By The Associated Press___ Gasoline prices expected to fall in 2013 NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ At least gasoline should cost you less this year. Hamburgers, health care and taxes are all set to take a bigger bite out of the family budget. But drivers' annual gas bills are expected to drop for the first time in four years. Forecasters say ample oil supplies and weak U.S. demand will keep a lid on prices. The lows will be lower and the highs won't be so high compared with a year ago. The average price of a gallon of gasoline will fall 5 percent to $3.44, according to the Energy Department. ___ Obama nominates Lew to lead Treasury WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ For 30 years Jack Lew has had a hand in some of the biggest economic deals negotiated in Washington. What awaits him if he's confirmed as treasury secretary could far exceed any challenge of the past â¿¿ a triple-decked potential crisis that will test his experience the moment he opens his office door on the third floor of the Treasury Building Lew, nominated for the job Thursday by President Barack Obama, has honed his skills in the trenches of fiscal policy, helping forge major deals encompassing Social Security and budgets for the likes of former Speaker Tip O'Neill and President Bill Clinton. Obama highlighted that experience in announcing Lew's selection, an unmistakable nod to the fast-approaching deadlines to raise the government borrowing limit, avert deep and immediate spending cuts and extend government operations. ___ Lawmakers release documents on Wal-Mart bribery NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s CEO Mike Duke found out in 2005 that the retailer's Mexico unit was handing out bribes to local officials, according to emails obtained by lawmakers. The emails contradict earlier claims by Wal-Mart senior executives that they weren't aware of bribes being made by the company.
Democratic Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and Henry A. Waxman, who are investigating bribery charges at Wal-Mart's Mexico division, on Thursday released emails that indicate that Duke and other senior Wal-Mart officials were informed multiple times starting in 2005 about bribes being made in the country. U.S. law forbids American companies from bribing foreign officials.The lawmakers shared the emails, which they say they got from a confidential source, with Wal-Mart on Wednesday, and sent a letter to Duke asking for a meeting to discuss them. ___ Carmakers let app developers drive innovation LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ Googling the nearest gas station, sending email from your smartphone, or booking a table at a restaurant: Those are all things you shouldn't do while driving. But so many drivers have grown accustomed to their on-the-go tasks that automakers are increasingly trying to make those things easier to pull off with both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. As General Motors and Ford commissioned ideas from app makers this week, the possibilities for what you can do with your vehicle's steering wheel buttons, microphone, speakers and internal gauges are quickly expanding. How would you like to choose your favorite tune by simply uttering the song's title, turn your car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, or respond to an ad you hear on the radio without lifting a finger? At the International CES show, General Motors and Ford launched programs that will open their designs to developers, inviting them to create software applications for future car models. It's a relatively new strategy for car makers, but one that many gadget manufacturers employ, including Apple, which did it for the original iPhone in 2007. ___ Schmidt joins elite few to glimpse net in NKorea SEOUL, South Korea (AP) â¿¿ Google chairman Eric Schmidt's glimpse of the Web being used at a top university in Pyongyang makes him part of a tiny elite that has seen the Internet operate in North Korea.
His four-day visit to the North was a golden propaganda opportunity for North Korean officials striving to give one of the world's most closed societies a modern, tech-savvy face. But the images of students surfing the Web in a brightly lit, spacious computer lab were far removed from daily reality for most North Koreans.Access to the Internet is all but impossible for ordinary North Koreans and even the very few lucky enough to get online are subject to strict oversight of each click and every website. Outside Pyongyang, the word "Internet" is not in the daily lexicon and North Korea's own intranet only provides state-approved information. ___ Ford's souped-up dividend could lure new investors Ford may get a longer look from curious investors after rolling out a more muscular, souped-up dividend on Thursday. The nation's No. 2 automaker is doubling its quarterly payout to 10 cents a share, just nine months after paying its first dividend in more than five years. The dividend increase marks another milestone in Ford's comeback. It has strengthened its image with customers along with its balance sheet. Ford is expected to report its fourth consecutive annual profit when it releases earnings in a few weeks. In 2011, the company posted its largest profit since 1998. ___ US unemployment aid applications tick up to 371,000 WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits ticked up slightly last week, the latest sign of slow but consistent gains in the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks. The previous week's total was revised lower. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 6,750 to 365,750. It had fallen to a four-year low the previous week. ___ New federal rules aim to curb risky mortgages
WASHINGTON (AP) 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 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. Lenders will be required to verify and inspect borrowers' financial records. The rules discourage them from saddling borrowers with total debt payments totaling more than 43 percent of a person's annual income. That includes existing debts like credit cards and student loans. ___ Herbalife defends itself against Ackman's claims NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Herbalife came out swinging Thursday against claims made by hedge fund manager William Ackman that the business amounts to a pyramid scheme. But Ackman didn't back down, saying in a statement that Herbalife "distorted, mischaracterized, and outright ignored large portions" of Pershing Square Capital Management's December presentation. A series of Herbalife's executives looked to refute Ackman's allegations during an analyst and investor meeting earlier in the day, laying out everything from how the business operates to who its customers are. Critics have questioned the company's business model, which uses a network of distributors to sell its nutritional supplements and weight-loss products in more than 80 countries. ___ FDA requires lower doses for sleep medications WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Food and Drug Administration is requiring makers of Ambien and similar sleeping pills to lower the dosage of their drugs, based on studies suggesting patients face a higher risk of injury due to morning drowsiness. The agency said Thursday that new research shows that the drugs remain in the bloodstream at levels high enough to interfere with alertness and coordination, which increases the risk of car accidents.
Regulators are ordering drug manufacturers to cut the dose of the medications in half for women, who process the drug more slowly. Doses will be lowered from 10 milligrams to 5 milligrams for regular products, and 12.5 milligrams to 6.25 milligrams for extended-release formulations.The FDA is recommending that manufacturers apply these lower doses to men as well, though it is not making that a requirement. ___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 80.71 points at 13,471.22. The Nasdaq composite rose 15.95 points to 3,121.76. The S&P 500 rose 11.10 points to 1,472.12. Benchmark oil gained 72 cents to finish at $93.82 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 13 cents to finish at $111.89 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London Natural gas rose 8 cents, or 2.5 percent, to end at $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 1 cent to end at $2.79 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to finish at $3.05 a gallon.