Business Highlights

Friday - 2/1/2013, 5:41pm EST

By The Associated Press

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US gains 157,000 jobs; jobless rate rises to 7.9 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. job market is proving sturdier than expected at a time when the economy is under pressure from Washington gridlock and the threat of government spending cuts.

Employers added 157,000 jobs in January, and hiring was much stronger at the end of last year than the government had previously estimated.

The Labor Department's estimated job gains for the final two months of 2012 _ a period when the economy was being threatened by the fiscal cliff _ rose from 161,000 to 247,000 for November and from 155,000 to 196,000 for December.

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Dow ends above 14,000 for 1st time since Oct. 2007

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Dow closed above 14,000 on Friday for the first time in more than five years.

It was just a number on a board, but it was enough to raise the hopes of some investors and cause others concern about an overheated market. And it brought reminders of a different era, back before the financial crisis rocked the world economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average, a stock market index that is traditionally considered a benchmark for how the entire market is faring, had been rising fairly steadily for about a month. On Friday, strong auto sales and optimism about U.S. job growth pushed it over the mark. The Dow is now just 155 points away from its record close.

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Detroit, Toyota see big US sales gains in January

DETROIT (AP) _ American consumers ignored tax increases and trudged through winter weather to buy new cars and trucks at an unusually strong pace last month.

Analysts said it will likely be the best January in five years once all automakers report sales. Toyota posted a 27-percent increase, while Ford sales jumped 22 percent. GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains compared with a year earlier.

The results left the industry optimistic about the new year. Businesses bought more trucks. Consumers are ready to buy _ their cars have reached a record average of 11.3 years old _ and banks are making it easier with low interest rates and looser credit terms.

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Few surprises in Super Bowl ads

NEW YORK (AP) _ So much for surprises.

The majority of the 30-plus Super Bowl advertisers have been releasing their spots in the days leading up to the game. So it's unlikely there'll be lots of action off the football field to make viewers drop their jaws on Sunday.

Advertising fans already can catch a glimpse of "Spider-Man" actor Willem Dafoe in a Mercedes-Benz ad. They can watch a baby Clydesdale grow up in an Anheuser-Busch commercial. They even can spot old people partying in a Taco Bell ad.

Gone are the days when Super Bowl spots were closely guarded secrets. With the growth of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it's no surprise that more advertisers are releasing ads online up to a week or more before Game Day.

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Refining margins boost 4Q profit at Exxon Mobil

DALLAS (AP) _ Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday that fourth-quarter earnings rose 6 percent to $9.95 billion with help from higher refining profit margins.

The oil giant barely missed a record for full-year earnings. It earned $44.88 billion in 2012, about $340 million shy of its 2008 mark of $45.22 billion, an all-time high for a publicly traded company.

Exxon still makes most of its money by producing oil and gas, but that end of the business was less profitable than a year ago because of lower prices and production. The company made up the difference in the refining business.

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Chevron profit up on asset exchange, refineries

NEW YORK (AP) _ Chevron Corp. posted a 41 percent gain in net income for the fourth quarter as the company produced more oil and gas, improved the performance of its refinery business and realized a gain from swapping assets in an Australian natural gas field.

Chevron Corp. posted net income of $7.2 billion for the quarter on revenue of $60.6 billion. That's up from $5.1 billion on revenue of $60 billion a year ago.

On a per-share basis, Chevron earned $3.70. Analysts expected the company to earn $3.06 per share, according to FactSet.

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Generic competition, charges cut Merck Q4 profit

Merck & Co.'s fourth-quarter profit fell 7 percent because of hits from generic competition and one-time charges, and the company pushed back plans for seeking approval of a key experimental osteoporosis drug.