Stocks advance, pushing Dow toward 14,000
NEW YORK (AP) — Drugmaker Pfizer gave the Dow a lift after posting a strong earnings report. That helped push the index closer to 14,000.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,954. The index has advanced seven of the past eight days. The Standard and Poor's 500 gained 7 points to 1,507. The Nasdaq composite fell less than a point to 3,153.
Stocks are approaching record levels after a January rally that has pushed the Dow 6.5 percent higher this month and the S&P 500 up 5.7 percent, to its highest level since December 2007. Demand was bolstered after lawmakers reached a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" at the start of the year.
Advancing stocks outpaced declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was above average at 3.9 billion shares.
Asia stocks gain after strong US earnings
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after strong U.S. corporate earnings outweighed sagging consumer confidence.
Japan's Nikkei surged 1.7 percent to 11,049.91, its highest level since April 2010, as the yen continued to weaken against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.8 percent to 23,817.16.
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 1,965.51 after the government said manufacturing output rose 0.8 percent in December from November.
Gains in resource stocks helped lift Australia's S&P/ASX 200 by 0.1 percent to 4,896. Mining giants Rio Tinto Ltd. gained 1.7 percent and BHP Billiton advanced 1.2 percent.
Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed.
Investors are waiting for the end of a meeting in Washington of the Federal Open Market Committee. That's the group, composed of Fed board members in Washington and regional bank presidents, who meet eight times a year to determine the Federal Reserve's monetary policy including interest rates.
Feds setting interest rates
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve policymakers are wrapping up two days of meetings today to set interest rates. And we'll get some numbers on overall growth when the Commerce Department releases a report on the fourth-quarter gross domestic product.
Slow US economic growth in Q4 may hide strength
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department releases a snapshot of fourth quarter economic growth this morning, and most economists are saying it's not going to look very good.
The consensus forecast from Factset is that economic growth slowed sharply from October through December to an annual rate of 1.2 percent. That's down from a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter and would be the slowest in nearly two years.
Economists also expect growth to remain sluggish at the start of the year as Americans come to grips with an increase in Social Security taxes that has left them with less take-home pay.
But economists say a number of one-time factors may account for sluggish fourth quarter numbers and this morning's report may highlight underlying strengths that could propel the economy in the second half of 2013. Those include faster growth in consumer spending and the seventh straight quarter in which housing contributed to economic growth. It may also show businesses invested more in equipment and software.
Watchdog says taxpayers may lose $27B in bailout
WASHINGTON (AP) — A government watchdog says U.S. taxpayers stand to lose $27 billion from the 2008 financial bailout, up from an estimate of $22 billion in the fall.
A report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program says the estimate is higher because of increased losses for the Treasury Department on sales of shares in bailed-out companies.
Ally Financial, the former financial arm for General Motors, still owes $14.6 billion of the $17.2 billion in aid it received. The report says taxpayers can expect to lose $5.5 billion on that investment because of the company's losses on risky mortgages issued ahead of the financial crisis.
The report also criticized the Treasury for lacking a plan to unwind its investment in Ally. Taxpayers own 74 percent of the company.
US regulator asks Boeing for full battery history
TOKYO (AP) — U.S. transport safety regulators have asked Boeing Co. to provide a full operating history of the lithium-ion batteries used in its grounded 787 Dreamliners.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement it made the request after recently becoming aware of battery incidents that occurred before a Jan. 7 battery fire in a 787 parked at Boston's Logan International Airport.
All Nippon Airways said Wednesday it had replaced batteries on its 787 aircraft some 10 times because they failed to charge properly or showed other problems, and informed Boeing about the swaps.
All 50 of the Boeing 787s in use around the world were grounded after an ANA flight on Jan. 16 made an emergency landing in Japan when its main battery overheated.
Daimler truck layoffs coming in NC, SC, Ore.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Potentially large layoffs loom at Daimler Trucks factories in North America.
Daimler Trucks North America said Tuesday it was notifying production workers at its manufacturing plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon and Mexico under a law that requires notice two months ahead of mass layoffs. The company said it would provide details Thursday.
Among those plants is a Freightliner trucks plant in Cleveland, N.C. The company said a year ago that it was calling 1,100 workers there back to work because of improving demand in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Critical, long-overdue BlackBerry makeover arrives
TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry maker Research In Motion will kick off a critical, long-overdue makeover when chief executive Thorsten Heins shows off the first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 system in New York on Wednesday.
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 BlackBerry 10 software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback.
RIM redesigned the system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today. Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company's long-term viability, though some doubts remain about the ability of BlackBerry 10 to rescue RIM.
Google Maps shows North Korean gulags, streets
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Google Inc.'s map with more details of North Korea has gone live.
Google Maps shows details of North Korea, including streets, parks, monuments and train stops in the capital of Pyongyang. Until Tuesday, North Korea was among the few places in Google Maps where scant information was available.
The map shows at least four places where North Korea's government is believed to operate prison camps.
Google says citizen cartographers started building the North Korea map in 2009 based on satellite images and other public information.
It also shows photographs of places in North Korea available on the Web and those taken by people who visited there.
The U.S. company said the map is not perfect and building the map is an ongoing process.
Chesapeake's embattled CEO McClendon to retire
NEW YORK (AP) — Embattled Chesapeake Energy Corp. founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon will retire on April 1.
McClendon will step down even though Chesapeake says a review of his business dealings has not revealed improper conduct.
Chesapeake Chairman Archie Dunham said in a statement the company needs a new leader to help develop the oil and gas assets the company has amassed under McClendon.
McClendon, 53, founded the company 24 years ago and pushed it to acquire drilling rights to huge amounts of land. The strategy landed the company promising assets — and enormous debt. A plan that allowed McClendon to invest personally in the company's wells came under renewed scrutiny last year, and he was forced to step aside as board chairman.
Chesapeake shares rose 9 percent in after-hours trading.
10 UMWA members arrested during protest
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — The president of the United Mine Workers of America and nine other union members were arrested Tuesday in a protest in St. Louis.
They had been demonstrating outside headquarters of Peabody Energy, one of the companies the union accuses of orchestrating business deals that bankrupted Patriot Coal.
That Chapter 11 bankruptcy has jeopardized pension and health care benefits for some 10,000 retirees and another 10,000 dependents, mostly in West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
More than 750 current and former miners from those states and their families rallied outside the federal building in St. Louis, where a bankruptcy hearing was being held, before marching through the city streets to Peabody's building.
Peabody issued a statement saying it has "lived up to its obligations and continues to do so."
State-funded $25M cancer trial network shuts down
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A signature project of the Texas' embattled $3 billion cancer-fighting agency is out of business following a critical audit that found more than $300,000 in expenses deemed inappropriate.
A top executive with the Clinical Trials Network of Texas said Tuesday the fledging project is out of money. The initiative had been awarded a $25 million taxpayer-funded grant by the state-run Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which has unraveled amid a criminal investigation and mass resignations.
Dr. Charles Geyer, chief medical officer of the trial network, told The Associated Press that the state began withholding payments last month after state auditors found questionable expenses.
Among them was $160,000 in bonuses for the trial network's chief operating officer.
Geyer said 30 people with the trial network have been laid off.