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As US job market strengthens, many don't feel it

WASHINGTON (AP) For millions of workers, happy days aren't quite here again.

Though the U.S. unemployment rate has plunged since the start of last year to a five-year low of 6.1 percent, the Gallup Organization has found that consumers' view of the economy is the glummest it's been in seven months.

The July jobs report being released Friday will likely show a sixth straight month of healthy 200,000-plus gains. Yet for millions of people like Douglas Hunter, not much has changed.

Hunter earned $14 an hour cleaning oil drums before the Great Recession seized the economy and his job was axed. At 53, Hunter now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at two McDonald's restaurants in Chicago.

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Fast food ambitions in China hurt by safety scares

BEIJING (AP) Already China's biggest restaurant operator with 4,600 outlets, KFC is pursuing Chinese consumers so avidly it opens two more every day.

That dramatic growth comes with a big catch: KFC's quality control is struggling to keep up.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based chain is reeling after a Chinese supplier was accused of selling expired beef and chicken to it, McDonald's and possibly other restaurant chains. Just 18 months earlier, KFC's sales plunged in China after a supplier violated rules on drug use in chickens.

Global fast food chains are rushing to expand in China but even experienced operators face costly pitfalls in a fast-changing food supply industry plagued by repeated safety scandals.

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Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup

NEW YORK (AP) Target is bringing in an outsider as its CEO for the first time as the retailer fights to redefine itself to American shoppers.

The Minneapolis-based company said Thursday that it named PepsiCo executive Brian Cornell to the top spot, replacing Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan, who had been keeping the seat warm since May.

The announcement comes roughly three months after Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned following a large data breach in the run-up to the holiday shopping season last year.

Steinhafel had been dealing with problems on a number of other fronts too, including persistent perceptions that Target charges higher prices than its rivals and concerns that it had lost its magic touch for cheap chic offerings.

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In San Francisco real estate, $1M won't buy much

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco Association of Realtors President Betty Taisch has two words of advice for those who want to live in the city and think $1 million will buy them their dream house: Think again.

In the world of San Francisco real estate, where the median selling price for houses and condominiums last month hit seven figures for the first time, the $1 million that would fetch a mansion on a few acres elsewhere will now barely cover the cost of an 800-square foot home that needs work and may not include private parking.

The technology's industry's rapid growth, coupled with San Francisco's constrained supply of housing, is a big part of the story behind the city's ascension to a rarified real estate bracket already occupied by New York.

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Home owned by Trump holdout auctioned for $530,000

She once called Donald Trump "a maggot, a cockroach and a crumb." This week, he remembered her as "an impossible person."

The woman who became a folk hero for resisting decades-long efforts by big-name developers like Trump to displace her Atlantic City boardinghouse is now 86 and, at last, has sold.

The 29-room property Vera Coking and her husband bought for $20,000 in 1961 and fought to hold onto went at auction Thursday afternoon for $530,000 plus 10 percent commission, said Joshua Olshin of AuctionAdvisors, which handled the sale. Bidding started at $199,000, priced to sell in Atlantic City's depressed real estate market.

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US jobless aid applications rise to 302,000

WASHINGTON (AP) More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remain at pre-recession levels.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The prior week's claims were revised down to 279,000, the lowest since May 2000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 297,250. That's the lowest average since April 2006, more than a year before the Great Recession began at the end of 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests potential income gains, active hiring and confidence that the economy is growing.

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Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.12 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) Average U.S. mortgage rates declined slightly this week, hovering near their lows for the year.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year loan slipped to 4.12 percent from 4.13 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, declined to 3.23 percent from 3.26 percent last week.

Mortgage rates are below the levels of a year ago. They have fallen in recent weeks after climbing last summer when the Federal Reserve began talking about reducing the monthly bond purchases it was making to keep long-term borrowing rates low.

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Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

WASHINGTON (AP) The fees that banks charge debit-card users who overdraw their accounts usually cost more than the items being bought.

That's the result of a study that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released Thursday.

Large banks have generally charged a $34 penalty when people overdraw their debit-card accounts, even though most of the purchases involved were for less than $24. And the penalties are charged even though most accounts return to a positive balance within three days, the study found. Banks profit by collecting more than half their checking account income from these fees.

The study builds on a 2013 report that found that heavy overdrafters, on average, face $900 in additional costs each year.

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SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Entertainment are ending their 25-year-old marketing partnership, officials with both companies said Thursday, as the airline has been urged by animal rights activists to terminate the relationship.

The partnership won't be renewed at the end of the year when the current contract expires. As part of the partnership, three Southwest airplanes had various SeaWorld animals painted on their bodies. Those planes will be painted over to Southwest's traditional look. SeaWorld also had Southwest signs in its parks, and Southwest offered vacation packages to SeaWorld, as it does to other tourist destinations. The vacation packages will continue.

SeaWorld officials said the decision was mutual.

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$100 million for firm without offices, 1 agent?

WASHINGTON (AP) Companies overseeing millions of mortgage loans appear to be skirting new federal regulations and legal settlements intended to stop them profiteering at the expense of troubled homeowners.

They are selling or have sold nearly nonexistent insurance agencies in some cases with no offices, no websites and only a single registered agent in multi-million dollar deals, as new rules prohibit them from collecting commissions on insurance they force homeowners to buy.

The deals illustrate how regulators are still wrestling with messy banking practices more than six years after the housing market's collapse. They also mean that newly sold insurance agencies have an incentive to compel struggling homeowners to buy costly policies, to justify the high sales prices commanded when the insurance agencies were sold.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average plunged 317.06 points, or 1.9 percent, to 16,563.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 39.40 points, or 2 percent, to 1,930.67. The Nasdaq composite fell 93.13 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,369.77.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.10 cents to close at $98.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level since March 17. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 49 cents Thursday to close at $106.02 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.9 cents to close at $2.797 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.5 cents to close at $3.841 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to close at $2.890 a gallon.