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How to spend $5 trillion: A record-breaking year in deals

NEW YORK (AP) Companies around the world spent a record $5.04 trillion on acquisitions in 2015, according to Dealogic, as slow worldwide economic growth and low interest rates pushed companies to combine forces.

Dealogic, a financial data provider, says the value of global deals soared 37 percent in 2015. The highest price tag came in November, when Pfizer and Allergan announced the biggest pharmaceutical deal in history.

Low interest rates since the Great Recession have made it cheaper for companies to borrow money to pay for acquisitions, and because the global economy only grew slowly this year, companies decided it made more sense to buy their competitors instead of trying to boost their sales on their own.

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Why you should consider freezing your credit reports

NEW YORK (AP) Freeze your credit reports before you get burned.

That's the message from security experts, consumer advocates and some state Attorneys General. They say more people should consider a credit freeze as a way to block identity thieves from opening new credit cards and other accounts in your name. They recommend a freeze even if your identity hasn't been stolen.

There are some downsides to a credit freeze to consider it blocks you from opening new lines of credit, so if you plan to take out a mortgage or apply for a new credit card you'll need to remember to unfreeze it each time, which may involve a fee.

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Emerging from shadows, pot industry tries to build brands

DENVER (AP) Snoop Dogg has his own line of marijuana. So does Willie Nelson. Melissa Etheridge has a marijuana-infused wine.

As the fast-growing marijuana industry emerges, there's a scramble to brand and trademark pot products. The problem is, patent and trademarks are largely regulated by the federal government, which considers marijuana an illegal drug and therefore ineligible for any sort of legal protection.

The result is a Wild West environment of marijuana entrepreneurs trying to stake claims and establish cross-state markets using a patchwork of state laws.

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US pending home sales slip in November

WASHINGTON (AP) Fewer people signed contracts to purchase homes in November, as the real estate market appears to have cooled after sales gains for much of 2015.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index fell 0.9 percent to 106.9 last month. It was the lowest reading in 10 months. Still, the index has risen 2.7 percent from a year ago.

Steady hiring and low mortgage rates lifted home sales for much of this year. But the pace of buying slowed after the end of the summer, with inventories tight and home values rising faster than incomes.

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Russia's ruble hits lowest level in a year

MOSCOW (AP) The Russian ruble has hit its lowest level in a year against the dollar as the country's economy is battered by a decline in the price of its oil exports.

The ruble dropped 1.3 percent in early morning trading on Wednesday to 73.2 rubles per dollar, its weakest level in about 12 months. The national currency lost 40 percent of its value last year and is now 20 percent down compared to a year ago.

The Russian economy has been suffering from the effects of Western economic sanctions and oil prices, the backbone of the country's economy, which are currently hovering around 11-year lows.

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Pep Boys agrees to be bought by Icahn for $1 billion

NEW YORK (AP) Carl Icahn is acquiring Pep Boys for $1 billion, ending his weekslong bidding war with the Japanese tire company Bridgestone.

The deal announced Wednesday is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Icahn Enterprises offered $18.50 in cash for each share of Pep Boys, $1.50 more per share than the most-recent offer from Bridgestone. With the contest becoming too rich, Bridgestone bowed out Tuesday.

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Delivery and ride-hailing app company Sidecar stops services

NEW YORK (AP) Delivery and ride-hailing pioneer Sidecar, which struggled to compete with bigger rivals Uber and Lyft, says it will stop offering services.

In a message posted to Medium, co-founders Sunil Paul and Jahan Khanna said Sidecar's rides and deliveries will end at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. The three-year-old San Francisco company's investors included Google Ventures and Richard Branson.

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KaloBios, formerly led by Shkreli, files for bankruptcy

NEW YORK (AP) KaloBios, the troubled drugmaker taken over by Martin Shkreli last month, is seeking bankruptcy protection less than two weeks after his arrest for securities fraud.

It is the second pharmaceutical company with ties to the former hedge fund manager now in turmoil following his indictment on charges unrelated to his involvement with them, though the drugmakers are not lacking for problems of their own

The other, Turing Pharmaceuticals Inc., is cutting jobs and seeking a new CEO after Shkreli resigned the position because of his arrest.

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Weight Watchers stock soars as Oprah ad begins to air

NEW YORK (AP) Weight Watchers is getting another boost from Oprah Winfrey.

The weight loss company's shares soared Wednesday as a TV commercial starring Winfrey began to air.

The commercial shows past videos of Winfrey working out and referencing her struggle with weight, a frequent topic of her former talk show. The ad ends with Winfrey asking viewers if they're ready to join her. "Let's do this together," she says.

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Fraud sentencing resumes for former NBA player Tate George

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) Former NBA player Tate George is back in court in New Jersey to face sentencing on fraud charges.

The former University of Connecticut and New Jersey Nets guard has been jailed since his 2013 conviction on four counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum 20-year sentence, but George is expected to face considerably less time.

Prosecutors contend he persuaded people, including NBA players, to invest in his company but used their money to pay off earlier investors.

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World's largest McDonald's to close; bigger one planned

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The world's largest McDonald's is preparing to close, but it should be replaced with an even bigger McDonald's next door in a couple of months.

The Orlando-based McDonald's building, which looks like a giant box of french fries, first opened in 1976. Besides the restaurant itself, the McDonald's offered other activities, like bowling, slides and video games.

Officials with Oerther Foods Inc., the company that owns and operates the restaurant, say construction of the new 19,000-square-foot complex will open in February.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 117.11 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,603.87. The S&P 500 index lost 15 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,063.36. The Nasdaq composite shed 42.09 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,065.85.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.27 to close at $36.60 a barrel in New York. It's down 39 percent this year. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, slid $1.33, or 3.5 percent, to close at $36.46 a barrel in London. In other energy trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $1.23 a gallon, while heating oil declined 5 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $1.079 a gallon. Natural gas slumped 15.6 cents to $2.214 per 1,000 cubic feet.