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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

>March jobless rate falls in two-thirds of states

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of the nation's states last month, the latest evidence that the strengthening economy is encouraging many employers to boost hiring.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the unemployment rate dropped in 34 states in March. That's the largest number of states to record a decline since June. The rate rose in seven states and was unchanged in nine and Washington, D.C.

Employers hired more workers in 38 states. A government survey of employer payrolls found only 12 states plus Washington, D.C., lost jobs last month, the fewest since October.

In New York, the unemployment rate was 8 percent, down from 8.7 percent in February.

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell in March to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, and private employers added more than 200,000 jobs for the second consecutive month. That's the largest two-month hiring total in four years.

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>Goldman Sachs income falls

Goldman Sachs took a hit to its first-quarter earnings after paying dividends to billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company, which invested $5 billion in the bank at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

The investment bank's first-quarter income fell 72 percent to $908 million after it paid $1.64 billion in dividends to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said its revenue fell 7 percent to $11.9 billion on weakness in some of its core businesses including stock and bond trading and advising clients.

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>Intel's earnings up 29%

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Intel's earnings rose 29 percent as strong spending by businesses on new computers helped the company overcome a serious product design error and fallout from the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan. An extra week in the quarter also helped.

Net income was $3.16 billion, or 56 cents per share, higher than the 46 cents per share that analysts polled by FactSet expected. A year ago, Intel earned $2.44 billion, or 43 cents per share.

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>IBM net income stronger

NEW YORK (AP) -- IBM has reported stronger-than-expected net income and revenue for the first quarter, helped by the weak dollar and strong performance in the Americas and emerging markets.

IBM also raised its full-year forecast for operating earnings.

Net income rose 10 percent to $2.86 billion, or $2.31 per share. In the year-ago period, IBM earned $2.6 billion, or $1.97 per share.

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>Jury convicts in fraud trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A jury Tuesday convicted the majority owner of what had been one of the nation's largest mortgage companies on all 14 counts in a $3 billion fraud trial that officials have said is one of the most significant prosecutions to arise from the nation's financial crisis.

Prosecutors said Lee Farkas led a fraud scheme of staggering proportions as chairman of Florida-based Taylor Bean & Whitaker. The fraud not only caused the company's 2009 collapse and the loss of jobs for its 2,000 workers, but also contributed to the collapse of Alabama-based Colonial Bank, the sixth-largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The jury returned its verdict late Tuesday after more than a day of deliberations.

Colonial and two other major banks -- Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas -- were cheated out of nearly $3 billion, prosecutors estimated.

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