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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
American and US Airways join forces, Europe's recession worsens, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
The headquarters of Germany's federal bank Deutsche Bundesbank in Frankfurt on Feb. 4.
The headquarters of Germany's federal bank Deutsche Bundesbank in Frankfurt on Feb. 4. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

1. AMERICAN AND US AIRWAYS APPROVE MERGER
The boards of American Airlines and US Airways late Wednesday approved a plan to merge and create the world's biggest airline. The new mega-carrier will operate under the American Airlines name, but be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American CEO Tom Horton will stick around as chairman of the new company, at least temporarily. The $11 billion deal, which has been in the works since August, is expected to cap a period marked by bankruptcies and consolidation, leaving the U.S. skies dominated by four big carriers — American, United, Delta, and Southwest — that will control almost three-quarters of the nation's airline traffic. [Associated Press]
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2. BUFFETT'S BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY BUYS HEINZ
Berkshire Hathaway, the giant conglomerate run by billionaire Warren Buffett, announced Thursday that it would buy H.J. Heinz for $23 billion. Berkshire Hathaway is teaming up with a Brazilian-backed investment firm, 3G Capital Management, to buy the company, which produces the iconic Heinz ketchup as well as Ore-Ida and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, among other popular foods. "This is my kind of deal and my kind of partner," Buffett told CNBC. "Heinz is our kind of company with fantastic brands." Buffett says the ketchup business will be "3G's baby" — the firm also owns a majority stake in Burger King. [New York Times]
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3. EUROZONE SLUMP DEEPENS
The eurozone's recession deepened in the final quarter of 2012, with the economy of the 17 nations using Europe's common currency shrinking by 0.6 percent, according to official figures released Thursday. That was a bit worse than expected. Earlier, Germany, France, and Italy — all key members — reported contractions that were bigger than expected. Germany's 0.6 percent fall was its worse since the height of the financial crisis. "These are horrible numbers," says Carsten Brzeski from ING, although "we still expect growth to return in the course of 2013." [BBC]
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4. JOBLESS CLAIMS FALL
New claims for unemployment insurance benefits decreased last week by 27,000 to 341,000, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. That's fewer than any of the 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected. Another report said that consumer sentiment climbed last week to its highest in a month, adding to indications that business is picking up enough to help employers hire, or at least avoid layoffs. "The labor market is improving, but only at a very steady pace," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York. "What we need is an acceleration in hiring to move the unemployment rate lower." [Bloomberg]
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5. COSTS FROM DISABLED CRUISE SHIP MOUNT FOR CARNIVAL
A four-day ordeal is expected to end Thursday for passengers on the Carnival Triumph, when the disabled cruise ship is expected to be towed into port in Mobile, Ala. The trouble is only beginning, however, for Carnival Cruise Lines. The Miami-based company's stock plummeted by 4 percent late Wednesday after executives announced they were canceling 12 voyages, and that the disruptions and repair costs would reduce the company's earnings by 8 to 10 cents a share in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year. Carnival is also offering Triumph's 3,143 passengers free trips, discounts, and $500 each in compensation, as well as booking them hotel rooms and chartering more than 20 planes to fly them back to Galveston, Texas, where they boarded a week ago. [CNBC, Miami Herald]

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