cook's announcement this week that the company is moving the production of one of its Mac computer lines to the U.S. is just the latest step in a softening of the company's image following the October 2011 death of CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs.

Cook didn't say which computers Apple would make in the U.S., or where the company might locate new facilities. But bringing assembly-line jobs back to the U.S. lights a symbolic beacon of hope for working-class Americans who may worry that the global economy has no use for them.

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Why is Wall Street losing its appetite for Apple?

This holiday season is shaping up to be a record-breaking period for Apple as shoppers snap up iPhones and iPads. So, why is the world's most valuable company losing its luster with investors?

Shares have plunged nearly 25 percent since Sept. 21, the day Apple began selling the iPhone 5 and the day its shares hit an all-time peak of $705.07.

Apple's abrupt descent is fueling a debate: Is the stock now a bargain? Or is the sell-off justified because the company has entered a phase of less innovation and slower revenue growth? Disagreements over the issue are contributing to unusual volatility in the stock.

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Super-clear format can puncture 'Hobbit' fantasy

One thought struck a reporter watching the new "Hobbit" movie in the latest super-clear format: "The rain looks fake. It's not hitting their faces!"

That is just one consequence of filmmaker Peter Jackson's decision to shoot his epic, three-part "Lord of the Rings" prequel with a frame rate of 48 images per second, double the 24 that cinemagoers have experienced for the past century.

The higher frame rate is supposed to make fast action scenes look smoother, without strobing or other cinematic flaws. But the image is so crystal clear that it can dispel the illusion of the fantasy world.

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Legal pot complicates drug-free work policies

Pot may be legal, but workers may want to check with their boss first before they grab the pipe or a joint during off-hours.

Businesses in Washington state, where the drug is legal, and Colorado, where it will be by January, are trying to figure out how to deal with employees who use it on their own time and then fail a drug test.

It is yet another uncertainty that has come with pot legalization as many ask how the laws will affect them.

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New Jersey teen wants Easy-Bake Oven to appeal to boys

Four-year-old Gavyn Boscio loves to cook and asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. But when his big sister went to buy one, she discovered to her disappointment that it comes only in girly pink and purple, with girls — and only girls — on the box and in the commercials.

So the eighth-grader from Garfield, N.J., started an online petition asking Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro to make the toy ovens in gender-neutral colors and feature boys on the package.

By Friday the 13-year-old's petition had garnered more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than a week.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who owned an Easy-Bake Oven as a boy, is among those weighing in on her side.

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Cisco grabs for 'No. 1 IT company' crown

Cisco Systems Inc. isn't content to be the world's largest maker of computer networking gear. It wants to be the "No. 1" supplier of information technology to big businesses by broadening its offerings of services and software.

But when Cisco says "No. 1 IT company," it doesn't mean that it's going to be the biggest-selling company. That goal is out of reach, as IBM Corp.'s revenue is twice that of Cisco.

Rather, Cisco CEO John Chambers says he wants the company to loom largest in the minds of its customers and to be the one setting the pace in the industry. Being No. 1, he says, means having the best customer satisfaction and the best profit margins for products.

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Pilots approve new contract with American Airlines

Pilots at American Airlines approved a new labor contract, which could clear the way for consideration of a merger with US Airways.

Union officials and analysts say the vote gives AMR Corp. creditors certainty about the company's labor costs, making it easier for them to weigh which gives them more money — American on its own, or getting bigger through a merger with US Airways.

American also hailed the vote as a key step in its turnaround after years of heavy losses.

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IBM shifts 401(k) policy to once-a-year matches

IBM is making changes to its employee benefits that may cause other large corporations to follow suit.

The technology company will begin making contributions to employees' 401(k) accounts in lump-sum annual payments, rather than at the time of each paycheck. The move will help the company cut retirement plan expenses.

Contribution amounts won't change. But employees who leave IBM prior to Dec. 15 in a calendar year won't be due that year's end-of-year lump-sum 401(k) contribution, unless they're retiring.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 81.09, or 0.6 percent, to 13,155.13.

The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 4.13, or 0.3 percent, to 1,418.07.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 11.23, or 0.4 percent, to 2,978.04.

Benchmark crude fell 33 cents to finish at $85.93 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 1 cent to finish at $107.02 per barrel.

Heating oil fell 2.79 cents to end at $2.9153 per gallon.

Wholesale gasoline rose less than a penny to finish at $2.5974 per gallon.

Natural gas lost 11.5 cents, or 3.1 percent, to finish at $3.551 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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