â¿¿ SMALLBIZ-SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM â¿¿ Small business owners were slightly more optimistic at the end of 2012 even as they awaited the outcome of negotiations in Congress over the "fiscal cliff."

â¿¿ SUPREME COURT-SEC LAWSUIT â¿¿ The Supreme Court seemed skeptical Tuesday about government claims that it should be allowed more time to sue some fund executives for securities fraud.

TAX FILING

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Internal Revenue Service says late changes to federal tax laws should mean only a short delay for most taxpayers to file their 2012 returns. About 80 percent of all filers should be able to start filing their federal returns on Jan. 30. Others will have to wait until late February or March to file because the agency needs time to update and test its systems. By Stephen Ohlemacher.

AP photo.

WALL STREET

U.S. stocks closed lower as traders await the start of the corporate earnings season. Alcoa reports its fourth-quarter financial results after the market closes, marking the unofficial kickoff to weeks of earnings announcements from U.S. companies. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

AP photos.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ Oil prices fall below $93 per barrel.

EARNINGS:

â¿¿ EARNS-ALCOA â¿¿ Alcoa Inc. reports fourth-quarter earnings that meet Wall Street's expectations, and it sees slightly higher demand for aluminum this year.

â¿¿ EARNS-MONSANTO â¿¿ Monsanto says its net income nearly tripled in the agricultural products company's first quarter as sales of its biotech corn seeds expanded in Latin American countries.

INDUSTRY:

TARGET-ONLINE MATCH

NEW YORK â¿¿ Target Corp. is pledging to match prices of select online rivals year-round, a move that underscores how physical and online retailing are being meshed together. Matching online prices is rare but expected to become more common as shoppers move increasingly online. By Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio.

MOLD-FREE BREAD

LUBBOCK, Texas â¿¿ Attention, bread shoppers: A Texas company could have the answer to some consumers' unwelcome discovery that just-purchased loaves contain mold. MicroZap claims its technology using microwaves allows bread to stay mold-free for 60 days. The process could eliminate bakers' need for preservatives and ingredients used to mask preservatives' flavor, the company says. Researchers at Texas Tech University also see using the technology in bread made in developing countries, where there are fewer food safety standards and spoilage is a problem. By Betsy Blaney.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform