Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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US probing possible airline collusion that kept fares high

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government is investigating possible collusion among major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.

A letter received Tuesday by major U.S. carriers demands copies of all communications the airlines had with each other, Wall Street analysts and major shareholders about their plans for passenger-carrying capacity, or "the undesirability of your company or any other airline increasing capacity."

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Greece proceeds with vote plan as creditors rebuff overture

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Eurozone finance ministers decided Wednesday to break off talks on more aid for Greece until after it holds a weekend referendum, even as the Greek government pressed ahead with plans to let the people decide whether to accept more austerity measures in exchange for a rescue deal.

Following a late-night teleconference, the chairman of the eurogroup said the 19 ministers had decided to put any further negotiations on hold.

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Want a national day? Check a website in North Dakota

NEW YORK (AP) -- To most Americans, July 4 is Independence Day. But on Marlo Anderson's calendar, it's also Caesar Salad Day and Barbecued Spareribs Day.

Anderson is the mastermind of the National Day Calendar, an online compendium of pseudo-holidays that has become a resource for TV and radio stations looking to add a little levity to their broadcasts, among others.

The 52-year-old co-owner of a VHS digitizing company in North Dakota started the calendar in 2013 and soon realized the site could also be a way for people to declare their own special days. So last year, he started charging $1,500 to $4,000 for "national day" proclamations.

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China scrambles to reassure jittery stock traders

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese authorities are scrambling to reassure jittery investors after stock markets have recently plunged, threatening to set back economic reform plans.

The market benchmark soared 150 percent from the start of the boom late last year in one of the world's fastest runups. It hit a peak June 12 and then reversed course and plunged 28 percent. It rebounded temporarily Tuesday before losing 5.2 percent on Wednesday.

Hours after trading closed Wednesday, the country's two major stock exchanges announced they will lower security transaction fees by 30 percent effective Aug. 1, in a move seen aimed at shoring up market confidence.

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Review: Gadgets for the beach and getting you there

NEW YORK (AP) -- If you're headed to the beach or any other weekend getaway, don't forget "essential" gadgets.

Of course, no technology is truly essential. You're at the beach! Disconnect! Go swimming! Build sandcastles!

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US manufacturing growth improves in June; hiring jumps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. manufacturing growth improved in June, helped by a jump in employment.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its manufacturing index rose to 53.5 last month from 52.8 in May. Manufacturing activity matched January's level for the highest this year. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

Manufacturing growth has accelerated for the past two months, evidence that U.S. factories are beginning to adapt and overcome the drags caused by a rise in the dollar's value and cheaper oil prices, two trends that date back to last fall.

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US construction spending rises 0.8 percent in May

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending posted a solid gain in May, pushing total activity to the highest point since the fall of 2008, with the strength led by a big jump in non-residential projects.

Total construction spending increased 0.8 percent in May, following an even bigger 2.1 percent advance in April, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The gains pushed totaled activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.04 trillion, the highest level since October 2008.

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Tractor-trailer hitches could be faulty, 6,000 may be in use

BATAVIA, Ohio (AP) -- On a twisty, snow-lined hill that the locals call "Devil's Backbone," a 12-ton semi-trailer came loose from its tractor and plowed into an oncoming line of pre-dawn commuters.

At 40 miles per hour, the trailer struck the side of one pickup truck and careened head-on into another, killing the drivers of both vehicles.

At first the Jan. 24, 2014, crash on U.S. 50 in Cincinnati's eastern suburbs drew only the attention of Ohio authorities, who faulted the semi driver for not properly inspecting the hitch that holds the trailer to the tractor. But 17 months later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has raised the possibility that the hitch was defective.

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Emmitt Smith, Flo Rida out of Miss USA, Macy's dumps Trump

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rapper Flo Rida, the Macy's department store chain and football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith all had something in common on Wednesday: They're the latest to distance themselves from Donald Trump following his remarks about Mexican immigrants.

The Republican presidential hopeful's team is struggling to hold the Miss USA pageant together following defections by hosts, performers, judges and the two television networks that were scheduled to broadcast the event on July 12. Trump, who fired back at Macy's, owns the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.

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CEOs of mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie get big raises

NEW YORK (AP) -- The CEOs of government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are getting large raises, to about $4 million a year, as the government relaxes rules that were imposed on the companies after they suffered big losses and were bailed out.

In forms filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, the companies disclosed that Fannie Mae CEO Timothy Mayopoulos and Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton will get annual base salaries of $750,000 each, $2.1 million in fixed deferred compensation and $1.2 million in at-risk deferred salary. It does not include bonuses. Their pay had been capped at $600,000 a year.

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SUVs, muscle cars help auto industry maintain momentum

DETROIT (AP) -- Americans again bought vehicles that sit up high and come loaded with features like backup cameras and smartphone capabilities in June. Horsepower was also in; gas-sipping not so much.

SUVs of all sizes continued to fly off dealer lots. Sales of the larger Ford Explorer rose 30 percent; Nissan's Rogue small SUV posted a 54 percent jump; and sales of the Jeep Cherokee gained 39 percent.

Total sales rose 3.9 percent over last June to 1.48 million, according to Autodata Corp. For the first half of the year, sales gained 4.4 percent to 8.5 million.

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Seoul court denies US fund's request to stop Samsung merger

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A South Korean court Wednesday denied an American hedge fund's request to stop Samsung from combining two of its companies, a largely expected ruling that gives South Korea's biggest business group a boost in an upcoming shareholder vote on the merger.

The Seoul Central District Court said the proposed takeover of Samsung C&T by Cheil Industries is legal and fair, clearing ways for Samsung to put the merger to a shareholder vote on July 17.

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Thailand arrests 2 alleged brokers who sent slaves to boats

BANGKOK (AP) -- Two Thai men described as key figures in a human trafficking ring that provides slave crews for fishing boats were arrested, officials said Wednesday, as new regulations aimed at cracking down on illegal fishing took effect.

The two suspects were the latest to be arrested following an Associated Press investigation into slavery in Southeast Asia's fishing industry.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 138.40 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,757.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14.31 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,077.42. The Nasdaq composite gained 26.26 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,013.12.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.51 to close at $56.96 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.58 to close at $62.01 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 4.2 cents to close at $2.007 a gallon. Heating oil fell 5.1 cents to close at $1.839 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4.9 cents to close at $2.783 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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