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By The Associated Press
Associated Press

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US airlines to halt Northeast flights

Most airlines were giving up on flying in and out of New York, Boston and other cities in the Northeast Friday as a massive storm threatened to dump snow by the foot on the region.

Airlines were generally shutting down operations in the afternoon at the three big New York-area airports as well as Boston, Providence, Portland, Maine, and other Northeastern airports. They're hoping to resume flights on Saturday.

Flight-tracking website FlightAware said airlines have canceled more than 4,200 flights on Friday and Saturday in advance of the storm.

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US growth in 4Q likely stronger on export gains

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A jump in energy-related exports and a steep decline in oil imports lowered the U.S. trade deficit in December to nearly a three-year low.

The improvement suggests the economy grew in the October-December quarter instead of shrinking as the government estimated last week.

A brighter outlook for trade also illustrates how a boom in oil and gas production is reducing crude oil imports and making the U.S. a leader in the export of fuels. And it shows that higher domestic sales of fuel-efficient cars are lowering dependence on oil.

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EU leaders agree to $1.28 trillion 7-year budget

BRUSSELS (AP) _ European Union leaders agreed Friday to a significantly reduced 7-year budget worth (EURO)960 billion ($1.28 trillion) _ the first cut in spending in the 27-country group's history.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced that the agreement had been reached after two days of nearly round-the-clock negotiations _ the longest negotiations of his tenure in office. The final total was about 40 billion less than the European Commission had originally proposed.

The issue of what to give to the EU was made more difficult because, he said, its members were struggling with poor economic growth and harsh austerity measures.

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Cast out of Monopoly, the clothes iron endures

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ When online voters nixed the clothes iron token from Hasbro's Monopoly game, the appliance was held up as passe, as something your grandmother once used to ease the wrinkles out of linens and handkerchiefs.

"Despite being an integral part of life when the token was added to the game in the 1930s, the iron has fallen out of favor with today's fans," the Rhode Island-based company said in announcing its replacement _ with a cat.

But even with the rise of wrinkle-free fabrics, the iron, it seems, is holding its own.

While U.S. iron sales declined in volume 1 percent last year, they were up nearly 3 percent overall from 2007 to 2012, according to the market research group Euromonitor International. Over the same period, steam generator irons _ which make more steam than traditional ones, speeding up the process _ experienced what the firm called "enormous growth." Sales were $368 million last year.

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US wholesale stockpiles dip 0.1 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. wholesalers cut their stockpiles slightly in December while their sales were unchanged, suggesting businesses were cautious at the end of a weak quarter.

The Commerce Department said Friday that wholesale business stockpiles dipped 0.1 percent in December from November to $497.7 billion. That followed a 0.4 percent rise the previous month.

Inventories of furniture and automotive goods fell by the most in more than three years. Farm product stockpiles also dropped sharply, likely reflecting the impact of this summer's drought in the Midwest.

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Boeing warns that 787 deliveries could slip

Boeing acknowledged on Friday that it may not be able to deliver its 787 as fast as hoped.

The company said it has told customers expecting the next 787 deliveries that those planes have either been delayed, or at risk for a delay.

Boeing is still building the long-range, fuel-efficient planes, and it said on Friday that it has no plans to slow production.

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McDonald's sales fall again amid weakness in Asia

NEW YORK (AP) _ McDonald's says a key sales figure dropped again in January as the world's biggest hamburger chain faced ongoing weakness in Japan and sales in China were hurt by a food scare and the timing of a holiday.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said global sales at restaurants open at least 13 months dropped 1.9 percent for the month. The figure is a key metric because it strips out the volatility of newly opened and closed locations.

After years of outperforming rivals, McDonald's has been struggling amid intensifying competition and challenging economic conditions around the world. Late last year, the company ousted the head of its U.S. business after the sales figure dropped for the first time in nearly a decade. CEO Don Thompson, who took the top spot this summer, has vowed to add business by emphasizing value while planning a series of new limited-time offers to attract customers.

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Watson's medical expertise offered commercially

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ Dr. Watson is accepting new patients.

The Watson supercomputer is graduating from its medical residency and is being offered commercially to doctors and health insurance companies, IBM said Friday.

IBM Corp., the health insurer WellPoint Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced two Watson-based applications _ one to help diagnose and treat lung cancer and one to help manage health insurance decisions and claims.

Both applications take advantage of the speed, huge database and language skill the computer demonstrated in defeating the best human "Jeopardy!" players on television two years ago.

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Coal sales investigated by feds; no violations yet

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ The U.S. Department of Interior is investigating whether mining companies are skirting royalty rules as they increase exports of coal to Asia, but no violations have yet been issued, federal officials disclosed Friday.

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The investigation is focused on companies that use affiliates or brokers to sell coal from mines in the Western U.S. to customers in Asia.

That's when the parent company pays government royalties based on the mine price, then the affiliate ships the fuel overseas where it's sold for many times the original price.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 48.92 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,992.97. The Nasdaq composite climbed 28.74 points, or 0.9 percent, to finish the week at 3,193.87. The S&P 500 rose 8.54 points to 1,517.93, closing 0.3 percent up for the week.

Benchmark crude for March delivery fell 11 cents to finish at $95.72 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose as high as $96.57 in the morning. In London, Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose $1.66 to end at $118.90 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Wholesale gasoline rose 6 cents to finish at $3.06 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to end at $3.27 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil gained 4 cents to finish at $3.24 a gallon.

Copyright: (c) 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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