BC-Business News Digest

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NEW THIS DIGEST:

â¿¿Adds: LABOR SECRETARY RESIGNS, SEC-KHUZAMI, ARGENTINA-SEIZED SHIP, MONOPOLY-NEW TOKENS

â¿¿Updates: WALL STREET, CONSUMER PROTECTION-MORTGAGES, HFR, APPLE-CHEAPER IPHONE, NESTLE PURINA-DOG TREAT RECALL

TOP STORIES:

OBAMA-TREASURY SECRETARY

WASHINGTON â¿¿ President Barack Obama will nominate White House chief of staff Jack Lew as his next Treasury Secretary, turning to one of Washington's most knowledgeable budget experts to lead difficult fiscal negotiations with Congress. The choice accelerates an overhaul of leaders in key jobs for Obama's second term. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace.

AP photo.

TAXES-TOO COMPLICATED

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Too intimidated to fill out your tax return without any help? Join the club. About 90 percent of filers will either pay a tax preparer or use a computer software service to help with their federal taxes this spring. U.S. tax law is so complicated that businesses and individuals spend more than 6 billion hours a year complying with filing requirements. By Stephen Ohlemacher.

AP photo.

With:

â¿¿TAX BREAKS-GLANCE â¿¿ A list of the most generous tax breaks in federal law, and how much they will save taxpayers next year.

BOEING-787 WOES

Boeing executives insist that its 787 Dreamliner is safe, and investors rallied behind the company. But questions remain about the plane that is key to Boeing's future. Federal investigators are probing a Monday fire aboard an empty 787 in Boston, the latest glitch for a high-profile jet that has a lot riding on it, both for Boeing and its airline customers. By Business Writer Joshua Freed.

AP photos.

CES COVERAGE:

GADGET SHOW-WEIRD GADGETS

LAS VEGAS â¿¿ From an electronic fork that tells you when to put it down to glitch-ridden TVs that occasionally respond to voice commands, the International CES show is a forum for gadget makers to take big chances. A lot of the prototypes they unveil at the show fail in the marketplace. But the innovators who shop their wares here are fearless when it comes to pitching new gizmos. Here's a look at some of the wackiest devices introduced at this year's show. By Ryan Nakashima and Barbara Ortutay.

AP photo.

With:

â¿¿ GADGET SHOW-GADGET WATCH-ELECTRONIC FORK â¿¿If you've always wanted a fork that spies on your eating habits, you're in luck. A French company has developed a utensil that records how many times you lift it to your mouth, meant to help you lose weight. AP photos

Also:

GADGET SHOW-TECH TEST-LIVE TV ONLINE

NEW YORK â¿¿ Broadcast networks make a lot of their shows available on the Internet these days, but you usually have to wait at least a day after an episode airs on television. A subscription service called Aereo breaks those shackles and makes network programs available right away. That sounds too good to be true, and in a sense it is. It's a great deal for people who mostly watch broadcast television and not a lot of sports, which are primarily on cable TV channels. The company says it's expanding to additional markets this spring. By Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun.

AP photos.

AIG LAWSUIT

NEW YORK â¿¿ Facing certain backlash from Washington and beyond, American International Group won't be joining a lawsuit bring brought against the government by a shareholder and former CEO claiming that the terms of the taxpayer-funded bailout â¿¿ the largest of the financial crisis â¿¿ were unfair. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photos.

SMALLBIZ-SMALLTALK

During the recession, workers were just happy to have a steady job and accepted, in some cases, years of no pay raises â¿¿ and even pay cuts. Now that the economy is showing slow improvement, some small companies are giving out raises again, but with a catch: They have to be earned. Small business owners are increasingly tying raises to performance of individual employees or the company as a whole. By Business Writer Joyce Rosenberg.

AP photos.

COLLEGE GRADS-ECONOMY, HFR

It was a defining image of the Great Recession: floundering college grads stuck back home, living in mom and dad's basement. But while rooted in some truth, that picture doesn't show fully how the prolonged economic downturn broadly impacted people in their early 20s, according to a new study by the Pew Economic Mobility Project. However, the report finds all of the negative effects came in much smaller doses for college graduates than for those with associate's degrees and only a high school credential, and that fewer graduates fell out of work entirely. By Education Writer Justin Pope. Eds: Hold for release until 5:00 p.m. EST.

ON THE MONEY-GIFT CARDS

Gift cards are easily forgotten. They're placed in drawers or stuffed into wallets, never to be seen again. If you're not happy about the store your gift card is from, don't let the money go to waste. You have options. Here are six ways to put those less desirable gift cards to use. By Business Writer Joseph Pisani.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

CONSUMER PROTECTION-MORTGAGES, HFR

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Federal regulators for the first time are laying out rules aimed at ensuring that mortgage borrowers can afford to repay the loans they take out. The rules being unveiled Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau impose a range of obligations and restrictions on lenders, including bans on the risky "interest-only" and "no documentation" loans that helped inflate the housing bubble. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner. Eds: Hold for release until 12:01 a.m. EST.

WALL STREET

NEW YORK â¿¿ Stocks rise on Wall Street after U.S. corporate earnings reports got off to a good start. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.

AP photo.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil barely budged Wednesday, while natural gas plunged to the lowest level since late September. Benchmark oil slipped 5 cents to end at $93.10 per barrel in New York trading.

â¿¿ SEC-KHUZAMI â¿¿ Robert Khuzami is leaving the Securities and Exchange Commission after leading the agency's efforts to penalize the nation's largest banks for actions that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

â¿¿ LABOR SECRETARY RESIGNS â¿¿ Labor Secretary Hilda Solis resigns, saying she plans to return to her native California. She is expected to run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. AP photo.

â¿¿ UN-DOMESTIC WORKERS â¿¿ The U.N. says at least 52 million people are employed as domestic workers, most of them women without adequate legal protection.

â¿¿ OBIT-BUCHANAN â¿¿ Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan, who helped develop the public choice theory of economics, has died. He was 93.

RETAIL:

FOOD-UNHAPPY HOURS

During "happy hour" at the Summer Winter bar in Burlington, Mass., the bargain is on the bivalves, not the brews. That's because Massachusetts legislators passed a law in 1984 banning bars from offering cut-price drinks. So James Flaherty, the bar's director of food and beverage, decided to use shellfish specials to draw customers. Massachusetts isn't alone. The concept of happy hour â¿¿ when bars offer lower prices or two-for-one specials â¿¿ may seem like an American tradition, but is in fact illegal or restricted in quite a few places. By Michelle Locke.

AP photos.

â¿¿ DARDEN-PERSONNEL â¿¿ Darden is replacing the president of its flagship Olive Garden chain after a new marketing campaign failed to reverse slumping sales.

â¿¿ NESTLE PURINA-DOG TREAT RECALL â¿¿ Two makers of pet treats are pulling products from the market because they may contain traces of poultry antibiotics that aren't approved in the U.S.

â¿¿ WENDY'S-PRETZEL BURGER â¿¿ In its latest push to establish itself as a purveyor of premium burgers, Wendy's is testing a pretzel bun.

â¿¿ MGM CHINA-MACAU â¿¿ MGM Resorts' China unit gets official Macau approval for a second casino in the world's largest gambling market.

â¿¿ WAL-MART-GUN CONTROL â¿¿ Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will join talks at the White House on Thursday about gun control and safety, after previously not planning to attend.

INDUSTRY:

MORGAN STANLEY-JOB CUTS

NEW YORK â¿¿ The investment bank Morgan Stanley plans to cut about 1,600 jobs, nearly 3 percent of its workforce, according to a person familiar with the bank. The cuts will focus on senior ranks at the bank. By Business Writer Christina Rexrode.

GENERAL MOTORS-CEO

DETROIT â¿¿ General Motors CEO Dan Akerson says he hopes the company regains investment-grade credit status this year. It's working with credit rating agencies to raise its status from junk, where it's been since 2005. By Auto Writer Tom Krisher.

MONOPOLY-NEW TOKENS

NEW YORK â¿¿ The gig is almost up for one of the eight Monopoly tokens. But which will it be? Iron? Thimble? Top Hat? Hasbro is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight tokens that identify the players and introduce a new one. By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.

AP photos.

â¿¿ SEC-KPMG AUDITORS â¿¿ Two KPMG auditors are facing charges of enabling managers at failed TierOne Bank to hide millions in losses during the 2008 financial crisis through flawed accounting procedures.

