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Apple's €14bn buyback

APPLE rose in early US trading after saying it bought back $14 billion in stock in the two weeks since reporting iPhone sales that fell short of analysts' estimates and sent its shares lower. Shares gained as much as 2.7pc to $526.24 yesterday, after closing at $512.51.

Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple was "surprised" by the 8pc stock drop last month. Apple's iPhone sales over the holiday season and revenue forecast for the current quarter were lower than analysts anticipated last month, adding to evidence that its flagship product is losing steam.

UK GROWTH REVISED

The UK economy will grow faster than previously forecast as rising house prices support consumer spending, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said.

Gross domestic product will expand 2.5pc this year, more than the 2pc the London-based group forecast in November. The unemployment rate will reach the 7pc threshold for the Bank of England to consider an interest-rate increase in early 2014, it said, revising an earlier assessment that there was a one-in-five chance of that happening in the first quarter.

US STILL SLOW TO HIRE

Employment in the US rose less than projected in January as retailers let employees go after the holidays and government hiring fell. The 113,000 gain in employment followed a 75,000 increase the prior month, Labour Department figures showed in Washington. The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to the lowest level since October 2008 – to 6.6pc – as more Americans entered the labour force.

"It's another disappointment, but it's not anything disastrous," said Julia Coronado, New York-based chief economist for BNP Paribas. "We're still in muddle-along territory rather than take-off mode. There isn't the kind of momentum in hiring."

€5M JOB FOR NI FIRM

CONSTRUCTION firm Dixons Contractors has won a £4m (€4.8m) contract for business in Scotland. The Northern Ireland-based company will take on seven new workers after securing public sector clients in Perth and Kinross and Speyside. The bid was supported by Invest NI's Jobs Fund and will see employment grow to 71 over the next two years.

Assistance included help with marketing and trade development, enabling it to compete successfully for business outside Northern Ireland.

Irish Independent