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Americans kick off 2-day holiday shopping marathon

The holiday shopping season started as a marathon, not a sprint.

More than a dozen major U.S. retailers stayed open for 24 hours or more on Thanksgiving Day through Black Friday, and crowds formed early and often over the two days. This year may cement the transformation of the start of the holiday shopping season into a two-day affair.

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Mexican drug cartels now make money exporting ore

MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexican drug cartels looking to diversify their businesses long ago moved into oil theft, pirated goods, extortion and kidnapping, consuming an ever larger swath of the country's economy. This month, federal officials confirmed the cartels have even entered the country's lucrative mining industry, exporting iron ore to Chinese mills.

Such large-scale illegal mining operations were long thought to be wild rumor, but federal officials confirmed they had known about the cartels' involvement in mining since 2010, and that the Nov. 4 military takeover of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico's second-largest port, was aimed at cutting off the cartels' export trade.

That news served as a wake-up call to Mexicans that drug traffickers have penetrated the country's economy at unheard-of levels, becoming true Mafia-style organizations.

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Eurozone inflation rise eases pressure on ECB

LONDON (AP) Welcome news on inflation and unemployment on Friday will ease pressure on the European Central Bank to act again next week to shore up the 17-country eurozone economy. But they do little to ease longer-term worries over the recovery.

Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said unemployment was down for the first time since early 2011 and that inflation edged higher in November, dampening fears that the eurozone is about to face a debilitating period of falling prices, also known as deflation.

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S&P 500 gains for 8th straight week

NEW YORK (AP) The U.S. stock market fizzled Friday at the end of a holiday-shortened trading day, but still logged its longest streak of weekly gains in a decade.

Investors watched for early trends in holiday sales as the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, got underway. Retailers were one of two industry groups in the S&P 500 to rise.

Stocks overall have surged this year as the economy maintains a slow but steady recovery and corporations keep earnings growing. Demand for stocks also has been bolstered by Federal Reserve policies that have held down interest rates, making bonds less attractive investments than stocks.

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Japan sees gains in prices, industrial output

TOKYO (AP) Japan's economy is gaining momentum, data for October showed, with consumer prices excluding food and energy rising 0.3 percent from a year earlier, the biggest gain since 1998. However, household spending remained tepid, as incomes slipped from the same month a year before.

The slew of indicators released Friday suggests that the ultra-loose monetary policy and stimulus strategy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is helping end a long bout of deflation for the world's No. 3 economy.

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Indian growth edges up, still weak at 4.8 percent

MUMBAI, India (AP) India says its economic growth has risen to 4.8 percent in the quarter ending in September. It is an improvement over the previous quarter's dismal figure but still far below what it needs to pull millions out of poverty.

Asia's third-largest economy had averaged a healthy 8 percent expansion for the last decade but recently has been faltering. The previous quarter's growth of 4.4 percent was the lowest in 10 years.

India's government estimates it needs 8 percent growth to provide jobs for the 13 million people entering the workforce each year out of a population of 1.2 billion. Friday's figures for the July-September quarter were dragged down by a weak manufacturing expansion of just 1.0 percent.

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SKorea to start talks on joining US-led trade pact

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korea said Friday it will start negotiations to join a U.S.-led trade pact covering a dozen Pacific and Asian nations.

The finance ministry said in a statement that officials will explore the possibility of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership through the preliminary negotiations. The move is a first step and doesn't commit South Korea to becoming part of the agreement but the trade ministry has been talking up its benefits for the economy.

Export-reliant South Korea has free trade deals with the U.S. and European Union. It is negotiating a free trade deal with China, which is not part of the U.S.-led pact.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not in effect yet but the U.S. and other countries hope for an agreement by the end of this year. Apart from reducing trade barriers, the pact also requires its members to meet environmental, labor and intellectual property protection standards.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average slipped 10 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,086.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ended down one point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,805.81. The Nasdaq composite rose 15 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 4,059.89.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery rose 42 cents to close at $92.72 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.66 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1 cent at $3.03 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.9 cents to $3.95 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down $1.17 at $109.69 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.