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Business

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Briefs

US portrait studio CPI shuts doors

A financially struggling operator of more than 2,000 U.S. portrait studios in locations such as Wal-Mart and Sears stores has abruptly shuttered those outlets.

The shutdown leaves some laid-off workers scrambling – without pay – to make good on customers’ orders.

St. Louis-based CPI Corp., called Thursday’s announcement “sad” in a two-paragraph statement on its website, insisted it was trying to fulfill as many orders as possible and urged customers with questions to contact their local store.

It was not immediately clear how many employees were affected. CPI’s website as of Friday was purged of everything but the statement.

Calls by The Associated Press to the company, in business for more than 60 years, were not answered Friday.

As the popularity of digital photography cut into its sales, CPI revealed last month in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it had received a fourth forbearance agreement from its lenders and that it had until Saturday to meet its loan obligations. CPI said in mid-March that it owed $98.5 million, including unpaid principal of $76.1 million.

CPI had warned in earlier SEC filings that failing to buy more time from lenders could force it to liquidate, and the company last year hired an investment bank to explore a possible selloff.

KFC to promote boneless chicken

In case Americans want to scarf down their fast-food even faster, KFC is stripping the bones out of its chicken.

The fast-food chain says it’s introducing deep-fried boneless chicken pieces April 14 as an alternative to its traditional breast, thigh and drumstick pieces.

The new offering reflects the growing popularity of nuggets and strips that are easier to eat on the go, as well as Americans’ seemingly endless desire for more convenient foods.

KFC says nearly four out of five servings of chicken sold in the U.S. are now boneless.

Although KFC has more than 18,000 locations worldwide, the boneless chicken will only be offered in its 4,500 U.S. locations.

Consumer borrowing surges $18.2 billion

Americans borrowed more in February to buy cars and attend school, but were more careful with their credit cards.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumer borrowing rose $18.2 billion in February from January. That’s up from a gain of $12.7 billion in the previous month.

The increase brought total borrowing to a seasonally adjusted $2.8 trillion.

That’s up from $2.78 trillion in January and a new record.

Nation’s trade deficit drops to $43 billion

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in February as exports climbed close to an all-time high and the volume of imported crude oil fell to the lowest level in 17 years.

The gap between exports and imports shrank to $43 billion in February, down 3.4 percent from January’s revised $44.5 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the smallest trade imbalance since December when the gap had declined to $38.1 billion, the lowest point in nearly three years.

Exports rose 0.8 percent to $186 billion, close to the record high set in December. Stronger exports of U.S. energy products and autos offset declines in sales of airplanes and farm equipment.

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