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Why optimism about the US economy's strength has dimmed

WASHINGTON (AP) Doubts are growing that the United States can withstand economic pressures flowing from overseas. Economies in China, Canada, Brazil and Europe are struggling. Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner, is in recession.

Americans have been holding back on spending even though lower gas prices have put more cash in their pockets. Employers have slowed hiring and held down pay. Home values are up but sales have flattened. And the U.S. economy has been hobbled by a stronger dollar, which makes U.S. goods costlier overseas and is depressing corporate profits.

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Skeptics suggest China's slump deeper than acknowledged

BEIJING (AP) China's official data show economic growth slowing, but skeptics say the downturn is much deeper than Beijing admits.

The latest data Tuesday showed growth in the world's No. 2 economy eased to a six-year low of 6.9 percent in the third quarter. Some economists, however, say this year's true rate might be as low as 4 percent.

The doubters say while China faces the same challenges as other developing countries in keeping track of fast-changing industries, its data discrepancies are more extreme. Some see a conscious effort to avoid the political cost of admitting the slump is more severe.

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Russell Simmons' card glitch keeps thousands from their cash

NEW YORK (AP) Thousands of customers of prepaid debit cards backed by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons remain without access to their money more than a week after technical problems first began plaguing the cards.

Customers of the RushCard, a prepaid debit card aimed mostly at people without bank accounts, say they have missed car payments and worse. Some say they have been unable to purchase food or important items for their families.

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Lexus is top brand in Consumer Reports' reliability survey

DETROIT (AP) Elaborate new transmissions are helping automakers meet rising fuel economy standards, but they're also requiring more trips to the repair shop.

Transmission problems tripped up Honda, Nissan, Jeep and other brands in Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey. Drivers reported rough shifting, clutch failure and even transmissions that had to be replaced twice in the first year of car ownership.

Lexus and Toyota which rely on older transmissions in many of their models were the best-performing brands in the survey. Lexus or Toyota has topped the survey since 2011. Audi, Mazda and Subaru rounded out the top five. The worst performers were Infiniti, Cadillac, Ram, Jeep and Fiat among 28 brands.

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Wireless carrier Verizon is also in the market for eyeballs

NEW YORK (AP) Verizon has long been known as a home phone and wireless service provider. But it's evolving to make more money by tracking what we watch and read on our phones.

About two-thirds of U.S adults now carry smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center, suggesting to some analysts that the market is peaking. But we're spending more time on our pocket screens and ad sales are growing there.

So Verizon is preparing its next act by beefing up its advertising and media business. It spent $4.4 billion earlier this year to snap up AOL, which runs a digital-ad business as well as big Internet sites such as TechCrunch and the Huffington Post. It has also started tracking its mobile users' Internet surfing and other online behavior via controversial identifying code called "supercookies."

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Yum Brands plans to spin off China business

The owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell plans to spin off its China business into a separate, publicly traded company.

Yum Brands Inc. has had trouble with its China business. It has been trying to win back customers after negative publicity stemming from food supply controversies. The company has said that part of the difficulties in China are due to a mix of external factors, such as the Chinese economy, as well as internal issues, such as the execution of marketing for Pizza Hut.

Earlier this month, Yum cut its profit outlook for the year, citing a slower-than-expected comeback for its China division.

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Eyeing major settlement, US states move quickly in VW case

WASHINGTON (AP) With billions of dollars at stake in restitution and penalties, U.S. states are moving quickly to try to hold Volkswagen accountable for its emissions-cheating scandal.

Forty-five states and D.C. have joined an investigation to determine how VW was able to game emissions tests to hide that its "Clean Diesel" were much dirtier than the law allows. California and Texas are conducting their own investigations for now.

The attorneys general are expected to seek compensation for consumers and redress for environmental harm, building their investigations under state laws that protect consumers from deceptive trade practices and set clean air standards.

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Amazon boosts holiday hiring, signaling shift in retail jobs

NEW YORK (AP) Amazon plans to hire 100,000 people for the holidays, a 25 percent jump from last year that reveals a shift in the way we shop.

The online retailer said Tuesday that it will be hiring across the country for jobs in its fulfillment and sorting facilities. The Seattle company recently hired more than 25,000 people for regular, full-time positions. It hired 80,000 workers last year for the holidays.

Amazon stands out among retailers, with holiday hiring expected to remain largely unchanged, according to a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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Sony settles hacking lawsuit, to pay up to $8 million

LOS ANGELES (AP) Sony Pictures Entertainment has reached a settlement with current and former employees, agreeing to pay up to $8 million to reimburse them for identity-theft losses, preventative measures and legal fees related to the hack of its computers last year.

The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles late Monday and still needs to be approved by a judge.

The agreement calls for up to $10,000 a person, capped at $2.5 million, to reimburse workers for identity theft losses, up to $1,000 each to cover the cost of credit-fraud protection services, capped at $2 million, and up to $3.5 million in legal fees.

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Beer money: $20M settlement in lawsuit over Beck's packaging

MIAMI (AP) U.S. drinkers of Beck's beer who thought the American-made brew they were buying was still a fancy, century-old German import can get cash payments under a $20 million settlement approved Tuesday in a class-action lawsuit over deceptive packaging.

People with proof they bought Beck's at retail outlets could get up to $50 per household. Those without receipts can qualify for $12 maximum. Claims may be filed through Nov. 20 via a court-approved website: www.becksbeersettlement.com.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 13.43 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,217.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.89 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,030.77. The Nasdaq composite shed 24.50 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,880.97.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 34 cents to $45.55 a barrel in New York Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 10 cents to $48.71 a barrel in London.

In other trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2.7 cents to close at $1.278 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while heating oil was little changed at $1.449 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.4 cents to close at $2.476 per 1,000 cubic feet.