Stocks surge after Congress passes budget deal
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow is coming off its biggest gains in more than a year.
Shared roared higher on Wall Street and around the world after Congress passed a budget deal to avert sweeping tax hikes and government spending cuts of the fiscal cliff.
The Dow jumped 308 points to close at 13,413 yesterday, while the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 36 points to 1,462, and the Nasdaq composite rose almost 93 points to 3,112.
The gains were broad. Ten stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
Technology and bank stocks had the biggest gains.
Car-sharing company Zipcar surged 48 percent after agreeing to be bought by Avis for nearly $500 million.
Asian stocks up
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose again today on a second day of momentum following an agreement preventing the U.S. from going off the so-called fiscal cliff.
A last-minute deal agreed to by U.S. lawmakers late Tuesday prevents steep tax and spending cuts from automatically taking effect. The cost of those cuts was so great that economists were warning they could eventually trigger a recession in the world's largest economy.
Markets in Japan and mainland China were closed for extended holidays.
Benchmark crude oil fell below $93 per barrel. The dollar was up against the euro and the yen.
FISCAL CLIFF-MOODY'S DEBT RATING
Moody's pressures Congress to deal with deficit
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moody's Investors Service says Congress must go beyond its deal this week and come up with a plan to shrink the budget deficit if it wants to keep the U.S. government's top credit rating.
The credit rating agency says in a statement that it expects lawmakers in the coming months will take additional steps needed to lower the deficit, which has topped $1 trillion annually in each of the past four years. But if it fails to do so, the government's "Aaa" credit rating could be at risk.
Moody's had warned in September that it would likely cut its rating by one notch if the year-end budget negotiations failed. Moody's has a negative outlook on the government's debt, a warning of a possible downgrade.
Boehner agrees to Sandy aid vote on Friday
WASHINGTON (AP) — Superstorm Sandy aid could be coming soon to affected states after House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) reversed himself and scheduled a pair of votes early in the new Congress.
Lawmakers from the affected states exploded in anger when a vote they say they were promised was scrapped after the House approved the fiscal cliff deal. Even some Republican lawmakers accused Boehner of a betrayal.
Under pressure, Boehner scheduled one vote for Friday, and another, on more aid for next week. Because the new Congress is doing the voting, the aid measures will go back to the Senate where they are expected to get approval.
Sandy killed at least 120 people. It was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one of the worst storms ever in the Northeast.
Pa. governor sues NCAA for Penn State sanctions
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's governor contends the NCAA imposed landmark sanctions against Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal in a cynical ploy to weaken the university and enhance its own dismal reputation.
Gov. Tom Corbett is the plaintiff in a federal antitrust lawsuit against college sports' governing body.
He says the NCAA veered dramatically from its own disciplinary rules and procedures when it decreed last summer that Penn State would pay a $60 million fine, and the football team would suffer a four-year postseason ban and a dramatic reduction in the number of athletic scholarships it could offer.
Corbett wants a federal judge to throw out the sanctions. In a statement, the NCAA says the lawsuit has no merit and called it an "affront" to Sandusky's victims.
Sales figures, details from the Fed expected
WASHINGTON (AP) — Automakers release their December sales figures today, while a number of retailers will be out with their numbers too. Earlier estimates have suggested that U.S. shoppers spent cautiously during the holiday season, leading to some disappointing numbers.
Also this morning, the Labor Department releases its latest weekly numbers on jobless claims.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac offers its weekly report on mortgage rates.
And this afternoon, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from its December interest-rate meeting. After that meeting, that Fed linked its interest rate policy to the jobless rate. It projects unemployment will remain elevated until late 2015 and suggested it will keep short-term interest rates low until the rate drops below 6.5 percent.
SHELL-ARCTIC DRILL SHIP
Critics say grounding shows Arctic drilling danger
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Environmentalists say the grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill ship on a remote Gulf of Alaska island shows that oil companies are not ready to drill in Arctic Ocean waters, which are even more remote.
The drill ship Kulluk (CULL'-uck) ran aground in a fierce North Pacific storm Monday night off an uninhabited island near Kodiak.
Marilyn Heiman (HIGH'-man) of the Pew Environment Group says near hurricane-force wind and waves are typical of the North Pacific and the Arctic. She says the conditions and the lack of infrastructure in the north would make marine mammals vulnerable to a petroleum spill.
Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company will learn from the grounding and remains confident that it can operate safely in Arctic conditions.
On Wednesday, a team of six salvage experts conducted a three-hour structural assessment of the Kulluk for use in the final salvage plan.
YELLOWSTONE OIL SPILL
APNewsBreak: Feds say delay worsened oil spill
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal investigators say Exxon Mobil Corp.'s delayed response to a pipeline break beneath Montana's Yellowstone River made the spill far worse than it otherwise would have been.
Department of Transportation investigators say the volume of the 1,500-barrel spill could have been cut by about two-thirds if pipeline controllers in Houston closed off the line as soon as problems emerged.
Instead, crude drained from a severed, 12-inch pipeline for another 46 minutes before a remote control valve near the river was finally closed.
A copy of the investigators' report was provided to The Associated Press by the office of Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.
The July 1, 2011, spill fouled 70 miles of riverbank along the scenic Yellowstone. Exxon spent $135 million on cleanup and repair work.
An Exxon spokeswoman declined comment Wednesday, saying the company was still analyzing the report.
CURRENT TV-AL JAZEERA
Al-Jazeera to buy Current TV
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that has struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV.
Current cofounders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt announced the sale in a statement.
They say Current was built with goals that are compatible with Al-Jazeera's, including giving "voice to those who are not typically heard," providing independent and diverse points of view; and telling "the stories that no one else is telling."
The acquisition extends Al-Jazeera's reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas, where some people can watch Al-Jazeera English, to about 40 million homes.
Al-Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar. It plans to gradually transform Current into a network called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. More than half of the content will be U.S. news.
Wendy's moves past '99 cents' with new value menu
NEW YORK (AP) — Wendy's no longer thinks a hamburger has to be 99 cents to be a deal.
The fast-food company known for its Frosty shakes and square burgers is replacing its 99-cent value menu. It's now offering a beefed up array of options called "Right Price Right Size," with items ranging from 99 cents to $1.99.
At a time when costs for meat, cheese and other ingredients are rising, the revamped menu is intended to give budget-minded diners more options, while giving Wendy's more flexibility on pricing.
The switch to the "Right Price Right Size" value menu reflects the cost pressures facing fast-food chains. Burger King and McDonald's have already moved past the $1 price point, offering tiered value menus that go up to around $2.
Starbucks to roll out $1 reusable cups
NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks Corp. is rolling out a $1 reusable plastic cup at its cafes starting Thursday.
The Seattle-based coffee chain already gives customers a dime discount each time they bring in reusable cups for refills. Now it's hoping the new cups — which bear its logo and resemble its white paper cups — will increase the habit.
As with other reusable cups, the new cups will be cleaned with boiling water each time customers bring them in. The cups were tested in 600 stores in the Pacific Northwest over the past few months and will be rolled out nationwide and in Canada.
In 2008, Seattle-based Starbucks had said it wanted to serve 25 percent of all drinks in reusable cups by 2015. That goal has since been reduced to 5 percent.