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Associated Press

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 6:02 AM

WALL STREET

Dow closes at highest level of year, nears record

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow rose to its highest close of the year Tuesday, putting it within 1 percent of its record.

The Dow closed up 47 points at 14,018 -- that's 146 points from its record high of 14,164 set in October 2007. The S&P 500 gained over 2 points to 1,519, also close to its record.

In a quiet day of trade, stocks were driven higher by beauty products maker Avon and luxury clothing and accessories company Michael Kors, whose results impressed investors. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.

In other trading, the Nasdaq composite was down over 5 points at 3,186.

WORLD MARKETS

Asian stock markets rise on strong US corporate earnings; Nikkei down as yen rises

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets have been on the rise Wednesday after strong U.S. corporate earnings sent the Dow close to its record high.

However, Japanese shares are stumbling as the yen rebounds against the dollar.

The yen strengthened against the dollar following a pledge by finance ministers from the world's major advanced economies to refrain from intentionally weakening their currencies. That sent Japan's benchmark Nikkei index tumbling more than 1 percent.

Australian stocks hit their highest intraday level in nearly three years before ceding some gains. South Korea's Kospi advanced 1.4 percent, while benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines also rose.

Markets in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 8 cents to $97.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Retail sales data coming

WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking at the day ahead, the Commerce Department releases retail sales data and business inventories this morning.

A number of companies are expected to release quarterly financial results today including Cisco Systems Inc., Comcast Corp., and Deere & Co.

STATE OF UNION-MANUFACTURING

Obama asks Congress for boost in manufacturing

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching three manufacturing hubs and is asking Congress to create 15 more.

Obama says the "manufacturing innovation institutes" would bring together businesses, universities and the government to create high-tech jobs.

The proposal is a central element of Obama's plan to spur manufacturing, which has been a bright spot in the U.S. economy. Manufacturing expanded at a much faster pace in January compared with December.

Obama said the government could help accelerate that trend.

He specifically cited companies that are creating jobs in the U.S. that had been overseas, including Caterpillar, Ford, Intel and Apple.

He called for continued spending on science and innovation.

Obama is kicking off three days of travel to rally support for the job-creation and economic proposals he unveiled. He'll be in Asheville, N.C., today to visit Linamar Corp., a supplier of engine and transmission components that has expanded its manufacturing operations. He'll make stops in Atlanta on Thursday and Chicago on Friday.

COMCAST-NBC-GENERAL ELECTRIC

Comcast to buy GE's stake in NBCUniversal early

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast is buying the rest of NBCUniversal from General Electric for $16.7 billion, doing so several years ahead of schedule as the company takes advantage of low borrowing costs and what CEO Brian Roberts called a "very attractive price."

At the same time, Comcast Corp. raised its annual dividend 20 percent to 78 cents per share and vowed to buy back $2 billion in shares this year. It is also buying NBCUniversal's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York and the CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for another $1.4 billion.

Investors thought the move was good for both companies — GE because it got cash for its stake earlier than expected and Comcast because it is seen as a good use of its cash.

GENERAL ELECTRIC-NBC SALE

GE to boost share buybacks after NBC stake sale

NEW YORK (AP) — General Electric plans to boost share buybacks to about $10 billion in 2013, thanks to the early sale of its stake in NBCUniversal.

GE announced Tuesday that it is selling its remaining 49 percent stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture to cable operator Comcast for $16.7 billion. GE's board voted to increase its overall share repurchase authorization from the current $23 billion to $35 billion.

"This transaction allows us to significantly increase the cash we plan to return to shareholders in 2013, to approximately $18 billion, and to continue to invest in our industrial business," GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

GE will book a $1 billion pretax gain from the sale, but says that will be offset by restructuring costs.

JC PENNEY-FINANCING

JC Penney ups credit facility to $1.85 billion

NEW YORK (AP) — General Electric plans to boost share buybacks to about $10 billion in 2013, thanks to the early sale of its stake in NBCUniversal.

GE announced Tuesday that it is selling its remaining 49 percent stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture to cable operator Comcast for $16.7 billion. GE's board voted to increase its overall share repurchase authorization from the current $23 billion to $35 billion.

"This transaction allows us to significantly increase the cash we plan to return to shareholders in 2013, to approximately $18 billion, and to continue to invest in our industrial business," GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

GE will book a $1 billion pretax gain from the sale, but says that will be offset by restructuring costs.

YAHOO-CEO

Yahoo CEO plans to prune company's mobile apps

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer thinks the Internet company will be able to please more people with fewer smartphone applications.

Mayer says she hopes to winnow Yahoo's portfolio of mobile applications from the current 60 to 75 programs to about a dozen. Her remarks came during a Tuesday appearance before investors in San Francisco.

It marked the first time that Mayer has spoken at an investment conference since she defected from Google Inc. to become Yahoo Inc.'s CEO seven months ago.

Since joining Yahoo, Mayer has stressed that the company needs to come up with a better mobile strategy to ensure its services become ingrained as daily habits that "delight and inspire" its users.

If Yahoo succeeds, Mayer thinks the company will be able to sell more advertising.

CYBERSECURITY

White House revealing Obama's cybersecurity plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is revealing details of President Barack Obama's executive order taking initial steps to protect the computer networks of crucial American industries from cyberattacks.

The announcement is coming a day after the president signed the order and encouraged Congress in his State of the Union address to pass legislation taking even tougher steps.

On Tuesday, senior administration officials said Obama's order starts the development of voluntary standards to protect the computer systems that run critical sectors of the economy like the banking, power and transportation industries. It also directs U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to share classified threat data with those companies.

Obama said lawmakers should write legislation that gives the government even more power to fend off attacks on U.S. interests.

GAS DRILLING-HEALTH STUDY

NY health chief: Longer gas-drilling study needed

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Environmental groups are praising state regulators for delaying a decision on shale gas development until a more in-depth health study is finished. But landowners eager to reap profits from their mineral resources are frustrated at another delay in a rulemaking process that has kept drilling on hold for 4 1/2 years.

Nick Schoonover, a landowner in southern New York who organized a coalition of landowners five years ago to pursue gas leases, said Tuesday the delay is irresponsible.

The Department of Environmental Conservation had faced a deadline Wednesday to complete its comprehensive environmental impact study of drilling for gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said Tuesday the deadline will be missed but he expects the health department review to be done in a few weeks.

HEART ATTACK GRILL-HEART ATTACK

Heart Attack Grill (hash)1 patron dies of heart attack

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas has died of a heart attack.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that 52-year-old John Alleman suffered a heart attack last week while waiting at a bus stop in front of the diner. He was taken off life support Monday.

The medically-themed restaurant is famous for its huge hamburgers, extra-fat milkshakes and fries cooked in lard. It uses the tagline, "taste worth dying for."

Owner Jon Basso told the Sun that Alleman came to the diner every day. He became an unofficial mascot, and his caricature as "patient John" graced the front of the diners' menus.

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