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Originally published Friday, March 9, 2012 at 3:06 PM

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Business Highlights

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The Associated Press

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US adds 227,000 jobs in Feb.; jobless rate 8.3 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States added 227,000 jobs in February in the latest sign of the economic recovery's surprising breadth. The country has put together the strongest three months of pure job growth since the Great Recession. Economists expected February job growth of 210,000.

The unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. It was the first time in six months it didn't fall, and that was because a half-million Americans, perhaps finally seeing hope in the economy, started looking for work.

The Labor Department also said Friday that December and January, already two of the best months for jobs since the recession, were even stronger than first estimated. 41,000 jobs were added to the total for January and 20,000 for December.

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Fannie, Freddie CEO pay limited, bonuses cut

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government says it will cap pay for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac chief executives at $500,000 per year and eliminate annual bonuses for all employees. The changes come after Congress pressured the government to stop big payouts at the bailed-out mortgage giants.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government agency that oversees Fannie and Freddie, also said Friday that it will cut pay for roughly 50 other executives at the two companies. Those employees are still eligible to earn salaries above the cap.

The pay and bonus structure of the government-controlled mortgage giants came under fire this fall after it was revealed that 12 executives got $35.4 million in salary and bonuses in 2009 and 2010. Fannie chief executive Michael J. Williams got about $9.3 million for the two years. Freddie chief executive Edward Haldeman Jr. was paid $7.8 million.

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Freddie asks for $146 million in aid after better 4Q

WASHINGTON (AP) - Government-controlled mortgage giant Freddie Mac has requested $146 million in additional aid after posting a smaller loss in the fourth quarter of last year.

That's far less than in the third quarter, when Freddie received $6 billion from the government. It got $7.6 billion for all of 2011 and $13 billion for all of 2010.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that it lost $1 billion, or 32 cents per share, in the October-December quarter. That compares with a loss of $1.72 billion, or 53 cents a share, in the same quarter of 2010.

Freddie's losses are dwindling because of a drop in the number of homeowners refinancing at lower mortgages rates and paying less interest. Fewer homeowners are refinancing because many have already done so, or can't qualify for the current record-low rates. Charles E. Haldeman Jr., Freddie's chief executive, also said the company's portfolio of home loans is improving.

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Greece secures biggest debt deal in history

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece's private creditors agreed Friday to take cents on the euro in the biggest debt write-down in history, paving the way for an enormous second bailout of the country to keep Europe's economy from being dragged into further chaos.

Greece risked defaulting on its debts in two weeks without the agreement, sparking turmoil in the financial markets and sending shock waves through the other 16 countries that use the euro.

In a televised address to the nation Prime Minister Lucas Papademos called the deal - which shaves some euro105 billion ($138 billion) off Greece's euro368 billion ($487 billion) debt load - an important historic success. "For the first time, Greece is not adding but taking debt off the backs of its citizens."

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Carnival in rough seas as cruise season starts

NEW YORK (AP) - Carnival Corp. cut its profit forecast nearly in half Friday, another sign of the challenges the company and cruise industry face after the capsizing of the Costa Concordia in January.

Cruise line operators entered 2012 thinking they could start charging passengers more again after offering widespread discounts following the 2007-2009 recession. But just two weeks into the year, 32 people died when Carnival's Costa Concordia sank off the coast of Italy.

The incident happened during a critical period for the cruise industry referred to as "wave season." It's a time when a large number of travelers book cruises for the year.

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US trade deficit grew to 3-year high in January

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. trade deficit surged in January to the widest imbalance in more than three years after imports grew faster than exports.

Rising oil prices helped drive imports to a record high, as did stronger demand for foreign-made cars, computers and food products.

And exports to Europe fell, a sign that the region's debt crisis could temporarily weaken U.S. growth just as the job market is strengthening.

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Wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in January although sales fell for the first time in eight months.

Inventories at the wholesale level increased 0.4 percent in January following an even larger 1.1 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales dipped a slight 0.1 percent, the first decline since a 0.3 percent fall last May. Sales had risen a solid 1.4 percent in December.

The inventory gain pushed stockpiles to $475.5 billion in January, up 24 percent from a low hit in September 2009.

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Survey ranks Google highly despite privacy fears

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google is almost everyone's favorite search engine, despite misgivings about data-collection and advertising practices that are widely seen as intrusive.

A survey released Friday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found 83 percent of U.S. search engine users rated Google as their preferred search engine. That was up from 47 percent in 2004, the last time that Pew gauged people's attitudes about Internet search engines.

Yahoo's search engine ranked a distant second at 6 percent, according to the latest numbers, down from 26 percent in 2004.

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Apple to add 3,600 jobs at new $304 million Texas campus

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Apple Inc. is investing $304 million in a new campus and more than doubling its workforce in Austin, Texas, boosted by a $21 million incentive from a state fund designed to attract high-tech companies, Gov. Rick Perry said Friday.

The investment from the Texas Enterprise Fund comes in exchange for a promise that Apple will add more than 3,600 employees at its new facility in the state capital over the next decade, including customer support, sales and accounting staff, Perry said.

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Bank of America to reduce loans for homeowners

NEW YORK (AP) - Bank of America is providing mortgage relief to about 200,000 homeowners.

Homeowners whose home values have fallen below what they owe on their mortgages will qualify. Bank of America will reduce the amount owed by as much as $100,000 in some cases. Only mortgages that are currently owned by Bank of America are included. Those owned by government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or backed by the Federal Housing Administration will not be eligible.

The move will help the bank reduce the amount of penalties it owes to the government's Housing & Urban Development agency by $850 million.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 14.08 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,922.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 4.96, or 0.4 percent, to 1,370.87. The Nasdaq composite average gained 17.92, or 0.6 percent, to 2,988.34.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude, which is used to price much of the oil produced in the U.S., rose by 82 cents to end the day at $107.40 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which prices oil imported by U.S. refineries, rose by 54 cents to finish at $125.98 per barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell by less than a cent to finish at $3.26 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 2 cents to end at $3.33 per gallon. Natural gas futures rose by 5 cents to end at $2.32 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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