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The Associated Press | July 25, 2013 06:04 PM EST | AP


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SAC's history: Dazzling success, dubious actions

Even in the high-flying hedge fund world, where vast pools of capital surge in and out of markets with billions at stake, SAC Capital has stood out for its audacity, ambition and mammoth returns.

And it's impossible to discuss SAC Capital without invoking Steven A. Cohen, the firm's founder and guiding hand. The firm, which was hit with criminal insider trading charges Thursday, bears his initials in its name and his imprint on its business.

Cohen left an old-line Wall Street brokerage, Gruntal & Co., to establish SAC Capital in 1992 with an investment that included millions of his own money. And over the past two decades, he built SAC Capital into one of the largest and most envied hedge funds. With its hothouse competitive environment for portfolio managers – and outsize bonuses for trading success and swift punishment for losses – the firm achieved extraordinary success.

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New Impala tops sedans in Consumer Reports tests

DETROIT (AP) – The Chevrolet Impala, long the standard-bearer for mediocre cars from Detroit, has made an amazing turnaround.

Consumer Reports magazine has ranked the completely reworked 2014 version of the full-size car as its top U.S. sedan. It's the first time in at least 20 years that a domestic brand has beaten out cars from Germany and Japan.

The new version, which began arriving in showrooms in April, scored 95 out of 100 points in the magazine's testing to get an "Excellent" rating. Only two cars earned higher scores: the electric Tesla Model S, which starts at $62,400, and the BMW 135i coupe with a base price of $39,300.

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GM 2Q profit beats estimates; North America grows

DETROIT (AP) – Just as General Motors is getting a handle on its troubles in Europe, the automaker faces a new challenge in another part of the globe.

GM says Japanese automakers are using the weak yen to cut prices in Southeast Asia and Australia, taking a bite out of GM's profits there. Sales tailed off in India as well.

A subpar second-quarter performance in the company's international operations division pulled GM's overall profit down 16 percent from last year, offsetting gains in North America and a stark improvement in Europe.

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Amazon.com posts 2Q loss, higher revenue

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Amazon.com is reporting a loss in the second quarter as higher revenue was not enough to make up for rising operating expenses. The world's largest online retailer has been spending heavily on order fulfillment and digital content rights, which continue to weigh on profit margins.

Amazon.com Inc., which also makes Kindle tablets and e-reader devices, said Thursday that its loss was $7 million, or 2 cents per share, in the April-June quarter. That's down from earnings of $7 million, or 1 cent per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 22 percent to $15.7 billion.

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New health insurance markets: Not like Travelocity

WASHINGTON (AP) – You may have heard that shopping for health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will be like using Travelocity or Amazon.

But many people will end up with something more mundane than online shopping, like a call to the help desk.

Struggling with a deadline crunch, some states are delaying online tools that could make it easier for consumers to find the right plan when the markets go live on Oct. 1.

Ahead of open enrollment for millions of uninsured Americans, the feds and the states are investing in massive call centers.

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US unemployment aid applications rise 7,000 to 343,000

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 343,000.

The increase in the week ending July 20 follows a drop of 22,000 the previous week. But the broader trend is consistent with an improving job market.

The four-week average, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, fell 1,250 to 345,250, according to the Labor Department.

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Orders for US durable goods rise 4.2 pct. in June

WASHINGTON (AP) – Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose in June, bolstered by a surge in aircraft demand and more business spending. The increase suggests companies have more confidence in the economy and could boost growth in the second half of the year.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods increased 4.2 percent last month. That followed a 5.2 percent gain in May, which was revised higher.

Most of the gain occurred because aircraft orders, which are volatile month-to-month, jumped 31.4 percent. Boeing said it received orders for 287 planes in June, up from 232 in May. Excluding autos and airplanes, orders were unchanged.

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US average rate on 30-year loan falls to 4.31 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week, a welcome sign for homebuyers hoping to lock in lower rates that spiked earlier this month.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan fell to 4.31 percent. That's down from 4.37 percent last week but nearly a full percentage point higher than in early May. The rate reached a two-year high of 4.51 percent two weeks ago.

The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.39 percent, down from 3.41 percent last week.

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United Continental boosts 2Q earnings 38 percent

Higher fares and a lower fuel bill led to a 38 percent profit jump for the parent of United Airlines in the second quarter.

Fewer passengers flew on United from April to June, but those who did paid slightly more. Not just for plane tickets, either. United boosted revenue from add-on charges such as baggage fees and seats with more legroom.

Last spring United was struggling to merge some of its large computer systems with Continental's, resulting in snafus that frustrated passengers and hurt fares.

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Starbucks beats on higher sales, lifts forecast

NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks says its profit climbed 25 percent in the latest quarter as caffeine-craving customers boosted sales and coffee costs eased.

The results topped Wall Street's expectations, and the company raised its full-year guidance. Starbucks' shares were up more than 6 percent in aftermarket trading.

The Seattle-based chain, which has more than 19,000 locations around the world, said global sales rose 8 percent at stores open at least 13 months, with all regions registering growth. In its flagship U.S. market, sales rose 9 percent.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,555.61. The Nasdaq composite index gained 25.59 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,605.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 4.31 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,690.25.

Benchmark crude for September delivery rose 10 cents to close at $105.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, traded on the ICE exchange in London, rose 46 cents to finish at $107.65 a barrel.

Heating oil lost 1 cent to end at $3.04 a gallon. Natural gas retreated by 5 cents to finish at $3.64 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline futures fell 4 cents to $3.02 a gallon and are down 10 cents this week.