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Despite boom, higher costs push Big Oil into slump

NEW YORK (AP) New troves of oil have been found all over the globe, and oil companies are taking in around $100 for every barrel they produce. But these seemingly prosperous conditions aren't doing much for Big Oil: Profit and production at the world's largest oil companies are slumping badly.

Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP all posted disappointing earnings this week. Chevron is expected to post a profit decline Friday. All of them face the same problem: The cost to get newfound oil from remote locations and tightly packed rock is high and rising. And it takes years and billions of dollars to get big new production projects up and running.

The higher extraction costs could translate to higher oil and gasoline prices for consumers.

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S&P 500 closes above 1,700 points for first time

NEW YORK (AP) The stock market roared back to record highs on Thursday, driven by better news on the economy.

The Standard & Poor's 500, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Russell 2000 index set all-time highs. The S&P broke through 1,700 points for the first time. The Nasdaq hit its highest level since September 2000.

The gains were driven by a steady flow of encouraging, if incremental, reports on the global economy.

Overnight, a positive read on China's manufacturing helped shore up Asian markets. Then, an hour before U.S. trading started, the government reported that unemployment claims fell last week. At mid-morning a trade group said U.S. factories revved up production last month. And while corporate earnings news brought both winners and losers, investors were able to find enough that they liked in companies including CBS, MetLife and Yelp.

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Ex-trader 'Fabulous Fab' found liable in SEC case

NEW YORK (AP) A former Goldman Sachs trader who earned the nickname "Fabulous Fab" was found liable Thursday in a fraud case brought by federal regulators in response to the 2007 mortgage crisis that helped push the country into recession.

A jury reached the verdict at the civil trial in Manhattan federal court of Fabrice Tourre a French-born Stanford graduate described by Securities and Exchange Commission lawyers as the face of "Wall Street greed." Tourre's attorneys portrayed him as a scapegoat in a downturn caused by larger economic forces.

Tourre, 34, was found liable in six of seven SEC fraud claims. He faces potential fines and a possible ban from the financial industry. The exact punishment will be determined at a future proceeding.

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US auto sales up in July as cars see big gains

DETROIT (AP) Pickup trucks led the charge in July, but strong sales of small cars show that demand for new vehicles is broad and not slowing down.

Car sales grew in the first six months of this year, but not at the blistering pace of trucks and SUVs. Through June, full-size pickups were up 22.5 percent over the year before, while cars were up 5 percent.

But in July, sales of smaller cars took off. General Motors said its car sales jumped 24 percent, including a 42 percent increase in subcompact and small car sales. Honda Civic sales were up 30 percent to 32,416, their best July in 13 years.

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Employers aren't cutting, or adding, many staffers

WASHINGTON (AP) Companies have all but stopped laying off workers. They just aren't hiring many.

When the government issues the July employment report Friday, it will likely show another solid month of job growth. But the job gain can be misleading because it's a net figure: The number of people hired minus the number who lose or quit jobs.

When employers are cutting few workers, as they are now, it doesn't take many hires to create a high net gain.

Last week, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 19,000 to 326,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was the fewest since January 2008. Those applications reflect layoffs. And layoffs have averaged 1.65 million a month this year through May, even fewer than the 1.77 million average in the pre-recession year of 2006.

So few people are losing their jobs that it's easy to forget that the job market isn't yet healthy. The unemployment rate remains a still-high 7.6 percent far more than the 5 percent to 6 percent associated with a normal economy

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China promises market-oriented reforms amid slump

BEIJING (AP) China promised Thursday to give entrepreneurs a bigger role in its state-dominated economy to boost productivity as two manufacturing surveys suggested its slump might be deepening.

The comments by Cabinet planning officials reflected mounting pressure on Beijing to mollify public anxiety about the slowdown that has dragged growth to a two-decade low. Communist leaders say they are determined to stick with painful changes meant to lead to more sustainable growth and are resisting pressure for a stimulus to reverse the slowdown.

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US factories rebound with best growth in 2 years

WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. factories revved up production, hired more workers and received a surge of new orders in July, helping them expand at the fastest pace in two years. The gains suggest manufacturing may be rebounding and could provide a spark to economic growth.

The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its index of factory activity jumped to 55.4 in July, up from 50.9 in June. A reading above 50 indicates growth. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.

A gauge of production soared 11.6 points to 65, the highest reading since May 2004. And a measure of hiring at factories rose to its best level in a year the latest of several encouraging signs ahead of Friday's July employment report.

Stronger growth at U.S. factories could aid a sluggish economy that has registered tepid growth over the past three quarters. And it could provide crucial support to a job market that has begun to accelerate but has added mostly lower-paying service jobs.

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Netflix rolls out new tool to profile viewers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Netflix's latest attraction will enable families and other people sharing the same account to set up separate identities so the Internet video service can give them better recommendations on what to watch next.

The tool introduced Thursday can splinter a single Netflix account into up to five different profiles at no additional cost from the service's $8 monthly fee. The Los Gatos, Calif., company is hoping its 37.6 million worldwide subscribers will use the profiles feature and help Netflix's recommendation system distinguish between viewers who have drastically different tastes.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 128.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 15,628.02. The S&P 500 index rose 21.14 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,706.87. The Nasdaq composite index rose 49.37 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,675.74.

Benchmark oil for September delivery gained 2.7 percent to close at $107.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil was up 4 cents to end at $3.10 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6 cents to finish at $3.39 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to end at $3.03 a gallon. Brent crude, traded on the ICE Futures exchange in London, rose $1.84 to finish at $109.54 per barrel.