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Sales of new cars
jump 17 percent


DETROIT — New car sales jumped 17 percent to 1.5 million in August, their highest level in more than six years.

Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, Chrysler and General Motors all posted double-digit gains over August 2012.

The full-year sales pace rose above 16 million for the first time since November 2007, the month before the Great Recession officially started. Exuberant automakers said sales will likely remain at that pace for the rest of this year.

The cars on U.S. roads have reached a record 11.4 years old and need to be replaced.

Low interest rates – now at 2.5 percent for a four-year car loan, according to Bankrate.com – are attracting buyers.

Economic growth at modest pace

WASHINGTON — The economy grew at a moderate pace in most of the nation this summer as consumer spending rose and the housing recovery continued, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its periodic Beige Book report.

The overview of conditions in the central bank’s 12 regions indicated that economic growth was picking up at the start of the second half of the year. The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first half of the year.

An improving recovery could lead Fed policymakers to start reducing their stimulus efforts this month.

US trade deficit widens in July

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit widened in July from a four-year low in June. American consumers bought more foreign cars and other imported goods, while U.S. companies exported fewer long-lasting manufactured goods.

The rise in imports points to resilient consumer spending, which drives 70 percent of economic activity.

The Commerce Depart­ment said Wednes­day that the trade gap rose 13 percent to $39.1 billion. That’s up from June’s deficit of $34.5 billion, which was the smallest since late 2009.

Afghan bank tries to track down thief

KABUL, AFGHANISTANThe young woman worked for three years at the Afghan bank, officials say. Then one day she vanished. As did $1.1 million.

Afghan authorities have been scrambling to track down the suspected thief and several alleged accomplices, and an international arrest warrant has been issued.

Shokofa Salehi, 22, worked in the money transfer division at the headquarters of Azizi Bank, a major Afghan lender in Kabul, officials said. She disappeared about two months ago, according to Azizi chief executive Inayatullah Fazli. Investigators say she is suspected of transferring about $1.1 million out of the bank’s coffers to accounts of relatives. At least nine other people are believed involved in the case.

In other news

DELTA AIR LINES SAID on Wednesday that it will buy 40 more Airbus planes, once again grabbing jets that may have been under-appreciated by other airlines. Delta said it signed a firm order for 30 Airbus A321s, which tend to be used on domestic flights, and 10 A330s, a larger plane used for international flights. The deal would be worth about $5.6 billion at list price.

MCDONALD’S CORP. says a revamped version of its Dollar Menu that includes items priced at $5 could be launched nationally this year. The world’s biggest hamburger chain says it has been testing versions of its famous value menu that’s called “Dollar Menu & More” in five markets across the country.

PROCTER & GAMBLE will introduce a lower-priced version of Tide in 2014, a liquid detergent called “Tide Simply Clean and Fresh,” as it seeks to attract shoppers on a budget.

– From staff and wire reports

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