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Murdoch's son quits as head of troubled newspaper unit

LONDON (AP) -- James Murdoch, his credibility diminished and his future at the helm of his father's media empire in doubt, stepped down Wednesday as executive chairman of News International, the troubled British newspaper subsidiary embroiled in a deepening phone hacking scandal.

The move, which the company said would allow Rupert Murdoch's younger son to focus on News Corp.'s international TV holdings -- plucks the one-time heir apparent out of the cross hairs of the crisis that has spurred judicial and police inquiries and claimed the careers of several top executives.

James Murdoch, 39, will remain deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. Experts said it leaves the embattled executive in a key position at the company and places him back into the role of TV executive, where he has done well in the past.

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Gold plunges $77 an ounce

Gold plunged $77 per ounce Wednesday, the biggest one-day drop since September, as traders dialed back their expectations that the dollar would be weakened by another round of economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

Gold for April delivery settled at $1,711.30 an ounce, its lowest close since Jan. 25. May silver also fell sharply, giving up $2.563 an ounce, or 6.9 percent, to settle at $34.642 an ounce.

Both metals fell after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no hint in testimony before Congress that the central bank was planning more bond purchases.

-- Associated Press

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Fed sees economic growth

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy started the year well with busier factories, higher retail sales, more jobs and growth in home sales.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that all 12 of its banking districts reported some level of growth in January and the first half of February.

The Fed's report "was surprisingly more upbeat than we've seen lately," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets. "The employment picture is certainly brighter."

Overall economic activity increased at a "modest to moderate" pace, the Fed noted. That roughly matches the Fed's assessment of the economy in the final weeks of 2011. And it is slightly better than the "slow to moderate" growth cited for October and mid-November.

The pickup in growth reported by each Fed region corresponds with stronger hiring and declining unemployment over the past three months.

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Facebook unveils new ads

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook is unveiling new advertising offerings designed to help the world's biggest brands spread their message on the world's largest online social network.

Facebook executives are outlining a vision to move from advertisements to stories. This means that messages and posts from brands will be integrated into users' news feeds rather than simply relegated to the right side of their page, but only if the user has "liked" the particular brand's page.

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N. Tonawanda gets Mighty Mighty Taco is growing again.

The iconic local fast-food chain is planning a new restaurant at 537 Division St. in North Tonawanda. It will occupy a free-standing location in the Budwey's Plaza, which was formerly home to an Anderson's restaurant.

The store will have sit-down and drive-through accommodations and is expected to open in the fall. It is the chain's third opening this year and its 21st restaurant overall.

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GM takes Peugeot stake

PARIS (AP) -- General Motors and France's PSA Peugeot Citroen, both struggling in Europe, on Wednesday unveiled the details of a strategic alliance that will see the U.S. auto giant take a small stake in Europe's No. 2 carmaker.

The companies said in a joint statement that their plans to share vehicle platforms and pool the purchasing of components and services will save them $2 billion a year within five years, split roughly equally.

GM intends to take a 7 percent stake in the French automaker via a $1 billion capital increase.