By The Associated Press
U.S. economy focus of State of the Union
The U.S. economy, the expected focus of Tuesday night's State of the Union speech, is much healthier than it was four years ago. Yet growth remains slow and unemployment high.In early 2009, the nation's economy was in trouble following the collapse of the housing bubble and the disintegration of mortgage-backed investments. Companies were slashing jobs. The unemployment rate was surging. Auto sales reached a 26-year low. The recovery has been agonizingly slow, but now companies are hiring modestly but steadily. Home prices are finally rebounding as sales and housing starts have recovered. And Americans are buying cars again. ___ Apple CEO: Shareholder lawsuit is "silly sideshow" Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling a shareholder lawsuit against the company a "silly sideshow," even as he said he is open to looking at shareholder proposals for sharing more cash with investors. Investor David Einhorn sued Apple Inc. last week, saying a proposal slated for a vote at the company's annual meeting in two weeks will make it more difficult to enact his plan to reward shareholders by distributing a new class of shares. Cook said Apple's proposal puts more power in the hands of shareholders, making it difficult to understand why a shareholder would fight it. Cook also said that the company is "seriously" looking at ways to hand out more cash to shareholders. ___ January surplus shrinks 2013 US budget deficit The federal government reported a rare surplus for January and is on track to run the lowest annual deficit since President Barack Obama took office. The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the government took in a surplus of $2.9 billion in January, helped by nearly $9 billion more in Social Security taxes. Last month Congress and the White House allowed a temporary cut in Social Security taxes to expire.