â¿¿ PREGNANCY DRUG-LAWSUIT â¿¿ A lawyer for four sisters who claimed their breast cancer was caused by a drug their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s says they have reached a settlement with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. AP photo.

â¿¿ CANADA-TRANSCANADA PROGRESS â¿¿ Progress Energy awards a $5 billion natural gas infrastructure project across northern British Columbia to TransCanada, one of North America's largest pipeline companies.

â¿¿ GULF OIL SPILL-TRANSOCEAN â¿¿ Transocean to make first court appearance for criminal settlement over 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Eds: Will be updated after hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. EST.

â¿¿ CHINA-US-SOLAR TAKEOVER â¿¿ The Chinese company that bought MiaSole, a California producer of thin-film solar panels, says it can make the emerging technology successful where others have suffered huge losses.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

APPLE-CHEAPER IPHONE

SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ Apple is trying to decide whether it makes sense to offer a cheaper iPhone as it tries to boost sales in less-affluent countries and reclaim some of the market share lost to cheaper phones running Google's Android software, according to a published report. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.

With:

â¿¿ APPLE-CHEAPER IPHONE-GLANCE â¿¿ Worldwide market share for smartphones, a market dominated by Apple and Android.

â¿¿ FACEBOOK-EVENT â¿¿ Shares of Facebook got a boost after it sent out invitations to media to "come and see what we're building" at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

NKOREA-GOOGLE

PYONGYANG, North Koreaâ¿¿ A private delegation including Google's Eric Schmidt is urging North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson tells AP in an exclusive interview. Richardson also says he is urging the Pyongyang regime to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests. By Jean H. Lee.

AP photos, video.

â¿¿ TAIWAN-ACER â¿¿ PC maker Acer unveils a 7-inch tablet that an official says could sell for $99 in emerging markets.

â¿¿ TV-PRICELINE-KALEY CUOCO â¿¿ William Shatner is getting a new Priceline commercial co-star: Kaley Cuoco of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory."

INTERNATIONAL:

ARGENTINA-SEIZED SHIP

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina â¿¿ An Argentine naval ship detained for more than two months in Ghana because of a billion-dollar international debt dispute returned home to a triumphant welcome. By Damian Pachter.

AP Photo.

â¿¿ GERMANY-ECONOMY â¿¿ Industrial production in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rose 0.2 percent in November, less than expected and not enough to offset a substantial fall in October.

â¿¿ IRAN-INFLATION â¿¿ Iran's central bank says the annual inflation rate hit 27.4 percent at the end of 2012, one of the highest rates ever quoted by Iranian authorities.

â¿¿ SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS â¿¿ Spanish banks are meeting with labor unions to discuss massive layoffs, hours ahead of protests by bank workers in seven cities.

â¿¿ IRELAND-BANK OF IRELAND â¿¿ The Irish government is selling at least half of its bonds in Bank of Ireland, the only Irish bank to avoid nationalization after the country's property boom went bust. It's another important step away from Ireland's 2010 bailout and a return to normal borrowing.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-EU â¿¿ Business leaders warn U.K.'s David Cameron that pulling out of the EU would be bad for economy.

â¿¿ MYANMAR-CORRUPTION â¿¿ Reformist Myanmar president establishes high-level team to fight corruption, the latest reform for the country's newly unshackled economy.

â¿¿ SWEDEN-GARLIC SMUGGLERS â¿¿ Swedish prosecutors have issued international arrest warrants for two Britons suspected of masterminding a smuggling ring involving Chinese garlic.

______

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CENTERPIECE

Signs of life

The housing market recovery gained momentum in 2012. Although the final numbers for the year won't be available for a few weeks, key gauges of the housing market's health showed marked improvement from the low levels of 2011. Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight, offers forecasts for home prices and that sale of new and previously occupied homes in the year ahead.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

GM sets 52-week high

General Motors stock reached a 52-week high after CEO Dan Akerson said the company is working with credit rating agencies to raise its status from junk, where it's been since 2005. Akerson said the company's recent $11 billion credit line received investment grade rating, showing that banks are ahead of the ratings agencies.

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