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Don't let the bed bugs bite Abercrombie & Fitch Co. , the popular teen clothing retailer, has now been forced to temporarily close two New York stores because of bed bugs. The infestation prompted it to close a Hollister outlet yesterday in Soho, which is expected to reopen tomorrow. An Abercrombie & Fitch outlet in the South Street Seaport was closed today. "It appears to be a localized, downtown issue, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press, adding the company's flaghship Fifth Avenue store was not affected.

The Reuters news agency added that the retailer wrote Mayor Michael Bloomberg to warn of a growing problem with bed bugs in New York, and that " there is a real revenue loss involved in our decision but we felt closing was in the best interest of our customers and associates."

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The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the company was taking the proper action.

Fed offers free rent in Detroit The Federal Reserve is offiering free rent for a year on some of its office space in Detroit, a city hammered by the recession and suffering one of the highest office vacancy rates in the United States. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Detroit arm is trying to rent out about 15 per cent of the space in its Detroit building, The Associated Press reported, and has to compete with others in a city with a vacancy rate of 30 per cent. The Fed's operation there distributes currency, but has extra space now because it doesn't have a cheque-processing unit any longer, the news agency said.

U.S. economy sheds jobs The U.S. economy lost jobs last month for the first time this year, though the cuts were not as bad as some feared and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.5 per cent from 9.7 per cent in May. The numbers were affected by the loss of 225,000 government employees who had been hired on a temporary basis for the census. Some 83,000 private sector jobs were added. While the numbers show the U.S. is still in the midst of a job crisis, they did bouy market hopes because some observers had feared a worse showing.

"Given the weaker tone of the recent economic news, this report could have been much worse," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "It is encouraging that the economy is still generating jobs in the private sector, although it is clear that the economic recovery has shifted into a lower gear. There is now less of a chance that private sector demand will accelerate by enough to offset the fading of the fiscal stimulus. While an outright double-dip recession remains unlikely, growth will slow later this year and into 2011, perhaps more markedly than we have been forecasting all along." Read the story

Why there are deflation fears in U.S. Besides the jobs crisis, today's employment report will help fuel fears of deflation in the United States, BMO Nesbitt Burns senior economist Jennifer Lee says. The report showed that average hourly earnings dipped for the second time in the past six months, falling 0.1 per cent in June to stand just 1.7 per cent higher than a year earlier. This came on the heels of yesterday's report on manufacturing from the Institute for Supply Management. While overall its purchasing managers index showed slower growth in manufacturing - though still growth - one component showed a drop in prices paid by manufactures to suppliers. The prices paid component slipped 20.5 points to 57 from 77.5, marking by far the steepest drop of all the indices.

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China's economy grows faster than believed China is closing in fast on Japan for the title of the world's second-biggest economy. The Chinese government today said the economy grew faster than believed last year, raising its reading of growth to 9.1 per cent from an earlier measure of 8.7 per cent. Output in 2009 was pegged today at the equivalent of $4.98-trillion. Japan's is just shy of $5.1-trillion. There are fears, though, that China's rapid pace of growth is slowing, a concern for investors. Read the story

GM marks China milestone General Motors Co. has marked a milestone in China: Sales in China in the first half of the year eclipsed those in the United States for the first time ever. GM sold 1.21 million branded vehicles in China over the first six months, according to The Associated Press today, topping the 1.07 million sold in the U.S. China has become the world's economic engine, and is now the biggest auto market on the globe.

HST now in effect The harmonized sales tax is now in effect in Ontario and British Columbia as businesses reopen after the Canada Day holiday, affecting everything from taxi fares to funerals to hair cuts. There are differences in the two provinces as they blend their provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax. Ontario's harmonized rate is now 13 per cent, and B.C.'s 12 per cent. Some consumers made an extra push on Wednesday to stock up on what they could before the new HST came in yesterday. Dean Ford, for example, a film technician who lives in Toronto, filled up his tank to beat the added costs. "We have a brand new baby," he told the Canadian Press. "We can't afford anything anyway." For a in-depth look at the new HST, read:

Russia won't hike vodka taxes Russia may have budget issues, but it's not going to fix its deficit on the backs of vodka drinkers. A spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the Reuters news agency today that the government has killed the idea, noting the fact that such a move would have led to more counterfeit vodka. Analyst Ulyana Lenvalskaya of Renaissance Capital, also noted the fact that there's a presidential election in 2012. "This may prove to be politically unpopular among mass-market vodka drinkers, who are the biggest sector of the electorate," she said.

Russia, whose budget deficit is expected to be 5.4 per cent of gross domestic product this year, has already backed away from several fiscal measures.

Apple to fix signal strength reading Apple Inc. said today it will soon offer a software fix to correct its iPhone signal strength reading in some cases. The technology giant, which says the launch of its iPhone 4 has been the best in its history, said it will offer the fix within a few weeks.

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"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," Apple said in a statement. "Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays two more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display four bars when we should be displaying as few as two bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying four or five bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."

The company said it is adopted AT&T's recommended formula for calculating bars on signal strength. The real strength remains the same, it said, but its bars will report it more accurately."

Miners eye Australia investments after tax change BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group could take its investment plans in Australia off the back burner after a move by the country's new prime minister, Julia Gillard, to cut back on a planned tax on mining profits. Ms. Gillard is putting in a profits-based tax of 30 per cent, compared to a "super profits tax" of 40 per cent, and will apply the new levy to just 320 of the largest miner, well down from the 2,500 that would originally have been hit. Read the story



Cleaning the massive oil spill U.S. officials are looking at proposals from 18 people - including one Canadian - for ways to help clean up the mess on Florida's beachs after the massive oil spilll in the Gulf of Mexico. The 18 were brought to Florida by state environmental officials yesterday. The proposals included a bid by Ottawa's John Green, dealer for an Edmonton-based company, to use Sphagsorb, an enhanced peat moss, which says has worked on oil spills in Canada and can collect about 40 pounds of oil and tar for each 10 pounds used, according to The Associated Press. Read the story

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