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Associated Press

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 4:02 AM

WALL STREET

Will the rally resume?

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street has paused its recent rally but the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 aren't far from their all-time closing highs, reached on Oct. 9, 2007. The Dow is about 282 points below its high and the S&P 500 is 65 points shy.

On Monday, the Dow fell 14 points and the S&P 500 was off two. The Nasdaq rose four points.

WORLD MARKETS

Asia stocks rise as Wall Street flirts with highs

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets posted modest gains today as the feel-good factor lingered from near-record highs on Wall Street and signs of an upswing in U.S. manufacturing.

There will plenty of fresh data from the U.S. to drive trading this week, including retail sales, economic growth and the government's report on hiring and employment in January, which is due out Friday. More than one-fifth of the companies in the S&P 500 will report fourth-quarter earnings this week. Moreover, the Federal Reserve's policy committee begins a two-day meeting that concludes Wednesday.

Benchmark crude oil rose to approach $97 per barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and fell against the yen.

ECONOMY-DAY AHEAD

Fed policymakers meet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve policymakers today begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates. Also today, Standard & Poor's releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for November and the Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for January.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed likely to stick to low-rate message this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Analysts think the Federal Reserve won't be changing its tune when it meets this week.

It's likely to affirm a message it intends to help lift the economy: that consumers and businesses will be able to borrow cheaply well into the future — even after unemployment has dropped sharply.

Last month, the Fed signaled for the first time that it will tie its policies to specific economic barometers. It said that as long as the inflation outlook is mild, it could keep short-term rates near zero until unemployment dips below 6.5 percent from the current 7.8 percent.

The Fed predicted that could take until the end of 2015.

Though some key sectors of the economy are improving, analysts think the Fed still feels more time is needed for low rates to spur borrowing, spending and economic growth.

FEDERAL BAILOUT-PAY

Report: Treasury ok'd raises at bailed-out firms

WASHINGTON (AP) — A watchdog says the U.S. Treasury Department disregarded its own guidelines and allowed large pay increases for executives at three firms that had received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis.

The Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief Program says Treasury approved 18 raises for executives at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. Of those requests, 14 were for $100,000 or more. One raise, for the CEO of a division at AIG, was for $1 million.

The three firms received a combined nearly $250 billion from the bailout fund. Only AIG has fully repaid its $182 billion bailout.

The report says Treasury approved raises that exceeded pay limits and in some cases failed to link compensation to performance.

TRADER-FRAUD

Former trader charged with defrauding bailout fund

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A former managing director of an investment bank has been indicted on charges he defrauded investment funds the Department of Treasury established in 2009 as part of the federal government's response to the financial crisis.

The U.S. Attorney's office said Monday a federal grand jury in Connecticut returned a 16-count indictment charging 38-year-old Jesse C. Litvak of New York City with securities fraud, Troubled Asset Relief Program fraud and making false statements to the federal government.

The indictment alleges Litvak, while a registered broker-dealer and managing director at Jefferies & Co., Inc. who worked on the company's trading floor in Stamford, engaged in a scheme to defraud customers on residential mortgage-backed securities trades.

Authorities say Litvak defrauded six funds that were funded principally with government bailout money and private investment funds of more than $2 million.

UNEMPLOYMENT-CARD FEES

Report: States force jobless to pay needless fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — A report from a consumer group says states are costing unemployed Americans millions in unnecessary fees for their benefit payments.

The National Consumer Law Center says the jobless are getting hit by unnecessary fees on bank issued payment cards that states encourage or require recipients to use.

The report says states issue bank cards automatically, require complicated paperwork or phone calls to set up direct deposit and fail to explain the card fees.

The old paper check system used to cost states millions of dollars each year to print and mail the payments. Big banks seized on that as a business opportunity and touted the cards as a win-win for states and recipients who had no bank accounts.

But most of the unemployed people being hit with bank card fees do have bank accounts so the cards effectively shifted the cost from governments to jobless individuals.

RIM-BLACKBERRY MAKEOVER

Crucial, long-overdue BlackBerry makeover arrives

TORONTO (AP) — RIM is hoping its crucial, long-overdue makeover of the Blackberry devcice bears fruit for the Canadian company.

The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone.

Thorsten Heins, chief executive of Research In Motion Ltd., will show off the first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 system in New York tomorrow. A marketing campaign that includes a Super Bowl ad will accompany the long-anticipated debut. Repeated delays have left the once-pioneering BlackBerry an afterthought in the shadow of Apple's trend-setting iPhone and Google's Android-driven devices.

Now, there's some optimism. Previews of the software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. RIM's stock has nearly tripled to $16.18 from a nine-year low in September, though it's still nearly 90 percent below its 2008 peak of $147.

Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company's long-term viability.

EARNS-YAHOO

Yahoo's 4Q earnings top Street views

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo's fourth-quarter earnings topped analyst estimates as an upturn in its international investments helped end a three-year slump in revenue.

The results announced Monday covered Yahoo's first full quarter under CEO Marissa Mayer. Yahoo Inc. lured Mayer away from Google Inc. in mid-July.

Mayer has been focusing on building better mobile and social networking services so Yahoo can make more money from two of technology's hottest trends.

The company's fourth-quarter earnings dipped 8 percent from the previous year to $272 million, or 23 cents per share. The earnings would have been higher than the previous year, if not for one-time accounting charges.

Yahoo's fourth-quarter revenue increased 2 percent from the previous year to $1.35 billion. It left Yahoo with its first revenue gain for the full year since 2008.

HOSTESS-SNACK CAKES

Hostess picks Little Debbie maker as lead bidder for Drake's cakes

NEW YORK (AP) — Hostess has picked the maker of Little Debbie as the lead bidder to buy its Drake's cakes.

According to a filing in U.S. bankruptcy court, McKee Foods has offered $27.5 million in cash for the cake brands, which include Devil Dogs, Funny Bones and Yodels. The fate of Twinkies and other Hostess cakes is still being negotiated with other bidders.

The bid by McKee would set the floor for an auction process that lets competitors make better offers. A judge would have to approve the final sale.

McKee Foods, based in Collegedale, Tenn., makes a variety of snack cakes under the Little Debbie banner that compete with Hostess cakes at a lower price.

Hostess Brands Inc., based in Irving, Texas, announced in November that it was shutting down its business and selling its breads and snack cakes.

Earlier this month, Hostess picked Flowers Foods as the lead bidder for six of its major bread brands, including Wonder.

SUPERSTORM AID

Congress passes $50.5B Superstorm Sandy aid bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is sending a $50.5 billion emergency relief measure for Superstorm Sandy victims to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate on Monday cleared the bill, 62-36. Northeast lawmakers say the money is desperately needed to help recovery efforts from the one of the region's worst storms. The House passed the bill two weeks ago.

The measure is aimed primarily at helping residents and businesses as well as state and local governments rebuild from the Oct. 29 storm. It passed despite opposition from fiscal conservatives worried about adding to deficits.

Sandy roared up the East Coast and has been blamed for more than 130 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage.

NYC FLOOD MAPS

35,000 more NYC-area buildings in flood zones

NEW YORK (AP) — Some of the people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in the New York City area may now face the choice of rebuilding higher, or paying considerably more for insurance.

Under new flood maps released Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, twice as many homes and businesses in and near the city would be in flood zones.

The maps are preliminary, but they are likely to be the basis for changes to building laws and insurance requirements. They represent one of the first concrete signals of how officials will carry out their vows to rebuild smarter in the aftermath of Sandy.

More property owners could be forced to buy flood insurance. And rebuilding from the storm will be more complicated for others.

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