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Update on the latest in business:

Mar 21, 2013 3:26am

WALL STREET

Stocks rise as Federal Reserve stands by stimulus

UNDATED (AP) — Fear of a revived debt crisis in Europe is fading from the stock market.

After dipping Monday on concerns that Cyprus would become the latest European nation to stir fiscal chaos, the Dow posted its second straight day of gains.

Stocks traded steadily higher for most of the day Wednesday and spiked after the Federal Reserve said it will continue with aggressive measures to boost the economy. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that Cyprus crisis posed no major risk to the U.S. economy.

The Dow was up 44 points shortly before the Fed announcement. It rose as much as 91 points shortly after the Fed released its policy statement at 2 p.m., touching an all-time high of 14,546 at 2:25 p.m.

The Dow closed up nearly 56 points yesterday, to 14,511.73. In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10 points to 1,558.71. The Nasdaq composite index rose 25 points.

WORLD MARKETS

Asia stocks rise after US Fed stays the course

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher today on an improvement in China's manufacturing and the U.S. central bank's message that it will keep interest rates at record lows despite signs of improvement in the world's biggest economy.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said at the end of a two-day policy meeting that the Fed won't alter its aggressive monetary easing — $85 billion in monthly bond purchases to push down borrowing costs — until it is convinced the economy's gains can be sustained.

Another positive sign for markets came from a survey showing a better-than-expected manufacturing performance by China in March.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $93 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major economic announcement scheduled for today

WASHINGTON — There are some pretty significant economic announcements being made today. The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims this morning. And the Conference Board reports on February's leading economic indicators. On the housing front, the National Association of Realtors reports on existing home sales for February and mortgage giant Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

BUDGET BATTLE

Senate approves huge 2013 spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a huge spending bill to keep the government open through the end of September, preventing a government shutdown but leaving in place $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that will mean job furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

The bipartisan 73-26 vote sends the measure to the House, which is expected to approve it today and ship it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The measure would fund the day-to-day operating budgets of every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, provide another $87 billion to fund overseas military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and maintain a pay freeze for federal workers.

The measure gives the Pentagon much-sought relief from a cash crunch in accounts for training and readiness and gives veteran health programs their scheduled increases.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

Survey finds China manufacturing bounce in March

HONG KONG (AP) — A survey shows Chinese manufacturing rebounded modestly in March after dipping during a major public holiday the month before.

It's the latest sign of recovery in the world's second biggest economy.

HSBC said Thursday that a preliminary version of its purchasing managers' index for March rose to 51.7 on a 100-point scale. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The reading fell to 50.4 in February, when businesses closed for up to two weeks for the Lunar New Year holiday. The survey found that production and new orders grew at a faster pace.

China's economy bounced back in the final quarter of 2012 after a deep slowdown. But analysts warn a recovery will be weak and gradual, with growth vulnerable if trade or investment weakens.

SKOREA-COMPUTER CRASH

South Korea: Chinese address source of attack

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says an initial investigation shows a Chinese Internet address was the source of a cyberattack on one of the companies shut down by computer crashes.

South Korea's telecom regulator said Thursday that a Chinese address created the malicious code in the server of one of the banks, Nonghyup, that crashed Wednesday.

Experts say hackers often launch attacks via computers in other countries in an attempt to keep their identities from being exposed. Such addresses can easily be manipulated and disguised.

Regulators have distributed vaccine software to government offices, banks, hospitals and other institutions to prevent more outages.

The source of the attack is not yet clear. But suspicion has quickly fallen on North Korea. Pyongyang has threatened Seoul with attack in recent days.

JAPAN-TRADE

Japan's Feb trade deficit at $8.1B as exports lag

TOKYO (AP) — Japan recorded a trade deficit of 777.5 billion yen ($8.1 billion) in February despite the weaker yen as exports of cars and auto parts slipped while imports surged nearly 12 percent.

It was the eighth consecutive monthly deficit following a record monthly deficit of 1.63 trillion yen in January.

The Finance Ministry reported Thursday that exports in February totaled 5.28 trillion yen ($55.1 billion) while imports surged to 6.06 trillion yen ($63.2 billion) on rising purchases of LNG and oil.

Japan's exports to China plunged 15.8 percent to 842.3 billion yen ($8.8 billion) due partly to the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday. Imports from China jumped 22 percent to 1.12 trillion yen ($11.7 billion).

Exports to crisis-stricken Europe fell 9.6 percent, but those to the U.S. rose 5.7 percent.

US-EU-TRADE

US starts clock for beginning EU trade talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is formally notifying Congress of its intention to negotiate a free trade deal with the European Union. The notification on Wednesday starts the clock on a 90-day waiting period required by law before the U.S. could launch the talks.

Obama announced the talks between the world's largest trading partners in annual State of the Union speech last month. If completed, the deal would be the biggest bilateral trade pact ever negotiated. The momentum comes as the EU and the U.S. are both struggling with slow growth, high unemployment and high levels of debt.

