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Yellen confident in economy ahead of expected rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Wednesday indicated that the U.S. economy is on track for an interest rate hike this month, but she said the Fed will need to review incoming data before making a final decision.

Yellen gave an upbeat assessment of the economy's progress, describing it as in line with its expectations for the labor market and inflation.But she added that policymakers need to be cautious in deciding when to start raising rates given that the Fed doesn't have much room to cut them if the economy begins to falter.

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Fed says more consumer spending, housing boost US growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy grew at a modest pace this fall, lifted by higher consumer spending and more home sales and construction.

The Fed said Wednesday in its latest snapshot of the economy that nine of its 12 regional banks reported growth was modest or moderate from early October through mid-November. The report suggests that healthy consumer spending is offsetting overseas headwinds that have weighed on U.S. manufacturers.

The report, known as the Beige Book, is released eight times a year and consists of anecdotal reports from businesses in each of the 12 districts.

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Yahoo mulls shareholder demand to sell Internet business

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo's board is considering an activist shareholder's demand to sell the Internet services the company is best known for, a maneuver that might help the company dodge a tax bill of more than $10 billion looming over its holdings in China's Alibaba Group.

The boardroom intrigue revolves around a recent proposal from Starboard Value, a New York hedge fund that been pressuring Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to take dramatic steps to boost the company's stock.

It is unclear if the strategy will work. Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service declined to guarantee such a manuever would qualify for a tax exemption.

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Zuckerberg's huge pledge reflects a new era in philanthropy

NEW YORK (AP) — The huge philanthropic pledge by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife — totaling perhaps $45 billion — reflects the fast-paced emergence of a new Gilded Age of giving. The changes excite many in the charity world, but also raise questions about effectiveness, ethics and the impact on older charities that may not share in any windfall.

Foremost, there is applause for the new wave of philanthropists — led over the past five years by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and subsequently joined by Zuckerberg and scores of other billionaires in the United States and abroad.

The Giving Pledge, founded in 2010 by Gates and Buffet, now has 138 billionaire signatories from 15 countries who have pledged to give away more than half of their wealth. Many, including Zuckerberg, want to be personally engaged in the oversight and management of their pledged funds, and are finding nontraditional ways of leveraging them.

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Record Cyber Monday spending tops $3 billion

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers spent more than $3 billion online this "Cyber Monday," making it the biggest online shopping day ever.

Research firm comScore said shopping by phone, laptop or tablet jumped 21 percent to $3.11 billion Monday, fueled by a 53 percent surge in spending via mobile devices. It's the sixth year in a row that Cyber Monday has been top online sales day on record.

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Survey: US businesses hired at healthy pace last month

WASHINGTON (AP) — American businesses stepped up hiring last month, led by strong gains in retail, finance and other service industries, a private survey found.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 217,000 jobs last month, the most in five months. Service sector firms added 204,000, while manufacturers hired just 6,000.

The figures come just two days before the government issues its official jobs report for November. Economists forecast that it will show employers added 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained 5 percent.

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Manslaughter charges dropped for BP supervisors in oil spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Justice Department launched a sweeping and costly criminal investigation after BP's rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and caused the nation's worst offshore oil disaster.

It secured a landmark criminal settlement and record civil penalties against the energy giant. But in terms of individual criminal responsibility, some of its cases unraveled before skeptical jurors and judges. At the request of prosecutors, a judge agreed Wednesday to dismiss manslaughter charges against two supervisors who were working on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig when it exploded in April 2010.

The decision makes it increasingly likely that nobody will serve a day in prison for the disaster.

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Cabela's may be hunting for a buyer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Cabela's, the outdoor sporting goods chain known, may be seeking a buyer.

The retailer has been under pressure since late October when the investment firm Elliott Management started pushing for money-generating maneuvers from Cabela's, possibly the sale of its credit card unit or the entire company. Elliott owns 6 percent of Cabela's shares and holds options to buy another 5 percent.

The company has been attempting to cut spending due to weak sales and in September it laid off 70 people, eliminating about 4 percent of its corporate workforce.

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US productivity grows at 2.2 percent rate in third quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. productivity this summer grew at a faster rate than first thought, though it still lagged the pace set in the spring.

Productivity rose at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the July-September quarter, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. That was up from an initial estimate of 1.6 percent but still below the 3.5 percent gain in the second quarter.

Productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, has slowed considerably in recent years — a worrisome trend because it is considered the key factor in boosting living standards.

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Nokia shareholders give green light to Alcatel acquisition

HELSINKI (AP) — Nokia shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the acquisition of ailing French telecom Alcatel-Lucent, removing one of the last hurdles to the 15.6 billion euro deal that will make the Finnish company a market leader in networks.

The authorization for the Nokia board to finalize the takeover came at an extraordinary general meeting Tuesday following last month's launch of a public exchange offer for all outstanding Alcatel shares. In October, Nokia said it would pay 4 billion euros to shareholders as the company raised its outlook for the year.

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Peterbilt recalls semis that go faster than tires can handle

DETROIT (AP) — A truck manufacturer is recalling more than 2,000 semis because they reach speeds greater than their tires are built to handle.

Peterbilt says in government documents that it's recalling tractors from 2009 to 2016 because they can exceed 75 miles per hour, even though the maximum speed their Michelin tires can handle is 65 mph. The trucks mainly haul automobiles.

The company says the tires can fail and cause a crash.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 158.67 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 17,729.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 23.12 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,079.51 and the Nasdaq composite lost 33.08 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,123.22.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped $1.91, or 4.6 percent, to $39.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell $1.95, or 4.4 percent, to $42.49 a barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 7 cents, or 5.1 percent, to close $1.293 a gallon, heating oil fell 6.4 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $1.305 a gallon and natural gas declined 6.6 cents, or 3 percent, to $2.165 a gallon.