European Union toughens budget rules but stalls on Greece
WROCLAW, Poland (AP) _ The European Union's 27 countries overcame a year of infighting to agree Friday to tougher budget rules that make it easier to punish overspending governments, but failed to produce any new measures that might contain the debt market turmoil threatening it.
Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski said his EU counterparts approved the measures at their meeting in Wroclaw, Poland, where the officials were under international pressure to show some progress in their fight to contain the debt crisis.
Although the new rules will not ease immediate market concerns about debt, they are a first indication that Europe's states are willing to give up some sovereign powers to bolster longer-term confidence in the region.
The yearlong delay and the complicated voting procedures that define the final deal, however, suggest more progress will be hard to come by.
Household wealth dipped in the spring
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans' wealth declined this spring for the first time in a year, as stocks and home values fell. At the same time, corporations increased the size of their cash stockpiles.
The combination could slow an already weak economy because it implies that families have less to spend and businesses are reluctant to expand.
Household net worth dropped 0.3 percent to $58.5 trillion in the April-June quarter, according to the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds report released Friday. The decline followed three straight quarterly increases.
The value of Americans' stock portfolios fell 0.5 percent in the second quarter. Home values dropped 0.4 percent.
Corporations held a record $2 trillion in cash at the end of June, an increase of 4.5 percent from the January-March quarter.
Alleged renegade UBS trader had luxury lifestyle
LONDON (AP) _ Educated at an exclusive school in a picturesque patch of English countryside, Ghana-born trader Kweku Adoboli was known to neighbors as a polite and well-dressed young man who mixed grueling hours in London's financial district with a lavish social life in the capital's nightspots.
But even the 31-year-old Adoboli, who was charged Friday with fraud and false accounting, appeared to foresee his work hard, play hard lifestyle unraveling. "Need a miracle," he posted on his Facebook page, just hours before his arrest early on Thursday.
Analysts and regulators were left questioning why Swiss banking giant UBS and its monitoring systems had failed to spot Adoboli's alleged fraud, which will cost about $2 billion in losses.
Foreign Treasury holdings fell during debt debate
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The two biggest foreign buyers of U.S. Treasury securities kept investing during a tense fight in Washington over raising the government's borrowing limit. But overall foreign holdings fell for only the second time in more than two years, a sign that some investors worried about a possible default.
The Treasury Department's monthly report issued Friday showed that China, the biggest buyer of U.S. Treasury debt, increased its investments for a fourth straight month. Japan, the second-largest buyer, also invested more after cutting holdings the previous month.
But total holdings dipped 0.4 percent to $4.48 trillion in July, the second decline since April 2009. Russia, India and the Caribbean banking centers, which includes the Bahamas and Bermuda, all trimmed their holdings.
Unemployment rates rose in majority of states
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Unemployment rates rose in a majority of states in August for a third straight month, further evidence that the depressed job market is widespread.
The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates increased in 26 states. They fell in 12 and remained unchanged in 12.
Nationwide, the economy added no new net jobs in August, and the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent for the second straight month.
Many employers pulled back on hiring after the economy barely grew in the first half of the year. The economy added an average of just 39,500 jobs per month from May through August, down from an average of 178,500 jobs per month in the first four months of the year.
Mall group predicts holiday spending up 3 percent
NEW YORK (AP) _ The International Council of Shopping Centers said it expects holiday sales to increase 3 percent this year. That's a slower pace than the 4.1 percent gain in 2010 as many shoppers are expected to remain worried about the economy.
The trade group for shopping malls said Friday that November-December spending should reach $250.2 billion, the highest since the 2007 peak, when spending totaled $251.7 billion.
The prediction would mark the second consecutive increase for the holiday shopping period following two straight seasons of revenue declines in 2008 and 2009, according to the trade group's measure.
The sales forecast excludes spending at restaurants, grocers, auto dealers and gas stations.
GE inks health care, energy deals in Russia
NEW YORK (AP) _ General Electric Co. said Friday it has secured two separate deals in Russia that could generate between $10 billion and $15 billion in sales.
The agreements focus on the energy and health care industries. The energy deal allows GE to manufacture and sell natural gas turbines in the country. The health care deal clears GE to make and sell high-tech medical diagnostic equipment.
The products will be built in Russia, with GE running the operation. GE will start building a plant for its turbine operation later this year. It expects to build turbines with a total generating capacity of up to 5 gigawatts of power. Its new Russian energy business is a joint venture with Inter RAO UES, one of the country's largest power companies, and Russia's United Engine Corp.
AT&T takes wraps off wireless data network
NEW YORK (AP) _ Unbeknownst to most customers, AT&T Inc. has fired up a new wireless data network in five cities in the last few months, offering roughly double the speeds of its older network for a handful of devices.
On Sunday, the phone company will start marketing the network in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It won't be selling a new data plan _ use of the new "4G LTE" network will be a perk thrown in with existing plans, AT&T Inc. network architecture and planning executive Kris Rinne said Friday.
Rinne said the network will provide downloads speeds of 5 megabits to 12 megabits per second. That's enough to download a DVD-quality two-hour movie in 15 minutes. It's in line with the speeds on Verizon's LTE network, which launched late last year with separate data plans. AT&T's older "4G" network provides top download speeds around 6 megabits per second.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.91 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 11,509.09. The S&P index gained 6.90, or 0.6 percent, to 1,216.01. The Nasdaq added 15.24, or 0.6 percent to 2,622.31.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude gave up $1.44, about 1.6 percent, to end the day at $87.96 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price many varieties of foreign oil, lost 8 cents to finish at $112.22 in London.
In other commodities trading, heating oil fell 1.57 cents to finish at $3.0089 per gallon and gasoline futures were flat, finishing at $2.7841 per gallon. Natural gas lost 6.9 cents to end at $3.809 per 1,000 cubic feet.