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Business Highlights

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US reports 8 deaths, 98 injuries from exploding air bags

WASHINGTON (AP) — People whose cars have been recalled to fix air bag inflators made by Takata Corp. should get the repairs done as soon as possible or face the risk of death or injury, U.S. safety regulators said Thursday.

Speaking at a public meeting, officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said eight people have died and 98 more have been hurt by inflators that can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

About 23.4 million Takata driver and passenger air bag inflators have been recalled on 19.2 million U.S. vehicles. As of Oct. 9, only 22.5 per cent of the recalled inflators had been replaced nationwide.

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Diesel scandal keeps Volkswagen’s US sales forecast flat

DETROIT (AP) — After some summer gains, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales seem to have stalled amid revelations it cheated on emissions tests.

Volkswagen Group’s sales are expected to be flat in October, even as total U.S. sales rise 8 per cent for one of the best Octobers in more than a decade, according to data from J.D. Power and Associates obtained by The Associated Press.

J.D. Power combines all the brands Volkswagen AG sells in the U.S., including Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley. Its forecast is a sign that surging sales of the German automaker’s luxury brands aren’t making up for a slowdown for the Volkswagen brand.

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European Central Bank opens door to more stimulus

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Citing worries about China and developing markets, the head of the European Central Bank on Thursday signalled it could increase monetary stimulus to the eurozone at a meeting in December.

The remarks by Mario Draghi raised expectations the bank might extend its 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) bond purchase program aimed at raising inflation and helping a spotty recovery.

Draghi made it clear that the ECB was also considering other measures, such as further cutting one of its key interest rates.

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McDonald’s sales in US edge up for first time in 2 years

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s sales edged up at established U.S. locations during the third quarter, snapping a streak of about two years of quarterly declines.

The world’s largest burger chain also said sales rose 4 per cent on a global basis at established locations. In the U.S., the figure rose 0.9 per cent, marking the first increase since the third quarter of 2013. The bump was the result of a higher average check, however, which offset a decline in traffic. That means McDonald’s still has a long way to go in fixing its business.

The company said it expects the sales figure to rise globally for the final three months of the year as well, including in the U.S.

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US home sales rebound in September after August slump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans snapped up more homes in September, suggesting that the U.S. housing sector remains insulated from global economic turmoil.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of existing homes jumped 4.7 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million. Buying activity rebounded after slipping in August, indicating that demand for housing continues despite a series of recent economic hits: stock market declines, falling factory orders, a slowdown in China, struggles in emerging nations such as Brazil and Turkey, and stagnation in Europe.

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Applications for US weekly jobless benefits rose last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but the four-week average declined to the lowest level in more than four decades, another sign the job market is healthy.

The number of people applying for benefits edged up by 3,000 last week to 259,000 after two weeks of declines, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average for benefit applications fell by 2,000 to 263,250, the lowest level since December 1973.

Benefit applications are a proxy for job layoffs. Economists like to focus on the four-week average because it is less volatile than the weekly number.

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Amazon 3Q results up on strong sales, cloud computing growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is Primed for success as the busy holiday season approaches.

The e-commerce powerhouse reported a surprise third-quarter profit, driven by a boost in revenue from its Prime Day promotion and continued strong growth in its cloud-computing offerings.

Results beat expectations, and shares jumped 10 per cent in aftermarket trading.

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Google’s 3Q earnings surge 45 pct, Alphabet stock soars

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google’s third-quarter report is getting an “A” from investors as it enters a new era under Alphabet, its new parent company.

A third-quarter report released Thursday indicated that Google is making significant strides in the increasingly important mobile market, with its earnings surging 45 per cent to nearly $4 billion, or $5.73 per share.

Google’s revenue for the three months ending in September totalled $18.7 billion. After subtracting ad commissions, revenue totalled $15.1 billion, a 15 per cent increase from last year.

Both the earnings and revenue topped the analysts’ projections that steer investors’ expectations.

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Microsoft’s new businesses shine, but PC software still sags

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft may still be suffering from lagging sales of personal computers, but the tech giant has taken some cues from rivals like Apple and Google — and it’s now seeing substantial growth in more promising lines of business ranging from Internet apps and advertising to online games and cloud computing.

In the company’s latest earnings report, issued Thursday, key segments of Microsoft’s business continued to decline. But Microsoft reported strong performance in cloud computing, online advertising and subscriptions to online services — areas CEO Satya Nadella considers key to the company’s future.

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Mazda recalling 4.9M vehicles to fix ignition switches

DETROIT (AP) — Mazda says it is recalling 4.9 million older vehicles worldwide, including 1.36 million in the U.S., because ignition switches could overheat and catch fire.

The U.S. recall covers the 1990-1996 323 and Protégé, the 1993-1998 626, the 1993-1995 929, the 1993-1997 MX-6, the 1989 to 1998 MPV and the 1992-1993 MX-3.

Mazda says it put too much grease on electrical contact points in the switches when the cars were manufactured. The grease can carbonize and reduce electrical insulation. The company says continuous use can cause electricity to flow between the points and make the switches overheat. That can cause smoke and possible fire.

It says there haven’t been any fires, crashes or injuries in the U.S., and the problem doesn’t happen when the car is turned off. Globally there have been 13 fires in the Mazdas, but no injuries.

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No papal kiss: Benetton brand relaunch ditches shock factor

TREVISO, Italy (AP) — Benetton, the Italian maker of colorful knitwear, is relaunching its brand with a gentler ad campaign that ditches some of the shock factor images it was once known for.

Benetton’s brand relaunch comes in a period of renewal for the brand. The Benetton family bought back stock to reprivatize the company in 2012, and a new team of key executives was brought in earlier this year. The apparel company has struggled under competition from fast-fashion brands like H&M and Inditex’s Zara.

The company’s image-driven advertising was once designed to cause a stir with images such as the pope kissing an imam.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 320.55 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 17,489.16. The S&P 500 index rose 33.57 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 2,052.51. The Nasdaq added 79.93 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 4,920.05.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 18 cents to close at $45.38 a barrel in New York Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 23 cents to $48.08 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 2.6 cents to close at $1.307 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil rose 1.5 cent to $1.465 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.8 cents to close at $2.386 per 1,000 cubic feet.