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Associated Press Updated: January 22, 2015 at 6:17 pm

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ECB unleashes its most aggressive effort to revive economy

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Europe's ailing economy will get a major dose of stimulus from the European Central Bank — a bond buying program designed to make loans and exports cheaper so companies can hire and expand.

Starting in March, the ECB will buy 60 billion euros' worth of government and corporate bonds each month at least through September 2016. The 1.1 trillion euro program was an emphatic signal of the ECB's willingness to do all it can to rejuvenate the economy shared by the 19-nation euro currency alliance.

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Euro plunges, but European brands are not on sale in US

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans hoping to save on European goods thanks to a falling euro shouldn't rush to uncork that bottle of French Bordeaux. There's very little to celebrate.

Not since September 2003 has the euro traded this low against the dollar. Still, German sports cars, Belgian beers and the latest fashions out of Italy aren't going on sale anytime soon. The reason? There's simply too much demand in the U.S. for any markdowns.

"The U.S. economy is the one that's doing well in the world right now," notes IHS senior principal economist George Magliano. "We've got a lot of growth in upper-income families and households."

Since Americans are willing — and able — to spend heavily on imported goods, there's no need for companies to cut prices. Any savings thanks to the euro's decline will instead be pocketed by manufacturers and distributors.

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No quick fix for battery anxiety but plenty of workarounds

NEW YORK (AP) — At a cozy watering hole in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, bartender Kathy Conway counted four different phone chargers behind the bar.

Call it the scourge of the red zone or battery anxiety. Smartphone users are tired of begging to charge devices behind bars or hunting for outlets in airports and train stations. Where, oh where, is a better battery?

The common lithium-ion battery used to power laptops, cellphones and tablet computers has improved in recent years. Battery capacity has tripled since 1990, says K. M. Abraham, a professor at Northeastern University who researches batteries. But it's not nearly enough to keep up with the needs of gadget addicts who demand thin, lightweight mobile devices and use them constantly.

Still, there are some options.

Companies recently showed off battery chargers and smartphone extenders at the annual gadget show known as CES.

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Hard-hit worker wonders where the economic resurgence is

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Ask Joshua Thevenin — who since last month has been a newspaper salesman, fireworks vendor and tele-marketer — what he thinks about assertions the economy is roaring toward recovery and you'll get a sigh and a shake of his head.

Lately, everyone from economists to President Barack Obama himself are bullish on the economy. Labor Department statistics this month showed that a healthy month of hiring in December capped the best year for U.S. job growth since 1999, with nearly 3 million jobs added in 2014.

During the State of the Union speech, Obama acknowledged that "it has been, and still is, a hard time for many."

He added: "But tonight, we turn the page."

But those like Thevenin, who live in the economy's shadows, know that it's difficult to turn the page, much less begin a new chapter when you can't find full-time work.

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US jobless aid applications drop for 1st time in 4 weeks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week for the first time in a month, a sign that layoffs remain low and hiring is probably still healthy.

The Labor Department says that weekly applications dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 307,000. The decline comes after applications spiked the previous week to a seven-month high.

Most of the volatility reflects widespread layoffs of temporary employees hired by retailers, restaurants and other companies for the winter holidays. The government seeks to adjust the data for those seasonal trends, but doesn't always do so perfectly.

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Wells Fargo, JPMorgan settle mortgage kickbacks probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have agreed to pay more than $35 million combined to resolve claims that loan officers at the two banks received kickbacks in exchange for steering mortgage borrowers to a Maryland title company.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Thursday that JPMorgan and Wells Fargo each agreed to consent orders filed in federal court to settle the claims.

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $24 million in civil penalties and $10.8 million to consumers affected by the scheme. JPMorgan is to pay $600,000 in penalties and about $300,000 in redress.

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Obama idea to trim college savings plans hits GOP opposition

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's proposal to scale back the tax benefits of college savings accounts is running into opposition from Republicans in Congress who say they have no intention of raising taxes on families trying to save money for their children's education.

Obama's plan would reduce the tax benefits of future contributions to the popular 529 college savings plans. Current accounts would be grandfathered, so existing funds could still grow and be withdrawn, tax-free.

The administration says all the additional tax revenue would be used to help expand and make permanent a $2,500 tax credit that families can use for education expenses. Under current law, the tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.

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McDonald's faces employee lawsuit over franchisee behavior

Some McDonald's workers who say they were fired because of their race are suing the fast-food giant, accusing it of dodging responsibility for the discrimination and harassment they say they endured.

The workers said in a federal complaint filed Thursday that about 15 African-American employees of some southern Virginia restaurants run by Soweva Co. were fired last May after several white employees were hired. Many of those fired were told by Soweva owner Michael Simon that while they were good workers they "didn't fit the profile" he was trying to build for the company, according to the complaint.

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Cadillac wants small dealers to upgrade to 'boutique' stores

DETROIT (AP) — In an effort to better compete with BMW and Mercedes, Cadillac wants about 700 smaller U.S. dealers to create "boutique" stores that focus on the General Motors luxury brand.

The move, to be outlined Thursday at the Washington Auto Show by Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen, is designed to improve a customer's buying experience so it matches or exceeds other luxury brands.

Cadillac now has 929 dealerships nationwide. About 200 have exclusive space for Cadillac, while 700 more sell the luxury brand along with Chevrolet or other GM brands. Those would become boutique locations with specially trained salespeople and service and luxury features. No dealerships would be closed.

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Gov't adds emergency brake features to safety device list

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's auto safety agency wants to add two automatic emergency braking devices to its list of recommended safety features for new-car buyers.

But it's unclear when or if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require automakers to put the devices on all new vehicles.

The agency plans to add crash-imminent braking and dynamic brake support to its recommendations. Crash-imminent braking automatically stops a car if sensors detect a possible crash, while dynamic braking adds force to the brakes if the driver isn't pressing hard enough to avoid a crash.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 259.70 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,813.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 31.03 points, or 1.5 percent, to close at 2,063.15. The Nasdaq climbed 82.98 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,750.40.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.47 to close at $46.31 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 51 cents to close at $48.52 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 0.5 cents to close at $1.331 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.8 cents to close at $1.638 a gallon. Natural gas fell 13.9 cents to close at $2.835 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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