Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 6:03 PM

Fed holds rates low as weak economy caps inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The economy is growing, but only weakly. Layoffs have slowed, yet jobs remain scarce. And interest rates will need to rise _ but not anytime soon.

That was the mixed picture sketched Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, which pledged to hold rates at a record low to reduce unemployment and sustain the recovery. And the assessment was reinforced by government data on inflation, home building and U.S. trade.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues did sound a more optimistic note by pointing to the slowdown in job losses. But they made clear the recovery is far from strong: Consumer spending remains sluggish, the job market weak, wage growth slight and credit tight. Companies are still wary of hiring, they said.

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Stocks stall as Fed prepares to remove aid

NEW YORK (AP) _ An early advance in stocks stalled Wednesday as the Federal Reserve reminded investors that it would start to wean the economy from an array of emergency supports next year.

Investors knew several of the programs would be dismantled in 2010, but the added detail about the Fed's plans as well as lingering concerns about inflation tugged at the market. Stocks finished little changed.

Most stocks rose for the day, though the Dow Jones industrials slipped 11 points to 10,441.12, after rising as much as 58 points. Broader indexes gained but ended off of their highs.

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Oil jumps above $72 as US crude supplies fall

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oil prices rose sharply Wednesday, wiping out a week's worth of declines after the government said supplies of oil and petroleum products dropped much more than expected.

Benchmark crude for January delivery surged by $1.97, nearly 3 percent, to settle at $72.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for January delivery added $1.50 to settle at $73.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

The Energy Information Administration said that crude supplies fell by 3.7 million barrels last week and distillate fuels including heating oil dropped by 2.9 million barrels.

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Intel hit with more antitrust charges in FTC suit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The Federal Trade Commission piled on new antitrust charges against Intel Corp. on Wednesday, seeking to end what it described as a decade of illegal sales tactics that have crippled rivals and kept prices for computer chips artificially high.

The FTC's lawsuit contains the most wide-ranging allegations yet against the world's largest chip maker, which is also fighting a record $1.45 billion antitrust fine in Europe and separate cases in South Korea and New York state.

It comes despite Intel having recently settled similar complaints brought by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., whose lobbying of regulators led to their charges.

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Microsoft, EU close chapter of antitrust battle

BRUSSELS (AP) _ After a decade of complaints leading to 1.7 billion euros in fines against Microsoft Corp., European regulators have ended their last pending antitrust case against the U.S. software maker as the company agreed to let European computer users choose from a menu of Web browsers that compete with its Internet Explorer.

Microsoft said it will start sending updates in March to Windows computers in Europe so that when PC users log on, they will see a pop-up screen asking them to pick one or more of 12 Web browsers to download and install. People who buy new PCs will see the screen when they start up for the first time.

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Credit Suisse Group to pay $536M in Iran case

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Credit Suisse Group has agreed to pay $536 million to settle a Justice Department probe and admit to violating U.S. economic sanctions by hiding the booming illegal business it was doing for Iranian banks.

The Justice Department announced the settlement Wednesday, saying it was the biggest forfeiture ever against a company for violations of that type.

The $536 million that Credit Suisse is forfeiting will go to the U.S. government and the district attorney's office in Manhattan, which also participated in the settlement talks with the bank along with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

The bank, one of Switzerland's largest, has been under criminal investigation for years over business it did with countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions.

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SEC backs broader disclosure on executive pay

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal regulators voted Wednesday to require companies to reveal more information about how they pay their executives amid a public outcry over compensation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-to-1 to expand the disclosure requirements for public companies.

Company policies that encouraged excessive risk-taking and rewarded executives for delivering short-term profits were blamed for fueling the financial crisis.

The SEC also changed a formula that critics say allowed companies to understate how much their senior executives are paid. At issue is how public companies report stock options and stock awards in regulatory filings. Such awards often make up most of top executives' pay.

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Former Lazard banker accused of insider trading

SAN FRANCISCO(AP) _ A former Lazard Freres banker has been charged with insider trading.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco accused Adnan Zaman Wednesday with passing along confidential information about clients' merger plans to friends.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed a lawsuit against Zaman and three others authorities say were involved in the insider trading scheme that began in 2006 and continued into 2007.

The SEC says Zaman and former TPG Capital associate Vinayak Gowrish received kickbacks from their friends, Pascal Vaghar and Sameer Khoury, in exchange for the merger information.

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FDA panel votes down new use for OSI cancer drug

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal health advisers on Wednesday recommended against expanding approval of an OSI Pharmaceuticals lung cancer drug to patients who are already responding to chemotherapy.

The drugmaker's shares fell almost 7 percent in afternoon trading.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said the agency's panel of cancer experts voted 12-1 against using Tarceva as a follow-up therapy in patients who have already undergone successful chemotherapy.

The drug is already approved as a treatment for patients whose cancer has spread despite chemotherapy treatment.

By The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.88, or 0.1 percent, to 10,441.12, after rising as much as 58 points.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.25, or 0.1 percent, 1,109.18. It is up 22.8 percent for the year. The Nasdaq composite index rose 5.86, or 0.3 percent, to 2,206.91.

Benchmark crude for January delivery surged by $1.97, nearly 3 percent, to settle at $72.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, Brent crude for January delivery added $1.50 to settle at $73.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil climbed 6.25 cents to settle at $1.9658 a gallon while gasoline gained 2.88 cents to settle at $1.8739 a gallon. Natural gas lost 6.1 cents to settle at $5.462 per 1,000 cubic feet.