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Briefs

US trade deficit at lowest in 4 years

The U.S. trade deficit fell in November to its lowest level in four years, an encouraging sign that economic growth in the final three months of the year was stronger than analysts had forecast.

Gains in energy production and stronger sales of American-made airplanes, autos and machinery lifted exports to an all-time high.

The trade gap dropped 12.9 percent in November to $34.3 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Exports rose 0.9 percent to a record $194.9 billion.

Home prices up 0.1% as overall gains stall

U.S. home prices barely rose in November from the previous month and year-over-year gains slowed, reflecting declines in sales in the fall.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices increased just 0.1 percent in November from October. That’s down slightly from October and far below August’s 0.9 percent gain.

The figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal patterns. Home prices have risen a healthy 11.8 percent from a year ago, CoreLogic said.

Feds target false ads for weight loss aid

Makers of a weight loss additive called Sensa will return more than $26 million to consumers to settle federal charges that the company used deceptive advertising claiming that consumers could lose weight by simply sprinkling the powder on their food.

Sensa Products LLC promoted the powder through major retailers like Costco and GNC and with infomercials on the Home Shopping Network and other television networks. The company sold a one-month supply of Sensa for $59 and urged consumers to “sprinkle, eat and lose weight.” But Federal Trade Commission officials said Tuesday the company used bogus clinical studies and paid endorsements to rack up more than $364 million in sales between 2008 and 2012.

Apple: App store raked in $10 billion

Apple says people spent more than $10 billion in its app store last year on apps such as “Minecraft,” “Angry Birds Star Wars” and “Sleep Cycle” alarm clock.

December was the most successful month in the store’s history, as customers spent $1 billion that month. Apple says the year’s total was also a record.

Apple launched the app store in 2008, a year after the iPhone, with 500 apps.

Cheesy shortage: Velveeta scarce

Playoff parties may have one fewer dip option this year.

Kraft Foods says some customers may not be able to find Velveeta cheese over the next few weeks. A representative for the company, Jody Moore, didn’t give any reasons for the apparent shortage, saying only that they happen from time to time given the “nature of manufacturing.”

She noted that the lack of availability is more noticeable because of the seasonal demand during the NFL playoffs.

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