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Business Highlights

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Fed is moving toward rate hike, but just when still unclear

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve took note Wednesday of a strengthening U.S. economy and appears on track to raise interest rates this year for the first time in nearly a decade.

But Chair Janet Yellen declined to say just when or how fast the Fed would act.

In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed noted that the job market, the housing industry and consumer spending are all improving. At the same time, it made clear it wants to see further economic gains and higher inflation before raising rates from record lows.

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Wall Street powerhouse poised to loan money to Main Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street’s most iconic investment bank has decided to open its doors to Main Street.

Goldman Sachs plans to start lending money directly to consumers and small businesses, according to an internal memo released to The Associated Press. It would be the first time in its history that the firm has done business with ordinary borrowers.

Goldman’s move comes as new regulations have weighed on the firm’s other businesses, such as trading. Also, the online lending industry — growing at sometimes double or triple its levels from a year ago — could provide healthier returns without the need for Goldman to build bank branches.

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Will Greece leave the euro? A look at its options

LUXEMBOURG (AP) — Stay or go? The time is approaching for momentous decisions for Greece and the nations using the euro currency.

Athens must pay 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) off its debts at the end of the month to avoid a possible default and secure for a little longer its cherished place among the 19 countries using the single currency.

Greece needs new financial aid from creditors to be able to make the June 30 date with the debt collector. A deal is still nowhere in sight, though, with both sides refusing to compromise over what reforms Greece should make in exchange for more loans.

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New chip credit cards putting squeeze on small businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — New credit and debit cards with computer chips are putting the squeeze on small businesses.

The cards being rolled out by banks and credit card companies are aimed at reducing fraud from counterfeit cards. As chip cards are phased in, magnetic stripe cards, which are easier for thieves to copy, will be phased out. Businesses of all sizes face an Oct. 1 deadline to get new card readers and software that can handle chips. Most estimates of transition costs for small companies vary from the low hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars due to the wide range of equipment used.

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Delivery by drone in 30 minutes? Amazon says it’s coming

WASHINGTON (AP) — Online U.S. retail giant Amazon told Congress Wednesday it is developing the technology to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less, a broad expansion of unmanned flight that is raising concerns about safety, security and privacy.

Using commercial drones to quickly deliver packages is probably years away. But when government regulations catch up with emerging technologies, it could revolutionize the way people shop for items they need quickly, said Paul E. Misener, vice-president of global public policy for Amazon.com.

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Minting millionaires: India sees biggest jump of newly rich

NEW YORK (AP) — Want to be a millionaire? Move to India.

The number of millionaires in the country rose 26 per cent last year, the biggest percentage gain among major countries in a report out Wednesday showing the ranks of millionaires around the world at a record. The total number of Indian millionaires — 198,000 — is relatively small, but it’s fast closing in on Italy. That country had 219,000 millionaires last year.

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Senator probes retailers on dubious ‘brain’ supplements

WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-ranking Senate Democrat is probing retailers and online companies about sales of dubious dietary supplements, especially those promising seniors protection from memory loss, dementia and other age-related problems.

The pills, tablets and formulas targeted by Senator Claire McCaskill bear names like “Brain Awake,” ”Dementia Drops” and “Food for the Brain,” which claims to ease “forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

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CVS Health launches health, beauty makeover for drugstores

CVS drugstores that quit tobacco sales last year are now getting health and beauty makeovers and a shot of ethnic diversity in some cases to attract customers who want more than a prescription refill.

The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain said Wednesday that it is adding fresh foods, healthy snacks and expanded beauty options to many of its locations. It also is testing a new format designed for stores that serve Hispanic populations.

CVS Health Corp. executives say these changes reflect customer demand. They also could help perk up store sales outside the pharmacy area that have slumped since the company phased out tobacco last September.

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US regulators impose limits on mortgage business for 6 banks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have slapped restrictions on the mortgage businesses of six banks, saying they haven’t fully complied with requirements imposed on them to resolve allegations that they abused the foreclosure process after the collapse of the housing market.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, part of the Treasury Department, announced the action Wednesday against the banks: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, HSBC, Santander and EverBank.

The agency said the banks haven’t met all the requirements of the 2011 enforcement orders issued by the government, which found that some lenders rushed the foreclosure process without carefully reviewing documents. The case was known as the “robo-signing” scandal.

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Auto industry quality improves, Japanese don’t keep pace

DETROIT (AP) — The quality of cars and trucks made by European, Korean and U.S. companies has improved so much in recent years that Japanese automakers, long the industry standard, are having trouble keeping pace.

The latest survey on new vehicle quality by the J.D. Power consulting firm also found that despite continued problems with entertainment and connectivity systems, quality is starting to improve for the auto industry as a whole. For the first time since 2012, buyers reported fewer problems in new cars and trucks than the previous year.

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AT&T hit with $100M fine, company vows to fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — AT&T Mobility LLC has been slapped with a record $100 million fine for offering consumers “unlimited” data, but then slowing their Internet speeds after they reached a certain amount. The company says it will fight the charges.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that the company misled consumers into buying plans they believed would give them unlimited ability to send and receive data, including Web browsing, GPS navigation and streaming videos. But once the consumer hit a certain level, the data on unlimited plans would be slowed down significantly, at speeds lower than advertised, the FCC said.

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California commission says Uber driver is employee

NEW YORK (AP) — A ruling in the case of a single Uber driver could have much broader implications for the popular ride-hailing service and for companies like it that rely on workers they see as independent contractors for on-demand services.

The California Labor Commission has ruled that an Uber driver should be considered a company employee, not an independent contractor.

The driver, Barbara Ann Berwick, filed a claim last year saying Uber owed her unpaid wages and other expenses. Uber has long contended that it is a technological platform used by independent drivers and their passengers to arrange and pay for rides.

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EU launches tax action plan to crack down on sweet deals

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s tax watchdog unveiled on Wednesday a plan for tackling corporate tax avoidance and ending the practice of sweet deals for multinational companies.

The EU’s executive Commission also published a blacklist of 30 countries it says are not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance. The list ranges from Belize to Panama, European principalities like Monaco to Hong Kong and Pacific nations like Vanuatu.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 31.26 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,935.74. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 4.15 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,100.44. The Nasdaq composite rose 9.33 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,064.88.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 cents to close at $59.92 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 17 cents to close at $63.87 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.4 cents to close at $2.101 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2.5 cents to close at $1.910 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.9 cents to close at $2.855 per 1,000 cubic feet.