Update on the latest business


Associated Press

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 5:02 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 13 at 5:02 AM


Rally fizzles

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished little changed after a rally prompted by the Federal Reserve's latest economic stimulus program fizzled out. The Fed said it will continue to spend $85 billion a month on bond purchases to hold down long-term borrowing costs and stimulate economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.99, or 0.02 percent, to 13,245.45.

The S&P 500 rose 0.64 point, or 0.04 percent, to 1,428.48.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.49 or 0.3 percent, to 3,013.81


Asian stocks gain

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose today as a weakening yen propelled Japan's benchmark higher. A new bond-buying program by the U.S. Federal Reserve and commitment to keep interest rates low also soothed investor nerves about the state of the world's biggest economy.

Following a two-day policy meeting, the Fed said Wednesday it will keep spending $85 billion a month on bond purchases to drive down long-term borrowing costs and stimulate economic growth.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $86 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro but rose against the yen.


Business events scheduled for Thursday

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's a full slate of releases on the economy due today.

The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims. It also has the Producer Price Index for November, the main gauge of wholesale inflation.

We'll get a check on the consumer in the midst of the holiday shopping season. The Commerce Department has November retail sales, as well as business inventories for October.


Fed sends clearer signal on keeping rates low

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has sent its clearest signal to date that it will keep interest rates super-low to support the U.S. economy even after the job market has improved significantly.

The Fed said it plans to keep its key short-term rate near zero until the unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent or less — as long as expected inflation remains tame. Unemployment is now 7.7 percent.

That plan adds detail to what the Fed had said before: that it expects to keep the rate low until at least mid-2015. For the first time, the Fed is making clear to investors and consumers that it will link its actions to specific economic markers.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the approach is more "transparent", allowing the markets to respond quickly to changes in the Fed's outlook.

Bernanke made clear that even after unemployment falls below 6.5 percent, the Fed might decide that it needs to keep stimulating the economy. Other economic factors will also shape its policy decisions, he said.

In a statement after its final policy meeting of the year, the Fed said it will also keep spending $85 billion a month on bond purchases to drive down long-term borrowing costs and stimulate economic growth.


Bank repossessions hit 9-month high in November

LOS ANGELES (AP) — New data show that U.S. home repossessions rose to a nine-month high in November, even as the number of homes starting on the path to foreclosure declined to the lowest level in six years.

Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday that banks completed foreclosure on over 59,000 homes last month.

That's an increase of 11 percent from October and up 5 percent from November last year.

The number of homes entering the foreclosure process, so-called foreclosure starts, sank to about 77,500.

That's the lowest number of foreclosure starts since December 2006.

Bank repossessions are on pace to exceed 650,000 this year, down from 800,000 last year.

Florida had the highest foreclosure rate of any other state last month, and twice the national rate.


European ministers ink deal on bank oversight

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Central Bank is poised to become the supervisor for banks in the 17 EU countries that use the euro and any other country in the European Union that wants to opt in paving the way for a change vital to helping Europe dig out of its three-year-old debt crisis.

Finance ministers from member states on Thursday reached a political agreement to create a single supervisor for their banks, a positive sign ahead of the evening start of a summit of the 27 government leaders seeking to set up a banking union.

The agreement still has to be approved by parliament. The deal would give the ECB broad powers, including the ability to grant and withdraw banking licenses, investigate institutions, and financially sanction banks that don't follow the rules.


Google Maps return to iPhone with new mobile app

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Maps have found their way back to the iPhone.

The world's most popular online mapping system returned late Wednesday with the release of the Google Maps' iPhone app. The release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc. replaced Google Maps as the device's built-in navigation system and inserted its own maps into the latest version of its mobile operating system.

Apple's maps proved to be far inferior to Google's. The product's shoddiness prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology and recommend that iPhone owners consider using Google maps through a mobile Web browser or seek other alternatives until his company could fix the problems.

Google Inc. says its new map app is better than the one that used to be on the iPhone.


Survey of CEOs shows hiring prospects uncertain, at best

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey of U.S. chief executives shows the number of large companies that plan to add jobs or hire more workers is essentially unchanged versus three months ago, although fewer expect hiring to decrease.

The Business Roundtable said Wednesday that 29 percent of its member CEOs plans to increase hiring over the next six months, the same as in September when the group released its previous quarterly survey.

But only 29 percent expect hiring to decrease versus 34 percent in the previous report.

CEOs are slightly more pessimistic about their future sales, capital spending and the overall U.S. economy, amid uncertainty over the impact of budget cuts and tax increases that are set to take effect at the start of next year.

CEOs are worried about the pending U.S. budget changes, known as the "fiscal cliff."

"The past quarter's survey results reflect continued uncertainty of business leaders surrounding the ability of our political leaders to reach a principled compromise for resolving the fiscal cliff and related deficit and debt issues," Jim McNerney, chairman of the Roundtable and CEO of The Boeing Co., said during a conference call with reporters.


Right-to-work law gives Michigan unions new task

Lansing, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has become a right-to-work state. Now, unions in the traditional stronghold of organized labor are confronting a new problem. How to convince members to continue paying for their services instead of taking them for free?

Brushing aside protests from thousands of labor supporters, the Republican-controlled state House approved measures Tuesday making it illegal to require that nonunion workers pay fees to unions for negotiating wage contracts and other services. The Senate did likewise last week, and Gov. Rick Snyder swiftly signed the bills into law.

The laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns this month, giving unions little time to devise a strategy for keeping members on board and convincing nonmembers to continue their financial support.

