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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 3:26 am

WALL STREET

Stocks close at all-time highs as hiring surges

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is on a roll.

Stocks closed at their latest all-time highs yesterday following news that business hiring surged in June, adding to evidence that the U.S. economy is picking up momentum.

ADP, a payroll processer, says businesses added 281,000 jobs last month, up from 179,000 in the previous month. The figure suggests the government's monthly jobs report, due out Thursday, could also show a significant gain from May.

The stock market climbed back to record levels on Tuesday after separate reports showed that manufacturing expanded in China and the U.S., the world's two largest economies.

The S&P 500 index rose 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,974 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,976.. Both the S&P 500 and the Dow are at all-time highs. The Nasdaq composite fell one point, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,457.

WORLD MARKETS

Asian markets cautious ahead of US jobs report

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Asian stock markets were lackluster today as traders turned cautious ahead of a U.S. jobs report and the monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank.

The wait-and-see trading followed a rally the previous day after China and the U.S., the world's two biggest economies, reported growth in manufacturing.

The European Central Bank is also scheduled to meet today but is not expected to announce any major moves after further easing monetary policy last month. Investors will be looking to ECB President Mario Draghi's speech for clues about how the bank may act in future.

Benchmark crude oil fell to just above $104 a barrel.

The dollar gained against the yen and the euro.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic events scheduled for today

WASHINGTON (AP) — There are a number of market-moving economic reports scheduled for release today.

The Labor Department will report the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. It will also issue the June jobs report, which is expected to show that hiring was robust for a fifth-straight month. It would be a further sign the economic recovery, now entering its sixth year, is finally gaining meaningful traction.

The Commerce Department will report on the U.S. trade deficit in May. In April, the trade gap jumped to a two-year high as exports declined and imports surged to a record, reflecting heavy shipments of foreign-made cars, food, computers and other goods.

The Institute for Supply Management will issue its service sector index for June. In May, U.S. service firms grew more quickly as production, hiring and orders increased, adding to signs that the economy is accelerating after shrinking at the start of the year.

Also today, Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan eased to 4.14 percent from 4.17 percent last week.

ECONOMY

US hiring likely strong for a 5th straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economists predict that federal employment data due out today will indicate that the economic recovery is finally building up a head of steam as it enters its sixth year.

A FactSet survey shows economists forecasting that employers added 215,000 jobs last month. If more than 200,000 workers were added last month, it would mark the fifth consecutive month of job gains at least that high.

Analysts predict that the unemployment rate will remain 6.3 percent for a third straight month. If the rate stays flat despite solid hiring, it will likely be because more people out of work began seeking jobs last month. The government counts people as unemployed only if they're actively seeking jobs.

Private payrolls provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 281,000 jobs in June. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses.

OBAMA-BANKS

Obama: Bank system still in need of reforms

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says that nearly four years after Congress toughened bank regulations the financial sector is still in need of more rules. He says bank customers need to be better protected against failed risk-taking.

Obama says the changes he pushed for and signed into law in 2010 protect taxpayers from having to bail out failed banks. But he says bank traders can still make huge bonuses on high risk trades. If the bets go bad, he says, quote "everybody else is left holding the bag."

Obama made his remarks in an interview with NPR's "Marketplace" program airing Thursday.

Obama does not specify what changes he would recommend. Recently he has met with groups of economists, including Stanford's Anat Admati, who has called for banning large banks from making payouts to shareholders until they can better deal with any losses.

CHINA-EXCHANGE RATE CONTROLS

China eases exchange rate controls for banks

BEIJING (AP) — China has announced a new step toward easing its tight currency controls, allowing banks to set their own exchange rates in dealings with customers.

Thursday's announcement is the latest in a series of moves intended to make China's government-controlled financial system more market-oriented.

The U.S. and other countries have criticized Beijing's tight controls on its yuan. They say the currency is kept undervalued, giving Chinese exporters an unfair price advantage and hurting foreign competitors.

Beijing has issued a flurry of modest financial reforms in recent months. In March, it widened the band in which the yuan is allowed to fluctuate against the dollar, though to only 2 percent. It also has announced plans to allow the creation of privately financed banks.

SKOREA-CHINA-SUMMIT

Chinese leader snubs North Korea with Seoul visit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in South Korea for a two-day summit that snubs North Korea and looks to bolster an already booming trade relationship with the South.

North Korea made its anger clear ahead of Xi's Thursday arrival with a flurry of recent rocket and missile tests, the latest on Wednesday. Pyongyang is threatening more missile tests.

Chinese presidents have previously chosen Pyongyang over Seoul as their first destination on the Korean Peninsula. Beijing is Pyongyang's only major ally and crucial provider of fuel and food.

Xi's choice to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un underlines China's growing influence on the southern side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

JAPAN-NKOREA

Japan to lift some sanctions on North Korea

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says it will lift some of the sanctions it has imposed on North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision Thursday but provided no immediate details.

The lifting of the sanctions is in return for North Korea's promise to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Even a partial thaw could provide Pyongyang with a small but potentially meaningful boost to its recent efforts at promoting international tourism and, perhaps farther down the road, increased trade.

AMAZON-FTC

Amazon vows to fight FTC on kids in-app purchases

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Amazon says it is prepared to go to court against the Federal Trade Commission to defend itself against charges that it has not done enough to prevent children from making unauthorized in-app purchases.

The FTC alleged in a draft lawsuit released by Amazon that unauthorized charges by children on Amazon tablets have amounted to millions of dollars.

Amazon.com Inc. said in a letter Tuesday to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez that it had already refunded money to parents who complained.

Apple agreed to a $32.5 million fine in January over a similar matter.

The FTC wouldn't comment on whether it is investigating, but said it is focused on ensuring that companies comply with the principle that consumers shouldn't have to pay for unauthorized purchases.

BOOKS-BURT REYNOLDS

Burt Reynolds memoir scheduled for 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Burt Reynolds, the actor who once showed all, is now ready to tell all.

G.P. Putnam's Sons announced Wednesday that Reynolds' memoir, "But Enough About Me," is set for release in fall 2015.

The 78-year-old Reynolds promises in a statement to "set the record straight" on everything from his love affairs with Sally Field and Loni Anderson to his Cosmopolitan centerfold from 1972. His films include "Deliverance," ''Boogie Nights" and "Smokey and the Bandit."

Reynolds' book also is expected to cover his friendships with Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson, among others.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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