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Originally published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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Business Highlights

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The Associated Press

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T-Mobile, MetroPCS unite to battle larger rivals

NEW YORK (AP) - T-Mobile and MetroPCS have agreed to combine their struggling cellphone businesses in an effort to compete better with their three larger rivals.

The combined company will use the T-Mobile brand and have about 42.5 million subscribers. Although T-Mobile will stay No. 4 among U.S. wireless companies, it will have access to more space on the airwaves, a critical factor as cellphone carriers try to expand their capacity for wireless broadband.

That could ultimately mean more choices and better services for customers, though Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin doesn't believe the deal will make a "revolutionary difference" for U.S. cellphone customers. That said, MetroPCS customers will probably have to buy new phones at some point over the next three years as they move over to T-Mobile's network.

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HP CEO's turnaround message flops on Wall Street

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Coming off the biggest quarterly loss in Hewlett-Packard's history, CEO Meg Whitman braced investors for even more trouble ahead as she methodically tries to fix a wide range of longstanding problems. Those challenges will be compounded by a feeble economy that Whitman expects to weaken even more during the next year.

HP said the internal and economic turmoil will cause its earnings to fall by more than 10 percent next year, a decline that hadn't been anticipated by analysts who follow one of the world's largest - and most dysfunctional - technology companies.

Whitman delivered the disappointing forecast Wednesday at a meeting that the ailing Silicon Valley pioneer held for analysts and investors. The gathering gave Whitman the opportunity to persuade Wall Street that she has come up with a compelling strategy for turning around HP one year after being named CEO.

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Low cost flying arrives in luxury loving Japan

NARITA, Japan (AP) - Japan has a reputation for loving expensive things like overpriced real estate, gourmet melons and luxury brands. But the nation is finally discovering the joy of flying cheap, with the arrival this year of three low-cost carriers.

The takeoff of AirAsia Japan, Peach Aviation and Jetstar Japan could change lifestyles. No longer will air travel be mostly confined to business trips and fancy once-in-a-lifetime vacations to places such as Hawaii.

Flying is suddenly growing more casual, including for weekend dining, visits with friends, even day trips. Ticket prices are plunging by about half, to 16,000 yen ($200) trips to the southwestern resort island of Okinawa or a 5,000 yen ($60) hop to Seoul.

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US service firms grow at fastest pace in 6 months

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. service companies grew in September at the fastest pace in six months, helped by a sharp increase in customer demand.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 55.1, up from 53.7 in August. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The report measures growth at businesses that employ roughly 90 percent of the U.S. workforce, from retail and construction companies to health care and financial services firms. The service sector has grown for 33 straight months.

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Survey: US businesses added 162,000 jobs in September

WASHINGTON (AP) - A private survey shows that U.S. businesses added fewer workers in September than August, a sign that slow growth may be holding back hiring.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 162,000 jobs last month. That's below August's total of 189,000, which was revised lower.

Still, the September increase was better than economists had expected. And it marks the latest in a string of modest hiring gains reported by the survey in recent months. The gain isn't enough to significantly push down the unemployment rate, which has been above 8 percent for three and a half years.

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Facebook will charge to `promote' user posts

NEW YORK (AP) - Facebook has long declared that it's "free and always will be." And it still is - unless you want more friends to see what you have to say.

The social media giant is rolling out a feature in the U.S. that lets users pay to promote their posts to friends, just as advertisers do. Facebook has been testing the service in New Zealand, where it tries out a lot of new features, and has gradually introduced it in more than 20 other countries. Facebook said Wednesday that promoting a post - such as announcing a garage sale, charity drive or big news like an engagement - will bump it higher in your friends' news feeds.

Facebook didn't say how much it will cost to promote the posts, only that it's considering a range of prices as part of the test. On Wednesday, though, some users could have seen $7 as the price for each update that they wanted to promote.

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FDA says Teva antidepressant is ineffective

WASHINGTON (AP) - Teva Pharmaceuticals has stopped shipping its generic version of a popular antidepressant after a federal analysis showed the pill does not work properly.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it asked Teva to withdraw Budeprion XL 300 after new testing showed the drug releases a key ingredient faster than the original drug Wellbutrin XL 300, made by GlaxoSmithKline.

A spokeswoman for Teva said the company stopped shipping the drug last Thursday.

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Marriott turned a profit in 3Q on higher prices

NEW YORK (AP) - Marriott says it turned a bigger-than-expected profit in the third quarter on higher prices and strong occupancy rates.

The company, based in Bethesda, Md., earned $143 million, or 44 cents per share, compared with a loss of $179 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago. The 2011 quarter was hit by charges related to the spin-off of its time share business. Without those, it earned $104 million or 29 cents per share last year.

Revenue in the recent quarter fell 5 percent, to $2.73 billion. The results topped Wall Street's expectations for earnings of 40 cents per share and revenue of $2.65 billion.

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Ranchers see increase in grass theft amid drought

VAUGHN, N.M. (AP) - Petty crime and burglaries aren't unusual in New Mexico's isolated Guadalupe County, but lately Sheriff Michael Lucero has seen thieves steal something a bit unexpected: grass.

With drought drying out grazing land and driving up hay prices, some ranchers in New Mexico have started cutting neighbors' fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures.

Authorities in other drought-stricken states say they've seen similar fence cuttings, along with thefts of livestock and other materials as ranchers struggle to stay in business. In some cases, stealing a neighbor's grass may be the only way for a rancher to feed his livestock, but victims say their livelihood is threatened, too.

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Report: Some dietary supplements illegally labeled

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Dozens of weight loss and immune system supplements on the market are illegally labeled and lack the recommended type of scientific evidence to back up their health claims, government investigators warn in a new review of the $20 billion supplement industry.

The report, released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general, found that 20 percent of the 127 weight loss and immune-boosting supplements that investigators bought online and in retail stores across the country carried labels that made illegal claims to cure or treat disease.

In addition many of those and other supplements lacked the scientific studies recommended to support their suggested uses.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.25 points to close at 13,494.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.24 points to 1,450.99. The Nasdaq composite index rose 15.19 points to 3,135.23.

Benchmark oil fell $3.75, or 4.1 percent, to $88.14 per barrel Wednesday in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell $3.40, or 3 percent, to $108.17 per barrel.

Natural gas fell 13.6 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $3.395 per 1,000 cubic feet, a day after hitting a high for the year. Heating oil dropped 5.9 cents to $3.066 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline dropped 7 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.80 per gallon.

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