Jun 24, 5:57 PM EDT

Business Highlights


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No bailout deal yet for Greece as talks get bogged down

BRUSSELS (AP) - Crucial talks between Greece and its creditors to keep the country solvent and within the euro got bogged down again Wednesday amid differences over what kind of reforms the country should make in exchange for loans.

The impasse forced eurozone finance ministers to cut short a meeting, which they plan to resume Thursday. Concern over the lack of progress weighed on financial markets.

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Republican-led US Congress hands Obama major win on trade

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress passed major trade legislation Wednesday that was long-sought by President Barack Obama but vehemently opposed by most lawmakers in his Democratic party.

The measure would allow Obama to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. The administration was seeking the "fast track" as it works to complete a round of trade negotiations involving 12 nations along both sides of the Pacific Ocean, including Japan.

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European deal creates US grocery giant

NEW YORK (AP) - The owner of Stop & Shop and Giant will tie up with the parent company of Food Lion, creating a $29 billion grocer that will be in a stronger position to compete with Wal-Mart and other discount retailers.

The deal, which would create the fourth largest grocer in the U.S., is the latest in a series of buyouts and mergers that has major players bulking up to carve out market share in an industry that has grown intensely competitive.

Shoppers may be the biggest winners as the bargaining power of grocers grows along with their size, said Euromonitor retail analyst Tim Barrett.

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US economy not as bad in 1st quarter, paving way for rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. economy contracted in the first three months of the year, just not as much as previously estimated. More recent data show that the weakness was largely temporary, with a rebound in the works for the April-June quarter.

The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, shrank at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2 percent from January through March, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That's better than last month's estimate of a 0.7 percent decrease.

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Trim gym trend turning fitness fans into business owners

NEW YORK (AP) - Slim one-room gyms are in, and the low cost of starting them is turning gym rats and workout instructors into entrepreneurs.

There are no Olympic-sized pools, rows of treadmills or steam rooms in these small fitness studios. Instead, devotees sweat through hour-long classes in tiny spaces, swinging heavy kettlebells or practicing yoga poses. Some of the studios resemble high-energy nightclubs with dim lights and loud music. Classes can be pricy, at about $30 each, but that's not keeping people away.

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Tips for finding adjacent airline seats without paying extra

NEW YORK (AP) - On top of the bag fees and other charges, families traveling this summer may have to pay extra just to sit next to one another.

Airlines are reserving a growing number of seats for elite customers or those willing to shell out more money. These seats often - but not always - come with a little extra legroom. The catch: setting these seats aside leaves fewer places for other passengers to sit without paying extra.

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GOP-led Congress prepared to let Export-Import Bank expire

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional Republicans are poised to deal a sharp blow to their traditional allies in the business community by allowing the federal Export-Import Bank to go out of business at the end of the month. But it may only be temporary.

The 81-year-old bank is a little-known federal agency created during the Depression that makes and guarantees loans to help overseas buyers purchase U.S. products, from airplanes to bridges to baby clothes. Over the past year it's also become a surprising test of GOP purity, as tea party-backed lawmakers and outside conservative groups have denounced the bank as crony capitalism and vowed to get rid of it, pressuring fellow Republicans to go along.

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Ikea raises minimum wage for US workers 2nd year in a row

NEW YORK (AP) - Ikea's U.S division is raising the minimum wage for the second year in a row as the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture chain looks to improve its relations with workers and reduce worker turnover.

Starting Jan. 1, Ikea's average minimum hourly wage will increase to $11.87, which is $4.62 above the current federal wage and marks a $1.11 increase, or 10 percent, from this year's average minimum pay.

The increase will affect 32 percent of Ikea's 10,500 U.S. store workers and will raise the average hourly wage to $15.45. That's up from the current $14.19 per hour. The increase also covers workers in some distribution centers.

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Ford jumps into the car-sharing pool with pilot program

NEW YORK (AP) - Ford is following the ride-sharing craze, launching its own pilot program in six U.S. cities and in London.

Under the program, customers who finance their vehicles through Ford Motor Credit will be able to rent their vehicle to pre-screened drivers for short-term use, helping to defray some monthly vehicle ownership costs.

Ford Motor Co. said that 14,000 customers in the U.S. will be invited to participate, along with 12,000 in London.

U.S. customers will partake through ride-share company Getaround, while London customers will use easyCar Club.

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Railroad regulator vows to enforce Dec. 31 safety deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's top railroad regulator said Wednesday she will enforce a Dec. 31 deadline for commuter and freight railroads to install safety technology that experts say could have prevented a deadly Amtrak derailment last month.

Sarah Feinberg, acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, told a House subcommittee that she sympathizes with railroad officials who have said they are unlikely to meet the congressionally mandated deadline.

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NYC: Whole Foods mislabels prepackaged items, overcharges

NEW YORK (AP) - Whole Foods supermarkets have been routinely overcharging customers by overstating the weight of prepackaged meat, dairy and baked goods, New York City's consumer chief said Wednesday.

The price on a package of coconut shrimp at the upscale market was too high by $14.84, said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin. A package of chicken tenders was overpriced by $4.85, and a vegetable platter by $6.15, the department said.

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Watchdog: IRS does business with tax delinquents despite ban

WASHINGTON (AP) - The IRS is doing business with tax delinquent contractors despite a federal law that bars the tax agency from awarding contracts to these companies, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

The IRS awarded contracts to 17 businesses in 2012 and 2013 that had delinquent tax debts, according to a report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

The tax debts totaled more than $10 million as of Sept. 30, 2013. The businesses were awarded 57 contracts worth nearly $19 million.

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Landmark Dutch ruling: Cut emissions to protect citizens

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - A Dutch court ordered the government Wednesday to slash greenhouse gas emissions to help fight global warming, a landmark ruling in a case brought by hundreds of concerned citizens that could pave the way for similar legal battles around the world.

Climate activists in a packed courtroom in The Hague erupted into cheers as Presiding Judge Hans Hofhuis told Dutch authorities to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

The country currently is on track for a 17-percent reduction and it is not clear how it can achieve the further cut.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 178.00 points, or 1 percent, to 17,966.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 15.62 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,108.58. The Nasdaq gave up 37.68 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,122.41.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 74 cents to close at $60.27 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 96 cents to close at $63.49 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.1 cents to close at $2.056 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3.5 cents to close at $1.876 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.3 cents to close at $2.759 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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