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Alibaba prices IPO at $68 per share

NEW YORK (AP) — Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse named after a fabled, poor woodsman who discovers a thieves' den full of treasures, is ready to strike it rich on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company priced its initial public offering of stock at $68 per share on Thursday, the top end of the expected price range, according to IPO investment adviser Renaissance Capital. The stock is expected to start trading Friday under the ticker "BABA" on the NYSE. The IPO values Alibaba at $167.62 billion. That's bigger than the current market value of Amazon, Cisco, and eBay.

The company has enjoyed a surge in U.S. popularity over the past two weeks as investors met with executives, including its colorful founder Jack Ma. The main reason investors appear breathless about the 15-year old Alibaba: It offers an investment vehicle that taps into China's burgeoning middle class.

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Home Depot says malware affected 56M payment cards

The Home Depot estimates that a cyberattack earlier this year affected 56 million unique payment cards.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer said Thursday it has eliminated the malware behind the attacks that took place between April and September.

It said it has also completed a "major" payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of customers' payment data in the company's U.S. stores.

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Ellison gives up Oracle CEO role, becomes chairman

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is ending his 37-year reign as CEO of the business software maker that he co-founded and is handing over the job to his two top lieutenants, Safra Catz and Mark Hurd.

As part of the changing-of-the-guard announced Thursday, Ellison will become Oracle Corp.'s chairman and chief technology officer. Jeff Henley, the company's chairman for the past decade, becomes vice chairman.

Ellison, 70, is likely to continue to play an influential role at Oracle, given his leadership position on the board and his stature as the company's largest individual shareholder.

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Brighter economy driving up holiday hiring plans

NEW YORK (AP) — UPS will hire up to 95,000. Kohl's plans to take on 67,000 and FedEx 50,000. Wal-Mart will add 60,000.

One after the other, a flurry of major U.S. retail and transportation companies announced sharp increases this week in the number of temporary workers they plan to hire for the holiday season. Collectively, such hiring could reach its highest point this year for stores since 1999, when the economy was roaring and the Great Recession was still eight years away.

Credit the combination of a strengthening economy and optimism about consumer spending. Stores have determined that they'll need more temporary help for the holiday season, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry's annual sales.

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Stock gains lift US household wealth to a record

WASHINGTON (AP) — Strong stock market gains and higher home prices boosted Americans' net worth in the April-June quarter to a record high, a trend that could encourage more spending.

U.S. households also took on the most new debt in five years, driven mostly by student and auto loans. More borrowing can be a sign of confidence, although greater student debt can pose a burden for younger households.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household wealth rose 1.7 percent in the second quarter to $81.5 trillion. Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios gained $1 trillion. The value of their homes increased $230 billion.

Greater wealth can make people feel more financially secure and encourage them to spend more. This "wealth effect" could boost the economy, although analysts note that it may not produce as much benefit as it did before the Great Recession.

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Review: Devices, apps act like one under iOS 8

NEW YORK (AP) — The scores of new features in Apple's software update for mobile devices can be boiled down to one word: unity.

Many iPhone owners also have iPads and Mac computers, and family members are likely to have Apple devices, too. With the new iOS 8 software for iPhones and iPads, those devices start to act like one. Apps on those devices start to unite, too.

Google's Android software can't compete with iOS' evolving unity because so many different companies manufacture Android devices, and each adds its own variables. Apple knows what goes into the few products it makes and can break down the walls between them.

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Applications for US jobless benefits fall sharply

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by a sharp 36,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, a sign that the job market is strengthening.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 299,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The total number of people collecting benefits during the first week of September was 2.43 million, the fewest since May 2007.

Applications for unemployment benefits remain at pre-recession levels. The number of people seeking benefits has been trending downward for the past four months.

Over the past year, the four-week average for applications has fallen 7.1 percent. In 2009, during the Great Recession, they topped 650,000.

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Yellen says US families need to boost savings

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Great Recession showed that a large number of American families are "extraordinarily vulnerable" to financial setbacks because they have few assets to fall back on, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday

Yellen said a Fed survey found that an unexpected expense of just $400 would force the majority of American families to borrow money, sell something or simply not pay.

She said the bottom fifth of households by income — about 25 million households — had median net worth in 2013 of just $6,400, and many of these families had nothing saved or negative net worth, meaning their debts were greater than their assets.

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PepsiCo boss decries NFL problems, backs Goodell

NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo Inc.'s CEO Indra Nooyi has made a double-edged statement on the NFL's problems handling domestic violence, calling some players' behavior "repugnant" but saying that Commissioner Roger Goodell is "a man of integrity."

The boss of the maker of Pepsi, Gatorade and Doritos, one of the league's biggest advertisers and sponsor of last year's Super Bowl halftime show, issued a statement late Wednesday that criticized the league but also expressed optimism that it can fix its problems.

The league and its teams have come under fire over the past two weeks over how it is dealing with several players with domestic violence allegations against them. An investigation has been launched into whether Commissioner Roger Goodell knew about or saw a video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee earlier than he said.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average surged 109.14 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,265.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 9.79 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,011.36. Both closed at all-time highs. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 31.24 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,593.43.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.35 to close at $93.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.27 to close at $97.70 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.8 cent to close at $2.561 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3.3 cents to close at $2.712 a gallon. Natural gas fell 10.3 cents to close at $3.910 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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