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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Oil dips below $109

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices took a breather Monday, falling slightly as investors booked some profits after a seven-day surge. Retail gasoline prices continued to climb, adding five cents over the weekend for a national average of $3.70 per gallon.

Benchmark crude fell by $1.21 to end the day at $108.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil that's imported by U.S. refineries, lost $1.30 to finish at $124.17 per barrel in London.

Analysts say a standoff between the West and Iran over its nuclear program continues to keep oil prices around nine-month highs. But some traders sold contracts to lock in profits following a 9 percent rise since Valentine's Day.

"Some people are getting out now just because oil is at those high levels," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said.

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Moderate jobs growth seen

WASHINGTON -- The recent acceleration in hiring may have brightened consumers' spirits and the recovery's outlook, but professional forecasters still see just moderate growth ahead for jobs and the economy.

In their latest outlook, forecasters at the National Association for Business Economics said they expect job growth to average 170,000 a month this year. That's up from the 127,000 that the group's panel projected for 2012 in November.

Even so, if the forecast released Monday pans out, many people are likely to be disappointed.

The economy added 203,000 net new jobs in December and 243,000 last month. That knocked down the unemployment rate to a three-year low of 8.3 percent and raised hopes that the hiring momentum may be building. The February jobs report comes out March 9.

-- Chicago Tribune

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Gas leaks spark recall

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it is recalling more than 79,000 vehicles in the U.S. to fix possible gasoline leaks.

The automaker is recalling certain Nissan Juke small crossover SUVs, Infiniti QX large SUVs and Infiniti M sedans from the 2011 and 2012 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that fuel pressure sensors on the vehicles may not be tight enough and gasoline could leak and cause a fire. Nissan says no fires have been reported.

Dealers will tighten the sensors or replace gaskets free of charge to take care of the problem.

The vehicles were made between Oct. 5, 2009, and Dec. 27, 2011.

The recall is scheduled to start March 19. Owners with questions may call Nissan at (615) 725-1000.

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Lowe's profits top forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lowe's Cos. said Monday its fiscal fourth-quarter net income rose 13 percent, better than analysts expected, as homeowners took on more home-improvement projects during mild winter months.

The results are the latest sign that the housing sector may slowly be improving. Last week, Lowe's larger rival Home Depot Inc. reported its fourth-quarter profit rose for similar reasons.

"We have seen an uptick in activity," Lowe's CEO Robert Niblock said. "We did have favorable weather, but even beyond that there's a greater willingness of the consumer to spend."

Home repair and maintenance are still the biggest projects people take on, he said, with demand for larger-scale renovations such as kitchen remodeling still lagging, Niblock said.

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L.A. Times sets online fees

The Los Angeles Times will begin charging readers for access to its online news, joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue.

Starting next Monday, online readers will be asked to buy a digital subscription at an initial rate of 99 cents for four weeks. Readers who do not subscribe will be able to read 15 stories in a 30-day period for free. There will be no digital access charge for subscribers of the printed newspaper.

Los Angeles Times