Business Highlights

Friday - 3/8/2013, 7:00pm EST

The Associated Press

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Job gains cut unemployment to 7.7 percent, a 4-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The American job market isn't just growing. It's accelerating.

Employers added 236,000 jobs in February and drove down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, its lowest level in more than four years. The gains signal that companies are confident enough in the economy to intensify hiring even in the face of tax increases and government spending cuts.

Last month capped a fourth-month hiring spree in which employers have added an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month. The hiring has been fueled by steady improvement in housing, auto sales, manufacturing and corporate profits, along with record-low borrowing rates.

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Stocks gain for sixth day on strong jobs growth

NEW YORK (AP) -- A burst of hiring in February pushed stocks higher on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 14,397.07. The index surpassed its previous record close Tuesday and logged a sixth straight increase Friday.

The strong job growth shows that employers are confident about the economy despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.

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BP warns of rising costs from spill settlement

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- BP is warning investors that the price tag will be "significantly higher" than it initially estimated for its multibillion-dollar settlement with businesses and residents who claim they were affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based oil giant estimated last year that it would spend roughly $7.8 billion to resolve tens of thousands of claims covered by the settlement agreement. But in a regulatory filing this week, BP PLC said businesses' claims have been paid at much higher average amounts than it had anticipated.

The company also said it can't reliably estimate how much it will pay for unresolved business claims following a ruling Tuesday by the federal judge supervising the uncapped settlement. U.S District Judge Carl Barbier rejected BP's interpretation of certain settlement provisions.

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Fish McBites fail to spark McDonald's sales

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's new Fish McBites failed to hook enough diners to get the fast-food chain's U.S. sales growing in February.

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Friday that a key sales figure was down 3.3 percent in the U.S. for the month. When excluding the extra day of sales in February of last year, which was a leap year, the company said the figure was flat. That was despite the rollout of the Fish McBites nuggets in three sizes, which were also offered as the first new Happy Meal entree in a decade.

The struggle to grow at home reflects the mounting pressures on McDonald's, which had managed to pull away from its rivals and thrive during the Great Recession.

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New TSA policy on knives, bats sparks backlash

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration's new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by TSA Administrator John Pistole this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House's "We the People" website had nearly 10,400 signatures early Friday urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off planes.

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Wal-Mart executive Leslie Dach to leave in June

NEW YORK (AP) -- Leslie Dach, who played an influential role in reinventing the image of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the face of mounting attacks by labor groups and other critics, is leaving the company in June after seven years.

The world's largest retailer said Friday that it has an active search under way to replace Dach.

Dach, 58, joined Wal-Mart in August 2006 as executive vice president of corporate affairs, a newly created position, as anti-Wal-Mart attacks reached a fever pitch on all fronts, from how it treats its workers to how it hasn't taken enough responsibility for its environmental impact. The company's shares fell 20 percent from early 2005 to an eight-year low of $42 two years later. They currently trade around $73.

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News Corp. to spin off publishing with $2.56 billion cash

NEW YORK (AP) -- News Corp. said Friday that it will spin off its publishing division with $2.56 billion in cash and no debt, giving it the means to invest in digital operations and acquire businesses.