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    Accountants weren't the only ones cheering this year's record number of tax returns. This past Tuesday's dreaded tax deadline actually marked a pleasant occasion for most filers. Of the 100 million or so returns processed through April 4, nearly 80% resulted in a refund averaging $2,792. The total sum paid out was about $5 billion, or 2.5%, higher than a year earlier.

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    Wall Street banks have mounted a massive legal defense of their physical commodities activities, in a last-ditch effort to convince regulators that chartering oil tankers and owning power plants pose no risk to the financial system.

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    For details of foreign central banks' holdings of U.S. marketable securities held at the Federal Reserve, see: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/Current/h41.pdf.

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    For details of the Federal Reserve's money supply report, see: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/current/h41.pdf. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h6/current/h6.pdf. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h3/current/h3.pdf.

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    WASHINGTON-- President Barack Obama announced Thursday that enrollment in public exchanges for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has now topped the 8 million mark. "This thing is working," Obama said. The president said that he was open to consider legislation to improve the Obamacare law if Republicans were willing to go along.

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    The U.S. Federal Reserve's Board of Governors took the unusual step of considering an enforcement issue on Thursday, less than two months after Chair Janet Yellen pledged that top officials would have more direct involvement in such decisions.

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    SAN FRANCISCO-- Oil futures, supported by uncertainty surrounding Ukraine as well as some upbeat U.S. economic data that bode well for the outlook on energy demand. May crude rose 54 cents, or 0.5%, to settle at$ 104.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange-- the highest settlement since March 3. With trading closed for Good Friday, prices ended the holiday-shortened week with a gain of 0.5%. -Myra P. Saefong; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com.

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    By Myra P. Saefong and William L. Watts, MarketWatch. SAN FRANCISCO-- Oil futures on Thursday settled at their highest level in more than six weeks, buoyed by uncertainty in Ukraine as the latest U.S. economic data generally supported a brighter outlook for energy demand. Natural-gas prices, meanwhile, climbed by nearly 5% after a weekly rise in U.S. supplies came in smaller than the market expected.

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    Beef: It's what you can't afford for dinner-- for years to come. Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) said Thursday that it would raise prices "somewhere in the mid-single digits" beginning this quarter to offset higher food costs. Jack Hartung, the company's chief financial officer, said that "beef prices are expected to continue to move higher as supply remains tight" and already Chipolte's steak costs are high.

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    *Prices fall as data points to bullish economy* Treasury to sell $96 bln new supply next week* Bond market to close early Thursday, closed Friday* Treasury sells $18 bln, 5- year TIPS By Karen Brettell NEW YORK, April 17- U.S. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12, the Labor Department...

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    * Unrealized result was a $53 bln loss due to market drop. * Potential political lightning rod for U.S. central bank. By Jonathan Spicer. The Federal Reserve logged $84 billion in net profit last year on its massive portfolio of assets, and average income will probably remain higher than before the financial crisis for another decade to come, according to an annual report.

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    The official nonpartisan take on President Obama's 2015 budget proposal is in: He would curb deficits even more than today's policies. Of course, the budget wheels for next year are already in motion in Congress, making the president's budget, in effect, a dead letter.

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    The Federal Reserve logged $84 billion in net profit last year on its massive portfolio of assets, and average income will probably remain higher than before the financial crisis for another decade to come, according to an annual report.

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    Employers are maintaining a slow pace of layoffs and the economy may soon see a pick up in jobs growth, economists said Thursday after the government released a weekly report on jobless claims. In the week that ended April 12, initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits reached 304,000, the U.S. That tally is up 2,000 from 302,000 in the prior week, which was the lowest level since September 2007..

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    * Obama budget seen adding $1.4 trillion in revenue over 10 years. * Cumulative deficits to reach $6.6 trillion over next decade-CBO. * CBO analysis to feed campaign rhetoric for November elections. By David Lawder.

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    WASHINGTON-- A reading of manufacturing sentiment in the Philadelphia region improved in April, according to data released Thursday, contradicting a disappointing regional index from the New York Fed released earlier in the week. The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index rose to a reading of 16.6 in April from 9.0 in March, stronger than a MarketWatch-compiled economist forecast of 10.0. It is the strongest reading since last September.

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    WASHINGTON-- Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region showed signs of strengthening in April, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported Thursday. The Philly Fed diffusion index rose to 16.6 in April from 9.0 in March. This is the highest reading since last September.

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    President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget request would boost U.S. tax revenue by nearly $1.4 trillion over 10 years if fully enacted, cutting deficits by $1.05 trillion while funding new spending, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.

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    WASHINGTON-- The average rate for a 30- year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.27% in the week that ended April 17 from 4.34% in the prior week, according to a Thursday report from federally controlled mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac (FMCC). A year ago, the 30- year rate was at 3.41%. The average rate for the 15- year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.33% in the latest week from 3.38% in the prior week.

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    Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits rose less than expected in the April 12 week, increasing by 2,000 to 304,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The forecast for this week's report was for a claims level of 315,000, which would have been an increase of 15,000 from the previously reported 300,000 level.