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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Obama proposes hiking the minimum wage, Comcast buys full ownership of NBC, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Obama wants to raise minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour.
Obama wants to raise minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. OBAMA PROPOSES RAISING MINIMUM WAGE TO $9 AN HOUR
President Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to call for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour. "Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong," Obama said. "Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty." The White House and worker advocates say that raising the minimum wage will also boost the economy by giving low-income families more money to spend, but conservatives and some business groups say it would be a job killer, forcing small businesses to reduce hiring to offset the cost of higher wages. [New York Times]
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2. COMCAST BUYS GE'S REMAINING STAKE IN GE
Cable giant Comcast has agreed to pay General Electric $16.7 billion for the remaining 49 percent of NBC Universal that it doesn't already own, giving the cable TV giant full ownership of the NBC broadcast network, cable channels MSNBC and Bravo, and the Universal film and theme park businesses. The move came more than a year earlier than Comcast had originally planned. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says that since Comcast took control of the company in 2011 he has become more "comfortable" with his bet on combining programming production and cable distribution. [Bloomberg]
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3. STORES FEEL PINCH AS TAX HIKES HIT CUSTOMERS
Retail sales rose by a paltry 0.1 percent in January, as consumers reined in spending due to tax increases and higher gasoline prices, according to figures released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday. The modest gain met economists' expectations but confirmed fears that the expiration of a two percent payroll tax cut on Jan. 1, along with tax hikes for wealthy Americans, would crimp core sales, which exclude big expenses such as cars, gas, and building materials. "It adds to expectations that growth is likely to be lackluster in the opening quarter of the year, due mainly to the expiration of that payroll tax cut," said Joe Manimbo, a senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions. [Reuters]
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4. APPLE UPGRADES MACBOOKS AND SLASHES PRICES
Apple on Wednesday simultaneously reduced the prices of its Retina display Macbook Pro notebooks and gave them faster microprocessors. For example, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.5GHz dual core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD now costs $1,499, down from $1,699. The prices of some configurations of the machines stayed the same, but with a performance boost. Apple also cut the price of its less expensive 13-inch MacBook Air. The change came after some reviewers complained that 13-inch Macbook Pros were too expensive and lacked the power the 15-inch version had to drive their high-resolution screens. The less expensive 13-inch Macbook Air also got a price cut. [Macobserver, Mashable]
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5. EURO SINKS ON PORTUGAL'S RECORD UNEMPLOYMENT
The euro declined on Wednesday after Portugal reported that its jobless rate had risen to 16.9 percent in the final quarter of 2012, from 15.8 percent in the third quarter. That's the highest unemployment rate in the shared currency's history, and a sign that Portugal has a rough road ahead as it heads into a third year of recession. The news came on the eve of the release of fresh data on economic growth in the euro zone. "We're starting to see economic jitters rise to the surface," says Joe Manimbo, a market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

 

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