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Aug 23, 4:48 PM EDT

Business Highlights


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US new-home sales climb to best level since late 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans stepped up their purchases of new homes in July to the fastest pace in nearly nine years, the latest sign that low mortgage rates and a solid job market are helping support the residential real estate market.

New-home sales jumped 12.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 654,000 annual units, the strongest level since October 2007, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The demand has eclipsed the pace of construction. Just 4.3 months' supply of new homes is available on the market, down from 5.2 months a year ago.

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Lawmakers demand information on EpiPen price increase

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawmakers are demanding more information on why the price for lifesaving EpiPens has skyrocketed.

EpiPens are used to ward off potentially fatal allergic reactions, and the price has surged in recent years. A two-dose package cost less than $60 nine years ago. The cost is now closer to $400.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Mylan, the company that manufactures the devices, and asked for more information on why the prices have increased. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., on Tuesday asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the issue.

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Modest but steady gains for US indexes; homebuilders soar

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks posted modest gains on Tuesday, bringing indexes nearly back to the record levels they reached last week. Homebuilders rose sharply following a big jump in sales of new homes last month, and Best Buy soared after the electronics retailer reported a surge in profit as online sales increased.

Trading volume in the New York Stock Exchange was low again Tuesday, marking one of the slowest days of the year. Investors have had little in the way of economic data or company news to react to recently, and many traders are on vacation in the ending days of summer.

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Eurozone business resilient in face of Brexit uncertainties

LONDON (AP) - Business activity across the 19-country eurozone grew at a steady, moderate pace in August as the region continued to show little concern about the impact of a British exit from the European Union.

A gauge of activity in the services and manufacturing sectors in the eurozone, the so-called purchasing managers' index, rose slightly to a seven-month high of 53.3 points from 53.2 in July. The index is on a 100-point scale, with the 50 mark separating contraction from growth in activity.

The result echoes the steady growth seen in July and confirms that businesses in the eurozone aren't overly worried about Britain's vote to leave the EU.

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McDonald's recalls millions of Happy Meals fitness bands

NEW YORK (AP) - McDonald's is recalling millions of fitness bands given away in Happy Meals because they might cause skin irritation or burns to children.

The fast-food chain said last week that it would stop distributing the bands in Happy Meals. Now it's recalling 29 million of them in the U.S., and 3.6 million in Canada.

The company received more than 70 reports of incidents after children wore the bands, including seven reports of blisters, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Step-It Fitness plastic wristbands look like watches and are supposed to track physical activity.

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Best Buy posts higher profit, better online and store sales

NEW YORK (AP) - Best Buy's profit jumped 21 percent as the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer increased sales online and tried to create a better shopping experience in the stores while it also cut costs.

The company said online sale rose 24 percent to $835 million, a beacon for investors who have watched Amazon.com eat away at the sales of almost every traditional retailer.

Revenue at established stores, an important measure of a retailer's health, also increased a surprising 0.8 percent. The company has been working on revamping its stores and improving sales staff training to convert browsers into buyers.

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AT&T to provide cellphone roaming, other services in Cuba

DALLAS (AP) - AT&T has reached a deal for enhanced roaming and other cellphone services for wireless customers visiting Cuba.

The telecommunications giant announced the agreement with the state telecommunications company, Etecsa. Terms were not released. AT&T says a start date and pricing for the wireless roaming in Cuba - including talk, text and data - will be announced later.

Sprint announced a roaming agreement with Etecsa last fall to allow subscribers visiting Cuba to send and receive calls and text messages.

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Tesla lays claim to world's fastest production car

DETROIT (AP) - Tesla Motors says a new version of the Model S electric car is the quickest production car in the world from zero to 60 miles per hour.

The company says the Model S P100D sedan can go from stopped to 60 in 2.5 seconds.

The LaFerrari and the Porsche 918 Spyder with gas engines were faster, but they were million-dollar specialty cars that can no longer be bought new, CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday.

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Parent of Circle K buying Texas-based CST Brands for $4.4B

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The parent company of the Circle K convenience store and gas station chain has agreed to buy San Antonio-based CST Brands in a $4.4 billion deal.

Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard and CST Brands announced the agreement Monday following approval by their respective boards. The deal is expected to close in early 2017, subject to approval of CST Brands shareholders and regulators.

CST Brands is one of the largest independent retailers of motor fuel and convenience merchandise in North America. The company has more than 14,000 employees at over 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

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Ruling: Grad students at private universities can unionize

NEW YORK (AP) - The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that student teaching and research assistants at private universities are employees and have a right to be represented by unions.

The 3-1 ruling overturns a 2004 NLRB decision that said graduate students were not employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

Tuesday's decision in a case involving graduate students at Columbia University potentially affects graduate students at hundreds of private colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Graduate students at many public universities, which are covered by state labor laws, are already unionized.

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Howard Johnson's restaurant to close, leaving only 1 more

BANGOR, Maine (AP) - The upcoming closure of one of the last two Howard Johnson restaurants will leave the once-proud restaurant chain teetering on the brink of extinction.

The slice of roadside Americana will no longer be served up in Bangor after Sept. 6. The closing will leave only one Howard Johnson restaurant, in Lake George, New York.

Before falling on hard times, Howard Johnson took restaurant franchises to a new level. The orange-roofed eateries once numbered more than 800, with the New England-based restaurant chain predating the ubiquitous Howard Johnson hotels.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.88 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,547.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,186.90 and the Nasdaq composite rose 15.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,260.08.

Crude oil closed up 69 cents to $48.10 a barrel while Brent crude, used to price oil internationally, rose 80 cents to $49.96. In other energy trading, heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $1.502 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 1.5 cents to $1.499 a gallon and natural gas rose 8 cents to $2.761 per thousand cubic feet.

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