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Home Depot addresses data breach

NEW YORK – Home Depot outgoing CEO Frank Blake told investors Thursday that the nation’s largest home-improvement chain continues to investigate a potential breach at the company and reassured that customers will not be liable for any potential fraudulent charges.

In his first public comments about the issue, Blake said Home Depot found out about the possible data theft Tuesday.

He told investors Thursday that companies in this situation have a choice: wait or “communicate the facts as you know them.”

“We chose the latter path,” he said.

Blake told investors that the company will activate chip-enabled checkout terminals at all of its stores by the end of the year.

That technology helps makes transactions more secure.

“Cybersecurity is a major issue,” he added.

Home Depot said Wednesday that it has hired security firms Symantec and FishNet Security to help investigate the possible hacking.

US trade deficit falls with rise in exports

The U.S. trade deficit fell in July to its lowest level since January as ex­ports of autos, telecom equipment, industrial machines and semiconductors rose.

The trade deficit fell 0.6 percent in July to a seasonally ad­just­ed $40.5 billion, from $40.8 billion in June, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Exports climbed 0.9 percent to a record $198 billion. Imports also rose, climbing 0.7 percent to $238.6 billion, as shipments of food, beverages and autos from abroad increased.

Imports of oil products increased, but rising domestic pro­duc­tion reduced the trade def­i­cit in petroleum to its lowest in more than five years.

The trade deficit with China rose to a monthly record of $30.9 billion.

Unemployment at lowest since 2007

Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but the total number receiving aid re­mained at its lowest level in more than seven years.

Applications for unemployment aid rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to a still-low 302,750.

A steady decline in applications over the summer means that 2.46 million people collected benefits last week, the fewest since June 2007, a few months before the recession began.

Applications for benefits tend to reflect the pace of layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests that they are more confident about economic growth and possibly ready to increase hiring.

Fiat moves forward on Chrysler merger

Fiat SpA says its merger with Chrysler is going ahead since there isn’t enough op­po­sition to derail it.

Fiat said in a statement Thurs­day that shareholders had cashed out $609 million, under the $657 million threshold that would have scuttled the deal.

Fiat shareholders had overwhelmingly approved the deal, but Italian law gives dissenters the right to cash out.

The merger has been in the works since Fiat took a 20 percent share of Chrysler in 2009. Fiat said Thursday it expects the merger to be completed in mid-October.