Union leaders say it is too soon to predict how the laws would affect their membership and recruiting, partly because workers covered by existing labor contracts won't be able to stop paying union fees until those deals lapse — which in some cases will take several years. Contracts between unions and Detroit automakers, for example, are effective until September 2015.

Many of the activists who protested at the Capitol this week said they would continue supporting their unions but feared that some co-workers would abandon them. Unions are legally required to represent all employees of a business equally, whether they're members or not.


Broadway faces potential holiday labor headache

NEW YORK (AP) — The union representing hundreds of Broadway theater cleaners, porters, elevator operators and bathroom attendants have voted to authorize its leaders to call a strike if a new contract isn't approved by the end of the month. That potentially throws a wrench into a busy holiday season.

Members of the 250-person union voted during a noisy rally on the street outside the Times Square offices of the Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners.

Any strike would affect workers at 32 of Broadway's 40 theaters where the union has a contract. That means all the Shubert, Nederlander and Jujamcyn-owned theaters, as well as the Circle in the Square Theatre. The eight other Broadway theaters have different arrangements.

The 32BJ contract expires Dec. 30, and workers are seeking pay increases and better health care benefits. The next bargaining session is scheduled for Friday and another is set for Dec. 18.

The affiliate of the Service Employees International Union has more than 120,000 members, concentrated in the Northeast. It represents janitors, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, window cleaners and food service workers.


American Airlines rolls out new fare structure

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines is changing the way it charges you to fly.

American will charge up to $88 more per round trip for passengers who want a basic ticket that includes checking baggage or changing the reservation later on. Currently the airline levies separate fees for those and other extras for everyone except premium passengers.

It's calling the new fare levels "Choice," ''Choice Essential" and "Choice Plus."

American says the options will be sold on its aa.com website and through travel agents for flights in the contiguous 48 states.


Most Googled in 2012: Whitney, PSY, Sandy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The world's attention wavered between the tragic and the silly in 2012, and along the way, millions of people searched the Web to find out about a royal princess, the latest iPad, and a record-breaking skydiver.

The late Whitney Houston was the "top trending" search of the year, according to Google's year-end "zeitgeist" report. It is Google's 12th annual roundup.

Korean rapper PSY's "Gangnam Style" music video trotted into second spot, a testament to his self-deprecating giddy-up dance move. The video is approaching a billion views on YouTube.

Superstorm Sandy, the damaging storm that knocked out power and flooded parts of the East Coast in the midst of a U.S. presidential campaign, was third.

The next biggest trending searches globally were a pair of threes: the iPad 3 tablet from Apple Inc. and Diablo 3, a popular video game.


Pfizer to pay $55M in drug misbranding case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says Pfizer Inc. will pay $55 million to resolve allegations that its subsidiary Wyeth LLC promoted the drug Protonix for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In a written statement from its New York office, Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth in October 2009 years after the alleged misconduct, said that Pfizer was not a target or a subject of the case.

Wyeth obtained FDA approval to promote Protonix only for short-term treatment of erosive esophagitis. The condition is associated with gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Wyeth allegedly promoted Protonix for all forms of GERD from February 2000 to June 2001.

GERD is a condition in which food or liquid leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.

Pfizer's statement specifically denied allegations of wrongdoing.


New law aimed at preventing noisy commercials from appearing on TV screens

NEW YORK (AP) — TV viewing could soon sound a little calmer. The CALM Act, which limits the volume of TV commercials, goes into effect on Thursday.

CALM stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation. The act is designed to prevent TV commercials from blaring at louder volumes than the program content they accompany. The rules govern broadcasters as well as cable and satellite operators. The rules are meant to protect viewers from excessively loud commercials.

The Federal Communications Commission adopted the rules a year ago, but gave the industry a one-year grace period to adopt them.

Suspected violations can be reported by the public to the FCC on its website.


Indianapolis replacing non-police fleet with environmentally friendly vehicles

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis is aiming to become the first major U.S. city to replace its entire fleet with environmentally friendly vehicles, in a move the mayor said is aimed at reducing the nation's reliance on foreign oil.

Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order Wednesday requiring the city to replace its nearly 500 non-police sedans with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. The city also will work with the private sector to phase in snow plows, fire trucks and other heavy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, and will ask automakers to develop a plug-in hybrid police car.

New vehicles would be purchased as older ones are retired, and the city hopes to completely swap out its current 3,100-vehicle fleet by 2025.

Ballard, a Republican and a retired Marine Corps officer who served in the Persian Gulf War, said he hopes the switch helps reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, which he said "exacts an enormous cost financially and in terms of strategic leverage." Ballard, who took office in 2008, said he's been considering the switch for years and that technological advances have now made it possible.


Venerable capital area businessman dead at 87

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Joe L. Allbritton, who became one of Washington's most influential men through a media conglomerate that included newspapers and television stations and a financial empire that once included Riggs Bank, is dead at the age of 87.

He was suffering from heart ailments and died at a hospital in Houston, where he lived, said Frederick J. Ryan Jr., president of Arlington, Va.-basedAllbritton Communications.

Allbritton's fortune was self-made, beginning with real estate trades and banking investments. Ryan said that by age 33, he was a millionaire.

His media holdings included eight television stations in seven markets, including WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., whose call letters bear his initials. In an era of corporate media ownership, WJLA stood out as a family-owned station. Ryan said it is the largest privately owned ABC affiliate in the country.

Allbritton owned the now-defunct Washington Star for several years in the 1970s and his son Robert founded one of the successes of the new media era, Politico, a must-read online and print publication for political junkies.