ORACLE

Oracle misses 3Q revenue expectations, shares fall

NEW YORK (AP) — Oracle is reporting flat earnings for its fiscal third-quarter, hurt by a drop in sales of hardware systems and new software.

Revenue from new software licenses and online or "cloud" subscriptions, a closely watched figure, fell 2 percent year-over-year to $2.3 billion. Sales of hardware systems products dropped 23 percent.

Oracle earned $2.5 billion, or 52 cents per share, in the December-February quarter. That compares with $2.5 billion, or 49 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier, when it had more shares outstanding. Adjusted earnings totaled 65 cents per share in the latest quarter.

Revenue fell 1 percent to $8.96 billion from $9.04 billion, hurt in part by the stronger dollar.

Analysts polled by FactSet had expected earnings of 66 cents per share, excluding charges for past acquisitions and other costs, on revenue of $9.38 billion.

YOUTUBE-BILLION USERS

YouTube now serving videos to 1 billion people

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — YouTube says more than 1 billion people are now visiting its online video site each month to watch everything from zany clips of cute kittens to sobering scenes of social unrest around the world.

The milestone announced Wednesday marks another step in YouTube's evolution from a quirky startup launched in 2005 to one of the most influential forces in today's media landscape.

YouTube crossed the 1 billion threshold five months after Facebook Inc. said its online social network had reached that figure for the first time.

The vast audience has given YouTube's owner, Google Inc., another lucrative channel for selling online ads beyond its dominant Internet search engine.

Google bought YouTube for $1.76 billion in 2006 when the video site had an estimated 50 million users worldwide.

H-P-GLASSES-FREE-3-D

H-P develops glasses-free 3-D for mobile devices

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Researchers at Hewlett-Packard say they've developed a way to put glasses-free 3-D video on mobile devices with a wide enough viewing angle to allow viewers to see objects more fully just by tilting the screen.

Glasses-free 3-D in itself is not unique — companies like MasterImage 3D and Stream TV have demonstrated the technology on tablets and flat-screen TVs at consumer electronics shows.

But H-P's researchers have found a way to make images viewable from angles up to 45 degrees from center in any direction, up, down, side-to-side or diagonally. That means, for instance, that viewers can see a person's face with one ear blocked from view, but reveal it by swiveling the screen.

Their findings will be published in the scientific journal, Nature, today.

FAST-FOOD-CHICKEN

McDonald's to put chicken McWrap on menu next week

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's is adding a permanent new offering to its menu next week: chicken McWraps.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says the new sandwich wrap will come in three varieties -- Chicken & Bacon, Sweet Chili Chicken and Chicken & Ranch. The company already offers similar wraps in other parts of the world, including Europe.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain says the wraps range from 360 to 600 calories, depending on whether people pick grilled or deep-fried chicken. They will include cucumbers, the first time the vegetable is making an appearance on the chain's menu.

Dan Coudreaut, director of culinary innovation of McDonald's, says the wraps will be a new "platform" and that new varieties are already in the pipeline.

AVASTIN-RECALL

FDA warns of another compounding pharmacy recall

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors that a compounding pharmacy is recalling dozens of lots of the Roche drug Avastin after receiving reports of eye infections among patients.

The FDA says Clinical Specialties of Martinez, Ga., has received five reports of eye infections from physicians who used the drug to treat macular degeneration, a common vision disorder in seniors.

The compounding pharmacy is recalling 40 lots of Avastin distributed to doctors' offices in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Indiana since Dec. 18, the FDA said in an online posting.

Avastin is approved as a cancer drug, but it is structurally similar to Lucentis, another Roche drug approved for macular degeneration. For years, compounding pharmacies have repackaged Avastin into small vials for use by eye doctors who prescribe it off-label, or without FDA approval. Repackaged injections of Avastin cost about $50, compared with $1,950 for Lucentis.

JC PENNEY-SUIT

Bondholders rescind claim against Penney

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. says in a regulatory filing Wednesday that bondholders who claimed that the department store chain was in violation of a bond agreement have withdrawn their notice of default.

The struggling retailer had filed a lawsuit in Delaware court last month to block the claim after receiving a letter from law firm Brown Rudnick LLP, which represented more than half of the holders of the company's 7.4 percent bonds due in 2037. The law firm had contended that Penney violated an inventory-secured credit agreement in January 2012 without providing security for the bondholders.

The Plano, Texas, company says in its annual filing that the counsel representing the bondholders withdrew its notice of default on Monday.

GULF OIL SPILL-INDICTMENT

Ex-BP engineer accused of deleting voicemails

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company's response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico faces new allegations that he also deleted voicemails from his phone.

A superseding indictment handed up Wednesday by a federal grand jury in New Orleans accuses Kurt Mix of deleting about 40 voicemails from a supervisor and roughly 15 voicemails from a BP contractor.

Mix, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty in May to two counts of obstruction of justice after he was charged with deliberately deleting more than 200 text messages to and from the supervisor and more than 100 to and from the contractor.

Prosecutors claim he deleted the messages to prevent them from being used in a grand jury's probe of the spill.


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