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Associated Press

Posted on July 2, 2013 at 5:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 2 at 5:02 PM

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Auto sales maintain momentum, led by pickups

DETROIT (AP) — Three years ago U.S. car buyers started trickling back into showrooms after largely sitting out the recession. That trickle has turned into a flood.

From owners of revitalized small businesses that need to replace aging pickups to new hires who need a fresh set of wheels for the daily commute, increasingly confident buyers pushed auto sales back to pre-recession levels in the first six months of this year. Sales in the January-June period topped 7.8 million, their best first half since 2007, according to Autodata Corp. and Ward's AutoInfoBank. Automakers also reported that June rose 9 percent to 1.4 million.

The outlook for the rest of 2013 is just as strong. The factors boosting sales — low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles — will be around for a while, and experts are hard-pressed for answers when asked what could slow things down.

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In 'golden age' of surveillance, US has big edge

LONDON (AP) — The saga of Edward Snowden and the NSA makes one thing clear: The United States' central role in developing the Internet and hosting its most powerful players has made it the global leader in the surveillance game.

Other countries, from dictatorships to democracies, are also avid snoopers, tapping into the high-capacity fiber optic cables to intercept Internet traffic, scooping their citizens' data off domestic servers, and even launching cyberattacks to win access to foreign networks.

But experts in the field say that Silicon Valley has made America a surveillance superpower, allowing its spies access to massive mountains of data being collected by the world's leading communications, social media, and online storage companies. That's on top of the United States' fiber optic infrastructure — responsible for just under a third of the world's international Internet capacity, according to telecom research firm TeleGeography — which allows it to act as a global postmaster, complete with the ability to peek at a big chunk of the world's messages in transit.

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AP IMPACT: More air passengers show up with guns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with loaded guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And, nearly a dozen years after 9/11, it's happening a lot more often.

In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week — 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.

Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.

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EU to start trade talks with US despite scandal

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union confirmed Tuesday that free-trade negotiations with the United States should kick off as planned next week, despite widespread concerns over the alleged eavesdropping of EU diplomats.

The Commission, the EU's executive branch that leads the negotiations on behalf of its 28 members, said the planned start of talks in Washington next Monday "should not be affected" by the surveillance scandal that has emerged in recent days.

However, it insisted that the trans-Atlantic atmosphere needed to clear up for the talks to be successful.

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Fed approves higher bank capital standards

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve agreed Tuesday to raise the amount of capital that big banks must hold to prevent their collapse and reduce the threat they pose to the broader financial system.

The higher capital requirements were mandated by Congress in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. They are also in accordance with international standards agreed to after the downturn.

Banks had lobbied to modify the requirements on higher capital, saying they could hamper their ability to lend. But experts said most big banks have already increased their capital reserves.

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US home prices rise in May by most in 7 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices jumped 12.2 percent in May from a year ago, the most in seven years. The increase suggests the housing recovery is strengthening.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that home prices rose from a year ago in 48 states. They fell only in Delaware and Alabama. And all but three of the 100 largest cities reported price gains.

Prices rose 26 percent in Nevada to lead all states. It was followed by California (20.2 percent), Arizona (16.9 percent), Hawaii (16.1 percent) and Oregon (15.5 percent).

CoreLogic also says prices rose 2.6 percent in May from April, the fifteenth straight month-over-month increase.

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US factory orders rise 2.1 percent in May

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories rose in May, helped by a third straight month of stronger business investment. The gains suggest manufacturing may be picking up after a weak start to the year.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that factory orders rose 2.1 percent in May. April's increase was revised higher to 1.3 percent from 1 percent.

Most of the increase in May was due to a big jump in volatile commercial aircraft demand. Still, businesses also ordered more machinery, computers and household appliances.

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Feds: Tiffany exec stole jewelry worth $1.3 million

NEW YORK (AP) — A former executive with Tiffany & Co. stole a little blue box bounty from the jeweler's midtown Manhattan headquarters and resold it for more than $1.3 million, federal authorities said Tuesday.

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun was arrested Tuesday at her home in Darien, Conn. She was to appear later in the day in federal court in Manhattan to face charges of wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.

As vice president of product development, Lederhaas-Okun had authority to "check out" jewelry from Tiffany to provide to potential manufacturers to determine production costs. Authorities allege that after she left Tiffany in February, the company discovered she had checked out 164 items that were never returned.

According to a criminal complaint, the missing jewelry included numerous diamond bracelets in 18-carat gold, diamond drop and hoop earrings in platinum or 18-carat gold, diamond rings in platinum, rings with precious stones in 18-carat gold, and platinum and diamond pendants.

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Ex-Tyco CEO Kozlowski loses bid for new NY hearing

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A court in New York rejected a request Tuesday for a new parole hearing by former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who became the face of corporate greed after his 2005 conviction in a $100 million fraud scheme.

Kozlowski was denied parole in April 2012 and challenged the decision. A panel of mid-level Appellate Division judges, in a spare, two-paragraph ruling, said the state parole board acted properly.

Kozlowski, now 66, and former Tyco International Ltd. chief financial officer Mark Swartz, 52, were convicted of fraud and larceny and sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Both are being held at the minimum security Lincoln Correctional Facility in Harlem and have parole hearings scheduled in September.

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GM, Honda to collaborate on fuel cell vehicles

NEW YORK (AP) — General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. are joining forces to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The two companies said Tuesday they plan to develop new hydrogen storage and fuel cell technologies by 2020. They will also push for more hydrogen fueling stations.

Fuel cell vehicles have electric motors that are powered by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproducts are water vapor and heat, so there's no pollution. But the lack of infrastructure to transport and store liquid hydrogen has been a barrier to the cars' development.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.55 points, or 0.3 percent, to 14,932.41 The Nasdaq composite slipped 1.09 points, a fraction of a percentage point, at 3,433.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed down 0.88 point, or 0.1 percent, at 1,614.08.

Benchmark crude for August delivery gained $1.61, or 1.6 percent, to close at $99.60 a barrel in New York after rising as high as $99.87. In London, Brent crude rose $1 to finish at $104 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Natural gas gained 8 cents to end at $3.65 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil added 3 cents to finish at $2.90 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents to end at $2.78 per gallon.

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