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Last Update on March 06, 2015 08:26 GMT

ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A survey of economists ahead of the official Labor Department employment report due out today is predicting another good month, following the best three-month burst of hiring in 17 years.

Economists in the FactSet survey have forecast a job gain of 240,000 and a drop in unemployment to a near-normal 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent. That would be evidence of a job market that continues to outshine others around the world.

A bright outlook among employers has translated into a robust average of 267,000 jobs added monthly over the past 12 months. That means there are 3.2 million more Americans earning paychecks now than at the start of 2014. That additional income, along with sharply lower gas prices, has left more Americans able to spend.

The steady hiring may also finally be forcing wages up.

ECONOMY-DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department releases its February jobs report today.

Even though harsh winter weather may have discouraged some hiring, economists foresee a solid job gain of 240,000 and a drop in unemployment to a near-normal 5.6 percent.

Also this morning, the Commerce Department releases international trade data for January. And this afternoon the Federal Reserve will have January consumer credit data.

FED-BANK STRESS TESTS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- All of the nation's 31 largest banks are adequately fortified to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and keep lending, the Federal Reserve says.

Results of the Fed's annual "stress tests" show that as a group, the 31 banks are stronger than they have been at any time since the 2008 financial crisis struck, thanks to a steadily recovering economy. The results build on positive outcomes from last year's tests.

The Fed will announce next week whether it will approve the banks' plans to issue dividends or repurchase shares.

The banks tested included JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo and Co. -- the four biggest U.S. banks by assets.

The Fed has conducted stress tests of the largest U.S. banks since 2009.

GOOGLE-AUTO INSURANCE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google is helping California drivers shop for car insurance as part of a new service that could foreshadow the Internet company's latest attempt to shake up a long-established industry.

The feature unveiled Thursday compares auto insurance quotes from up to 14 carriers that are participating in the comparisons. The policies can then be bought online or through an agent. Google will receive a cut from the insurance sales. The Mountain View, California, company says the size of the commissions won't influence how it ranks the price quotes.

Google Inc. plans to provide car insurance quotes in other states, too.

A Forrester Research analyst suspects Google is trying to learn more about the auto insurance industry so it can possibly begin underwriting and selling policies on its own.

FDA-ANTIBIOTICS IN MILK

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new Food and Drug Administration study shows little evidence of antibiotic contamination in milk after surveying almost 2,000 dairy farms.

The agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk on the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics. Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples evidenced illegal drug residue.

Antibiotics and other drugs can end up in milk when they are used on dairy cows to keep them healthy. Small levels of drugs are allowed in milk, but residues that go beyond certain thresholds are illegal.

The FDA said the agency will use the findings to try and reduce the drug contamination even more.

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